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The Sci Fi Channel is Destroying My Soul

By Dan Toland
20 March 2007 The story opens in a boardroom in the offices of the Sci Fi Channel, June 2007. Along both sides of a long conference table, channel executives fidget nervously and spit angry recriminations at each other. Suddenly, the double doors swing open, and network president Bonnie Hammer angrily storms in. Her twin hellhounds circle her, growling and snapping at any production assistants that might wander too close.

HAMMER
Is it true?

FIRST EXECUTIVE
We're not sure. We have someone getting a copy now.

HAMMER
I was promised this wouldn't happen again. This makes how many, now?

SECOND EXECUTIVE
Confirmed? Officially? I couldn't say. Ten? Twenty? Maybe thirty?

FIRST EXECUTIVE
Unofficially... well, online it's the same pretty much across the board.

HAMMER
Hmm... I am not happy, gentlemen. Not happy at all.

A production assistant meekly enters the room, a TV Guide in his hand. Before he can even close the door, Hammer's hellhounds are upon him, devouring his soul as the executives in the room desperately avoid watching. Hammer is unmoved by his agonizing cries, as one hound picks up the blood-stained magazine and delivers it to his mistress.

HAMMER
Goddamn. It's true.

THIRD EXECUTIVE
How bad is it?

HAMMER
"How bad is it?" Are you kidding? Are you stupid?

The third executive is instantly immolated in an inferno of black fire.

HAMMER
Gentlemen, we have to put a stop to this. Matt Roush has given The Dresden Files... a good review. Naturally, that means we have to stop making it.

SECOND EXECUTIVE
We've just finished the first season. We can still ruin it. I was actually thinking about a wisecracking teenage sidekick we could put in. He'd have catchphrases and use slang from a decade ago.

HAMMER
Hmm... no, I want to stop this before it goes any further. Cancel The Dresden Files immediately. Do we have anything we can fill the timeslot with?

FIRST EXECUTIVE
Well, we've got this Flash Gordon remake coming up.

HAMMER
No, I need that to anchor the Friday lineup. Painkiller Jane is about done with its season, and I want to make sure people continue to equate Friday nights with bold new levels of mediocrity. Have the appropriate changes been made?

SECOND EXECUTIVE
Yes, dark mistress. We've made sure that the producers know to set at least sixty percent of every episode on Earth, and to never show Flash doing anything remotely exciting under any circumstances.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
We've actually hit upon an idea that we went ahead with. We were afraid that Ming the Merciless is generally too much fun as a villain, what with all that scheming and plotting and ranting and conquering.

HAMMER
Interesting. Continue.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
Well, we've told the producers to make sure that he be portrayed as blandly and insipidly as humanly possible. We thought it was important to remove any element of fun or scariness from a villain that was testing too "classic."

SECOND EXECUTIVE
Oh, and we made sure that he'll say "aboot" at least once an episode.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
Oh right. That reminds me. We've ensured that whenever we're forced to actually portray Mongo, it will always obviously be Vancouver.

HAMMER
No attempt will be made at set-dressing or world-building?

SECOND EXECUTIVE
None. We've also made certain that the Hawkmen will never fly. Oh, and one other thing we thought this was a nice touch every time someone stands in front of a bluescreen, that person will have the telltale blue halo.

HAMMER
They're not going to erase it digitally?

FIRST EXECUTIVE
Nope. We convinced the producers their time would be better spent scouting for abandoned boiler rooms and warehouses to use as sets.

HAMMER
(tenting her fingers)
Excellent.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
But in the meantime, we can fill the Dresden slot with repeats of Ghost Hunters, until we can finish the next original movie.

SECOND EXECUTIVE
Oh, yeah, we're really excited about this one. It's called Sharkopod; we have a creature that's half-shark, half a totally different kind of shark.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
But here's the twist not only has it been irradiated so that it's two feet taller than it would normally be, it breathes purple atomic mist and has grown a pair of legs! It walks like a man!

HAMMER
I want Sharkopod fast-tracked immediately.

FIRST EXECUTIVE
It's already been taken care of. Corin Nemec is on his way; his hatchback overheated outside of Reno, but once he gets it fixed he'll be ready for his costume fitting.

HAMMER
Costume fitting? Just have him wear whatever he's got on. If Nemec can't be ready by noon tomorrow, call Stephen Baldwin. I want you to find all the shark movies in our archives; we can run them all weekend. I think Sharkopod could be the next Mansquito. Is someone writing the sequel?

SECOND EXECUTIVE
Well... no. We thought that we could take the script and change the names if it came to that.

HAMMER
Excellent! That was a test. Gentlemen, I call this meeting adjourned.

The executives unfurl their leathery, bat-like wings and flap away. Hammer her eyes glowing a pale, sickly green has nothing left to do now but get up, place her hands on her hips, tilt her head back and laugh. Her maniacal, evil cackle rings through the room as we fade to black.

THE END

I have issues with the Sci Fi Channel.

It frustrates me to no end. If it was just a bad channel, that would be okay. I could easily ignore a bad channel. But every now and then every once in a great, great while it shows signs of not sucking. Buried underneath all the layers of crap slathered all over everything, there's a kernel of a good channel in there somewhere.

Unfortunately, that kernel can be awfully difficult to find. It's not that they don't care; it's that they actively seem to want to make crap. For every Eureka (one of my favorites) and Battlestar Galactica (a show that I personally find easier to admire than enjoy; it's not my cup of tea, but I can definitely see the appeal), there's a mountain of garbage to sift through.

And I have given a name to this mountain of garbage, and that name is the "Sci Fi Channel Saturday Night Original Movie." I have no issues with goofy popcorn movies. I grew up with the Creature Double Feature on channel 56; sometimes I like to turn my brain off, and watch stupid people get eaten by giant snakes. However, the "Saturday Night Original Movie" should probably actually be called the "All Day Saturday and All Day Sunday and Most of Thursday Original Movie." These things are airing all. The Freaking. Time. I actually miss the days when the Sci Fi Channel was nonstop Quantum Leap and Kolchak: The Night Stalker reruns (both good shows, folks). The channel is never going to seem like anything but second-rate as long as they continue to insist on bloating the schedule with crappy movies.

Also, there are some shows that just plain do not belong on this channel. ECW? Seriously? NBC Universal owns about a dozen channels and invests in another seven or eight, and they couldn't find room anywhere else for wrestling? It strikes me that MSNBC would almost be a better fit. Also, whether you love or hate Ghost Hunters, it shouldn't be here. It's not science fiction. It's not fantasy. It's just not. It's a reality series about people who wander around lighthouses consistently not finding ghosts. NBC just launched that new Chiller channel, specializing in horror and suspense; Ghost Hunters would be a perfect fit over there. Oh, I know Sci Fi would never let go of this show, because people seem to watch. Because the world has gone mad.

A long time ago at least 10 years, but probably more Sci Fi used to have a block of shows that aired on Sunday mornings, called C\Net. They would go over computers, technology and other geeky things; then they'd discuss the movers and shakers in science fiction. They covered movies, TV, computers, gaming, comics and books. Yes, books. Sci Fi actually used to acknowledge that science fiction and fantasy came in the written medium. And then Harlan Ellison would come out and do his Andy Rooney thing, where he'd vent his spleen over whatever gripe had gotten up his nose that week, in the way only Uncle Harlan can. This was a glorious way to spend an hour once a week, and Sci Fi needs to do something along those lines again.

Come on, Sci Fi. Shelve the intentionally awful movies. Lose the non-genre programming. Bring back some classic series. Fix the original series that can be fixed. And make some room for review or informational programming. I want to like you. I really do. I keep coming back, and I keep getting disappointed. You don't have to settle for being just barely good enough. Can you imagine what this channel would be like if you got the slightest sense that anyone in charge gave a damn?

Sigh... I wanted to like Flash Gordon, too.


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