Sunday, 3 August 2014

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA to Z NATION; has Syfy sacrificed quality for cheap fun and notoriety?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Has it really been five years since Syfy's superb Battlestar Galactica remake ended? Since then, the network's fumbled with lame attempts to find anything close to equaling BSG's quality (even attempting two prequels few cared about), so their best shows are now pap like Defiance and Helix. And don't get me started on Dominion! It's one of the rare shows I had to turn off before the first ad break. Oh, and don't try and claim Lost Girl, Being Human, Continuum and Bitten are Syfy shows that buck the trend, because they're actually imports from Canada and therefore don't count. Maybe things will improve when sci-fi miniseries Ascension and their 12 Monkeys adaptation debut, although the latter's released a trailer that looks as underwhelming as feared...

See? Very generic, which isn't in-keeping with Terry Gilliam's original film.

Syfy's next big show is zombie horror drama Z Nation, which aims to capitalise on the success of The Walking Dead. Good luck with that, when one of your leads is D.J Qualls from Road Trip. Harold Perrineau from Lost also appears, but I'm not sure he can overcome the biggest problem Z Nation has. It's produced by The Asylum; purveyor of low-budget 'mockbusters' like The Day the Earth Stopped, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, and Atlantic Rim. They also make bizarro "sequels" like Titanic II and War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave.

Syfy air a lot of twaddle made by The Asylum, which appeals to enough people to make them worth ordering more twaddle. To be fair, we've probably all stopper scrolling your EPG when ludicrous titles like Mega Python vs Gataroid and 2 Headed Shark Attack catch your eye—but, trust me—the loony titles are always the best thing about them.

But you know what's really to blame for Syfy now pinning their hopes on The Asylum to find a new TV hit? Bloody Sharknado. The disaster movie about a waterspout depositing an ocean's worth of man-eating sharks across Los Angeles—for Beverly Hills 90210's Ian Ziering and American Pie's Tara Reid to slay.

Sharknado became a social media phenomenon last summer, because Twitter's excels at allowing people to communally tweet jokey missives about televised crap. It's the digital era's version of throwing tomatoes at bad actors on stage. A lot of fun. I'm not immune to that, don't get me wrong...

Tweeting funny quips and observations is more fun than watching the object of ridicule without social media, that's for damn sure. Nobody watches Sharknado alone, without working internet, do they? Doing that is a clear sign of mental illness.

Worryingly, Sharknado 2: The Second One's U.S premiere on 30 July scored 3.9 million viewers (besting the original's 1.6m by a factor of 183%), while also achieving 1 billion Twitter 'impressions' during its day of broadcast.

So yeah, it's easy to see why Syfy have chosen The Asylum to make Z Nation. They've struggled for half a decade to find "the next Battlestar Galactica" (even soliciting help from BSG's own writers to helm other projects), and all viewers ever seem to talk about is their trashy movies with outrageous portmanteau titles, so why not get those people to make you a TV series?

Twitter could go nuts every single week, for three whole months. And if being "social" is preferable to traditional ratings (for some shows), because online engagement's faster and more accurate to gauge, I can see the appeal for networks.

Just don't have delusions of Z Nation being one hundredth as good as The Walking Dead. Let's forget good writing, filmmaking, and acting. Let's start judging success based on trending Twitter hash-tags, even if 95% of the feedback is wholly negative or tongue-in-cheek positive. Yeah? Hmmm. Don't you wish you'd given Caprica a chance now?