A few days ago, "The Sci-Fi Channel" announced they'd be changing their name to "Syfy," (which a friend of mine immediately mispronounced as "Siffy") and discussed their intentions of rebranding. On the surface, it appears to be a latteral move - one embarasing name swapped out for essentially the same embarasing name spelled in illiterate fashion - and this is the kind of thing that Network Suits do all the time basically just to give themselves something to do:
Suit # 1: "Rather than coming up with good programming, let's just order another season of wrasslin' and change the name of the networks!"
Suit # 2: "That's brilliant! That *Totally* justifies our exorbant salaries while irritating our core demographic!"
Suits # 3-10: "Yes!"
Then they all whip their shirts off and dance around the table smoking cigars and slapping each other on the back until one of them gets a misty, far-off look in his eyes and sighs,
Suit # 4: "You know, this kind of half-naked dancing around thing was more fun when Bonnie Hammer was here..."
Suits 1-10: [Hang their heads sadly in memoriam of the breasts of yesteryear]
But, no, fear not friends, I come not to praise the late Bonnie Hammer for her mystifying decade at the helm, but to burry her. When Bonnie left Sci-Fi last year, there were hopes that the network would move in...ehm...a more Science Fiction-friendly direction? Fewer giant snake monster movies and Idiots-in-search-of-the-paranormal shows, and more original SF programming. And perhaps some day it still may.
But on closer inspection, this press release confirms what most of us already suspected to be true:
>>>“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular...“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.” <<<
---Tim Brooks, former employee
"Sci-Fi" is somewhat cooler than "Science Fiction?" Good Lord, no, "Sci-Fi" is probably the single most embarasing geekism in the already-over-geeked genre. I mean, "Sci-Fi" is what Danes and mouthbreathing cliched Trekies use to call it, *no one* who's inside the genre, or respects it calls it that. It's a horrible, embarasing 50s-ism, akin to refering to your I-pod as a "Hi-Fi." It's dated, out of touch, and silly. When Harlan Ellison worked as an on-air commentator for the network in the early 90s, he *Refused* to use the name of the thing even though they were paying him. He said it was "Demeaning" and "Childish." He *Always* refered to it on air (And off) as "Skiffy" (pronouncing the C as a K and I as a Y, the theory being that an illiterate name deserved an even-more illiterate pronunciation) Most of the people I know continue to call the channel "Skiffy" to this day. For you newbies and outsiders out there, true fen refer to Science Fction as "Science Fiction" or "Speculative Fiction" or "Specfic" or (Most commonly) simply "SF."
If anyone out there remembers the channel from its early days in the 90s, there was tons of SF programming on there, they had a morning block of kids shows - old Gerry Anderson shows and Land of the Lost, and the afternoons were all repeats of 60s and 70s SF shows, and they had the "Sci Fi Collection" where they showed obscure, short-lived SF shows in a steady slot. Very low budget, but definitely they were targeted on what their demographic wanted. Granted, endless repeats got old fairly fast, and they needed original programming *but* they delivered exaclty what they said to the people who were interested in it.
Then the kids block made way for infomercials, and the endlessly repeated SF shows began to be replaced by shows that...ehm...weren't so much SF.
In the last 10 years or so - the Bonnie Hammer years - they've become like a low-budget USA network, which wouldn't be so bad if they had kept the old SF stuff (Much of which can't be seen anywhere else), but they've mostly ditched that in favor of mostly-original programming. And while their original SF programming is nice, (Galactica, Stargate), they frequently don't seem to have a clue what they're doing (Caprica, cancelling Stargate(s), and that damn Flash Gordon show from last year). Add to this their insistance on reality programming - "Ghosthunters" and "Estate of Panic" - and that damn wrasslin' show, and it's pretty clear they're trying to get away from being 'just' about SF the same way MTV tried to get away from being 'just' about music in the 90s.
Think I'm reading too much in to one press release and their flaccid dedication to SF? Then check out this statement from the new Network President:
>>Mr. Howe said going to Syfy will make a difference.
“It gives us a unique word and it gives us the opportunities to imbue it with the values and the perception that we want it to have,” he said.<<
The story goes on to say:
>>In terms of television, the new brand better reflects that the channel has programs that are not about the typical sci-fi themes of space, aliens and the future.<<
In other words, what? Giant Snake Monsters? Superheroes? Paranormal Shows? Wrasslin'? Reality TV? Assorted cheap blow-off crap like that?
Pretty much what we've got already, really, but moreso. The goal here, as I see it, is to diversify the channell so they can show pretty much whatever crap they want, whenever they want, without people saying they're violating their declared mandate. This is entirely in keeping with their senseless mistreatment of their fans throughout the history of the channel. I mean, come on? Cancelling SG1 when it was their most popular show? Cancelling Galactica (Which probably deserved it) and then stretching the final season out over *Two years* of air-time? Passing over SF shows with potential like "Crusade" and "Firefly" so they can run crap no one in the history of the human race has *Ever* cared about like "Flash Gordon" and the upcoming "Caprica?"
The way Skiffy treats its fans is pretty much like a guy who's embarassed by his girlfriend. He likes having her around in private, but as soon as his friends come over, he kicks her to the curb until they leave, and then it's all "Honey, I love you." Dear fan: Skiffy does not love you, does not love us, and is openly embarased by it's own mission. And guess who comes out the loser there?
That's right: the fans. Again.
So what can we do? Not much, to be honest. They're going to do what they're going to do, and since they *DO NOT* value geeks, nor the opinion of geeks, they're not going to change their minds even if a million of us write them letters. The die is cast. The moving hand writes and having writ moves on. It's done. However, if you *really* feel like tilting away at the 'danes and assorted shirtless dancing suits and their canadian hooker girlfriends (I mean, come on, *Everything* they shoot is in Toronto), the "Sci-Fi" Channel is owned by NBC-Universal, and specifically it's a subsidiary of USA Networks. You could write to those organizations and ask them to please call the channel whatever the frack they want so long as they run some actual SF on it now and again.
The whole thing is online here http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/03/sci_fi_channel_aims_to_shed_ge.php
[EDIT: Astute Republibotoid Church has found this page listing other meanings for the name "Syfy" that, evidently, USA and NBC-Universal and Skiffy itself didn't bother to look in to before making their announcement. With market research this good, how can they not be a success? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=syfy ]