Sunday, October 31, 2010

Feasting on the Corpse

Graeme McMillan offers some thoughts here as to why Caprica was cancelled. With the show canceled, it's time to engage in that time-honored tradition on the internet: Monday Morning Quarterbacking (or, feasting on the corpse).

We all know by now that I watch far too much TV for a writer or a scholar. One of the shows that I came to like a great deal was Caprica. Even with that said, though, I'm sad to admit that I agree with most of his points. There is one that he didn't make, though, in the negative, and one that I think needs to be made in the positive:

1- (negative) the real problem for the show has always been its casting. Battlestar Galactica, Caprica's parent show, always had fantastic casting to fall back on when the storylines wandered. Caprica had almost no actors that were intrinsically interesting in and of themselves. Polly Walker was, to me, the only actor who was both very good, interesting and had a well-written character simultaneously. Ultimately, I think, this is what sunk the show. Who on earth thought that Eric Stoltz could carry the weight of an entire series? This on top of McMillan's point re: the inconsistency of the character. Save Polly Walker, all the really interesting actors were relegated to minor roles. My sincere hope is that these actors find new gigs quickly, because I thought some of them were doing fantastic work (especially Sasha Roiz).

2-(positive) McMillan isn't wrong when he guesses that there will be basically 3 attitudes those of us who enjoyed the show will adopt. However, I think he gives one of them short shrift. We as fans of science fiction have a right to be upset about the cancellation because the (supposed) science fiction channel is supposed to be the one place, the ONE PLACE, where a science fiction television show can get a fair shake. I'm not stupid; I understand they have to think about how they're going to fund their network, but steadily they have been getting that funding from non-science fiction based programming. In the early days, the heavy presence of sword-and-sorcery style fantasy was fine, because much of the rest of the content was science-fiction centered. However, these days, I defy you to find anything that is science fiction based on the so-called science fiction network. Their re-branding in terms of their name seems to have been more than just a broadening of spectrum, and instead seems to have signaled a complete shift in attitude. Falling below one million viewers would doom any series on any of the other cable channels, but the whole reason for having a science fiction channel is so science fiction programming, which is going to show lower ratings than most other programming on mainstream networks almost by definition, can still survive.
In short, if SyFy is going to start axing shows for ratings problems using very similar criteria to the other more-mainstream networks, then why are we as science fiction fans still supporting it as a network? It very much feels like the network has turned its back on those of us who kept it alive through the early lean times now that a new set of lean times has returned. That's what hurts the most, I think.

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