With Alphas cancellation, SyFy shows its lack of thinking.

By | Posted on 17 January 2013


SyFy has cancelled Alphas, and with it a bunch of my hopes for the channel. It wasn’t that long ago that SyFy was living the dream. They had three shows (Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Alphas) that each slotted into one of the big SF/ concepts and all had the ability to interplay.

Eureka was our super science show, Warehouse 13 was the Unexplainable/kinda-sorta-magic/urban fantasy show and Alphas was the superhero show. As of today we’re left with Warehouse 13, and while I enjoy the hell out of the show I can’t help but feel it hasn’t got long to stand.E

Those three shows all presented something that isn’t done enough on TV, or in SF/F these days: They were built on hope. Chuck, over on NBC, was the last show I can think of that was built on hope the same way (and of course Doctor Who but that’s British and a different story). Building stories on hope is something I feel is important.

Were they, any of them, the best shows ever? No, of course not. But Alphas, specifically, was an amazing cross between dark and light. It had great characters as well as great actors and when it dove toward a cliff at the end of season 1 it refused to back down.

Warehouse 13, one of the things that drives me nuts about it, dives off cliffs constantly only to shout “Don’t worry it wasn’t a real cliff” – every time (until maybe very recently?) and so it robs that charming littwarehouse13le show of stakes.

Alphas had stakes. It had a heart and wasn’t afraid to go into gray areas because they gave you better story. It wasn’t the best show ever but it had an amazing amount of potential and, in a rare burst of goodness, followed through with that potential every chance they could. It’s the sort of show that you could feel wouldn’t be anything resembling what it was in Season 1 by the time it hit Season 5.

Except we won’t know, will we?

No, instead Alphas is tossed on the garbage heap and we’ll get… what will we get, SyFy? More Ghost Hunters / Reality Show crap? Another giant ocelot vs. robot ostrich movie? All right I might watch that one, but my point stands! The channel was building an interlocking mythology across multiple shows with multiple show runners. One that could have kept spreading out and growing.

What? That’s unpossible, you say! You can’t do that! Tell it to Marvel Studios. Seriously I want you to stop and imagine a world where SyFy wasn’t a bunch of pinheads and instead built this creation they accidently lucked into and, a year or two down the road, did a giant TV event miniseries with all three shows at once. That could spin off into a new show or two.robot-ostrich

It could have been the most inventive thing people have tried with a TV station in a good long while, cementing fans and building a great powerbase for the station.

Instead: Let’s look for bigfoot, you guys, because he’s totes out there. No, really, his mom left me a note.

So yeah, thanks SyFy, for proving to me yet again that I can only trust you to take things off the air and replacing them with reality TV, instead of backing them and building an actual Science Fiction/Fantasy programming block. I’ve lost faith, here, yet again, and I see no plan for how to get it back with the network. I will give the new Rockne O’Bannon show a try, because of my Farscape obsession, and yeah I’ll keep watching (what I’m now sure are the last episodes of) Warehouse 13, but past that? Past that I’m out, all.

SyFy keeps telling us it wants to make a cheap buck, as is the networks job I know, but it wants to do it by showing you reality TV and bottom rung, five dollar production budget movies.

We need to stop letting them think that’s OK.

Eisner & Harvey award winning editor, writer & tired person. Co-Writer of AMELIA COLE, ARTFUL DAGGERS and ACTION CATS. Editor of Jamal Igle's MOLLY DANGER. Writer of lots of other comics, novels & essays.

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  • Pingback: Syfy Drama Alphas, Starring The Heiress’ David Strathairn, Cancelled After Two … – Broadway.com « Red Zin A&E 2013.1

  • http://www.crimsontear.com/ Tyler

    The problem is that they have angered so many fans that very few viewers that like deep scripted series have cancelled their subscriptions. The exodus started with Farscape, but cancelling Stargate and Eureka caused almost everyone to leave. Now, left with terrible ratings, they can’t afford to make anything but cheap reality series, hence the reason why so many of their “Original Programming” are imports now. I think it will take nothing less than a miracle to save Syfy now.

    • http://twitter.com/adampknave Adam P. Knave

      You don’t pay to subscribe to just Syfy. That isn’t how the channel works. So while I see what you’re saying it actually doesn’t work like that for Syfy, if they piss people off they leave – and then can flip back a month later, without “subscribing” assuming they still have a non-basicBASIC cable plan. So while their ad bucks come from ratings the don’t come from subscribers, like HBO, say. Also blaming ratings on people leaving after Eueka is a problem since it ended at the same time Alphas did – which means those people who have left since then, except that wouldn’t have affected Alphas, if you see what I mean.

      • http://www.crimsontear.com/ Tyler

        Some areas can, most have dropped all but basic cable since that is the only place to get decent programming.
        The news itself came right after the ratings of the latest Powerful Mondays, which was all scripted shows and they all did horrible in the ratings. So many left that even series that used to do well barely have any viewers left. They were on the fence about renewing it until they saw how bad the damage was.

    • Julienne

      I’ve been a science fiction geek for a long time. I truly miss that science fiction is no longer actually science fiction. Not wrestling. Not reality shows. Not really bad monster movies. Once in a while Syfy will come out with a gem that is imaginative, plausible and interesting, like Alphas, Warehouse 13, Defiance. I liked Alphas. I saw the show developing in a good direction; just sad to see it replaced by Ghost Mine. WTF!!

  • Hypocrites_of_Hippo

    SyFy truly is becoming an example of a “vast wasteland”. It isn’t even a Sci Fi channel anymore. There is a science fiction audience out there just yearning for some place to call home. I just wish some other network would realize the advertizing revenues they could generate by airing real science fiction instead of the garbage SyFy is airing. “Alphas” is just the latest in a long line of good shows killed off by SyFy. Wonder when they will start airing re-runs of the John Edwards Show? Blah!

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  • RoseByAnyOtherName

    Bad enough when they stopped showing Doctor Who, though that may not have b
    been their decision, dunno. I love Warehouse 13, I hope it’s not near the end, and I don’t even mind some of the reality TV shows, like Face Off because I enjoy creativity and even Ghost Hunters (because I’m a believer and it raises some interesting questions in my mind) but I saw the premiere for one called “Ghost Mine.” When I heard the title, I thought “Oh cool, another delightfully cheesy MST3K-worthy (hey, now THERE is a show that should be brought back!) SyFy movie!” But no. It was a terrible, terrible show….they should also bring back the show with James Marsters! Or anything with him in it!

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/DYjQMWwGmZoA9JFrt5NjN6c-#eaf3a cyx7

    Syfy, you used to be cool.

  • Pingback: Syfy Cancels 'Alphas' – Hollywood Reporter

  • http://www.facebook.com/ShMikeX Mike Robbins

    Here’s the problem. Unlike channels like HBO and Showtime, you don’t subscribe to them individually. So even if the popular vote is to not watch Syfy (who I am glad changed their name from Sci-Fi because they are now anything but), they will still get money from the cable networks thanks to their package deal with the NBC/Universal series of channels.
    I still blame the cancellation of Alphas on Summer Glau. If she appears anywhere near a series too long its doomed.
    Sci-Fi used to be a place to go for shows which might not have been that popular, but still cult faves to prosper. Remember Stargate was originally on Showtime, Sliders was originally on Fox, and MST3K was originally on Comedy Central. Now SYFY is a place for any jagoff with some 3D rendering software to make a movie of the week.

    • Alex.stully

      Actually adds are the main source of revenue for a channel not the cable package. Adds are sold through viewership, that’s why these shows got canceled in the first place. So actually if you don’t watch a show their viewing numbers go down and they have to charge less for their adds, eventually the show is deemed unprofitable and canceled, so not watching a show does make a difference.

  • Bethany Lambert

    My friends and I have a joke about the Syfy channel. A show gets two years, no more. Alphas (great show!), Caprica (not the best show), Stargate Universe (became good towards the end of the second season) and I am afraid that every time I get hooked on a show, it will be cancelled. I like Defiance and I am afraid it will drop. Same with Continuum.

    My other struggle is Syfy has a problem with allowing fans to watch shows online during the season. I use hulu, hulu + and netflix and I can not watch this seasons Continuum, or Sinbad. Also with Eureka (when it was on) and Warehouse 13, I am getting episodes a month after they have aired. It seems as though they are trying to make the viewers frustrated. I just wish that Syfy would actually talk to those who watch it and not just guess about what we want to watch.

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