It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the Syfy channel’s programming has never been highly regarded. This is of no great importance-no network with a lineup consisting of sci-fi show after sci-fi show was ever going to cause much of a stir at the Emmys. Syfy is doing its job if it pleases science fiction fans, which is why so many saw the switch from remarkably bad original movies to professional wrestling as the beginning of the end. The network seemed to have stopped trying altogether, which has left more than a few people wondering how it even continues to exist.
Syfy’s formula for success, however, anticipates that the channel will be seen as a joke and, crazy as it sounds, isn’t particularly hung up on the issue. The network has a long history of pulling itself out of the fire with surprise hits, and, this spring, it did it again. “Defiance,” Syfy’s show about an Earth on which humans and aliens live side by side, has brought in steady ratings, no doubt causing the network executives to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Producers never like to see a new show fail, but Syfy’s entire formula is based on the runaway success of shows like “Defiance.” The typical hour of Syfy programming hovers somewhere between passable and horrendous, but the network survives by bringing something to the table that other networks almost never do. Pure science fiction, with its aliens and spaceships and futuristic battles, has never been a staple of the small screen. Expensive to produce and conventionally held to have limited popular appeal, there have always been safer bets for the average network.
Science fiction fans rely on Syfy for their fix, and as long as the network has one smash hit in its lineup, its future can be presumed to be safe. In years past, programs such as “Battlestar Galactica” and the later seasons of “Stargate SG-1” have kept the network afloat. It’s a risky strategy, though, and it may be only a matter of time before Syfy, unable to find that one miracle show, fades into oblivion.
For now, though, Syfy is set-“Defiance,” which just wrapped up its freshman season, has been renewed for another, and fans are waiting with bated breath. In an America where conventional television programming seems to be on the way out, it’s almost inspiring. Some things, no matter how improbable and even ridiculous they seem at first, never really change.