On July 7th 2009 The Sci Fi Channel was re-branded as SyFy. This caused an immediate uproar from fans of the network, something I found to be mostly unimportant. The name of a network does not reflect its quality, after all. Unfortunately, the re-branding of the network was the first step towards a steep decline in quality, and a major loss of focus. Fast forward to 2015 and the picture has changed a bit. While the detested name, SyFy, still stands, the network has made a significant push back towards genre focused content and, later in the year, a major improvement in quality, the likes of which the network has not seen since its controversial re-branding.
Lets start things of by immediately jettisoning discussion of SyFy’s low point in quality. There was a time in which SyFy’s brand was based on absurd ghost hunter reality shows, so-bad-they-aren’t-even-good-again TV movies, and cheaply produced dramas that only loosely resemble the previous focus of the network. That was a thing. Thankfully, it no longer is. This article isn’t about the past, it is about the present, and the future.
The first steps towards SyFy’s return to quality can be found in 2013’s debut of Defiance, an ambitious video game/TV show cross-over that featured elaborate practical and cg effects to present a futuristic world in which humans share a post apocalyptic earth with several alien races. Later that year, SyFy’s bad TV movies were elevated to so-bad-they-are-good, with the introduction of Sharknado from schlock movie production house The Asylum. Then, in 2014, The Asylum tried their hand at a serialized TV series, Z Nation, for the network, which further evolved the production companies work from so-bad-its-good, to actually kind of good on its own merits.
The real change, however, happened in 2015 when the channel debuted 2 new space set dystopian shows with casts of lovable rogues. Killjoys, from the writer and executive producer of Lost Girl, has a very Firefly-esque vibe. While not up to the quality standards of Firefly, Killjoys successfully duplicated the kind of show Firefly is, giving fans of the long dead space western something fun to watch. Dark Matter, which comes from the producers of the various Stargate series, was an even more enjoyable entity. Stargate was one of SyFy’s (then SciFi) staples, so it is very pleasing to have a space set show from the same producers that, while an entirely different show than Stargate, hits many of the Stargate franchises same notes in tone and structure.
As good as these new shows were, Killjoys and Dark Matter were only an appetizer for SyFy’s best new debut of 2015, The Expanse. Based on the beloved book series of the same name, which started with Leviathan Wakes, The Expanse tells a complex story of a divided humanity, scattered in space, and changed to the point in which they no longer resemble each other. The Expanse is SyFy’s best series since the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica. With a large, and colorful, ensemble cast, a multifaceted serialized story, and a staggering amount of intrigue, The Expanse could, on its own, give burnt fans of the genre network a reason to dismiss their outrage.
Now in 2016, SyFy has a new slate of upcoming shows to get our attention. In January (though the first episode premiered in 2015 as a sneak peak), the network debuted The Magicians, a modern fantasy series with shades of Harry Potter, Narnia, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Magicians, like The Expanse, was based on a book series of the same name. Also like The Expanse, The Magicians really sold itself with its exceptional 4th episode. As such, The Magicians has been my favorite new series of 2016 so far. Unfortunately, SyFy’s upcoming slate is far less compelling. Wynonna Earp‘s first trailer looks cheap and uninteresting, a series that has lost me before its first episode. Their next series after Earp doesn’t fare much better. Despite having a producer from The Walking Dead on board, Hunters looks very paint-by-numbers. The trailer hits too many well tread tropes, without giving us compelling reasons to anticipate the series. SyFy has also picked up an adaptation of the 2004 bomb, Van Helsing. Why SyFy? Why?
All of these new future cancellations don’t deter from SyFy’s good premieres, thankfully. I didn’t even mention the excellent Childhood’s End mini-series or the strong adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s classic film 12 Monkeys, which has a 2nd season coming soon. Also, the good shows that SyFy has recently debuted, Killjoys, Dark Matter, The Expanse, and The Magicians, ALL have confirmed second seasons to look forward to.
At the end of the day, I am psyched for the changes SyFy has made in their lineup. While not every pick-up is promising, there are enough strong entries to praise the fluctuating network’s current direction. What do you think? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.