Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is SyFy the New Bravo?

Here's a confession: I really like contest shows - the kind where creative professionals are compete in  challenges.  Top Chef and  Project Runway my current faves.  Top Chef because I like experimenting with cooking, and Project Runway, because I like watching people create clothes, I guess*.  The competitions involving hair styling and "fine art" and interior design, not so much.

That means SyFy's new show Face Off is right up my alley. The competition pits makeup special effects artists with a range of backgrounds against each other. Some competitors have backgrounds doing makeup for movies (mostly B-grade) or have corporate clients, while others are fresh out of school.  What the do looks like a combination of sculpture, painting and acting (or at least thinking like a character).  The show follows a pretty standard formula: a quick challenge at the beginning that gives the winner immunity or other advantage, followed by the major competition.

In tonight's premiere episode, the competitors teamed up to create a human-animal hybrid character. The limitation? They had to use one of three animals as their inspiration: a black beetle, an ostrich, or an elephant.  The winning team created an "elephant man" that looked good even close up.  I think the way their model moved also helped sell the look.  

The Winners. You can watch full episodes of Face Off at

So far, there hasn't been much soap-opera-like squabbling or painting of particular contestants as the "bad guy" or the "prima donna" or other personality stereotypes, which is also a good thing.  Based on one episode, I find it's entertaining.

But I wonder where SyFy is going with this programming?

During the show, there was an ad for yet another new SyFy reality show.  It stars Marcel - the annoyingly arrogant please-not-yet-another-dish-with-foam Top Chef contestant** - and is going to be about molecular gastronomy.  While I think molecular gastronomy's really cool, Marcel's personality  can be annoying, so I have mixed feelings.

Given the choice between Face Off or Quantum Kitchen and yet another Ghost Hunters episode or wrestling, I'll happily take makeup and cooking. But what I really want to see is more SF!

I'm disappointed SyFy canceled Caprica and decided to burn off the remaining episodes in a long single night marathon. I'm disappointed that they decided on a North American remake of Being Human, rather than importing the superior UK original (at least based on the first couple episodes). 

Until Stargate Universe and Eureka return with new episodes, there's really not much reason to turn to on SyFy at all.

It seems like there's a big hole that SyFy could fill -  The Cape is pretty meh, Chuck is getting a bit long in the tooth, Primeval went way downhill when they killed off Nick Cutter. I only just noticed that V hadn't been canceled and was showing new episodes again - I pretty much lost interest and was watching by the end of the fall season.

The only SF show I make a special effort to watch at the momemnt is Fringe, and I'm afraid that its move to Friday night is a signal they are losing Fox's support.

So while I get that SyFy wants to attract some of Bravo's usual audience who might come for the competition and stay for the ghost busting***, as a viewer who actually likes science fiction drama, I feel neglected.  

Some of us would like both a SyFy with science fiction and a Bravo with reality programming - why mix up the two?

(And yeah, I know NBC Universal-Comcast doesn't care a whit about my personal TV preferences. I just had to get that off my chest.)


* I really enjoy Project Runway, even though I am one of the least fashion forward people around. The clothes usually fall into the same neat-to-look-at-but-I'd-never-wear-that category for me (for example) that costumes do.

** The current season of Top Chef is also showing Wednesday nights on SyFy's sister station Bravo. It's probably no coincidence that there was a Top Chef re-run tonight and there was no hint of Marcel's new show until he was eliminated from the competition last week. Hmm.

*** Also, the monster-of-the-week movie SyFy's been advertising looks like the hair, makeup and catfighting were taken from one of the Real Housewives of ___ shows. Another crossover, perhaps?


  1. I don't actually know what SyFy is these days, and am surprised to find that I don't care (or watch)! For me, BBC America is the new SciFi channel.

  2. I think it's worth remembering that Bravo wasn't originally a reality show channel. It was an arts channel that did things like air foreign films (the Independent Film Channel was in fact spun off from it), so that it occupied a unique niche in cable-until the management decided to abandon it and bury its viewers in matchmakers, "housewives" and other such content.

    SyFy has gone the same route, ditching its original niche, and I think they went beyond negligence toward SF fans to sheer contempt (which many in the original viewer base have returned) a long time ago--about the time when they took that extra big leap toward idiocracy by giving wrestling a home.

  3. "Until Stargate Universe and Eureka return with new episodes, there's really not much reason to turn to on SyFy at all."

    If I'm not mistaken, Stargate Universe has been cancelled as well.

  4. Dianne: I totally missed that announcement. That's a bummer. The SF options on TV are getting slimmer and slimmer.

    N.E.: I hadn't realized Bravo was originally an arts channel. I guess it's the same way MTV used to be about music.

    Guy: I agree, I've been watching BBC-America more and more. I find it kind of funny that they started showing Star Trek:TNG re-runs.

    There have also been an increasing number of excellent (non-SF) dramas on cable - over the past year I've enjoyed Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, Damages and a bunch of others. So I'm not lacking in shows to watch. I'm just missing more SF.

  5. I did not realize that there was an original UK version of Being Human. I found BH by accident because it comes on after Merlyn which I also started watching by accident and just sorta got hooked on. Would love to see the original BH because I do enjoy the version on SyFy.

  6. There's something about British actors that makes them less glossy (if that's the right word) than the American actors, and I find that appealing. The guy who stars in Merlin has that same interesting quality (at least SyFy didn't try to re-make that).

    The third season BBC version of Being Human premiers on BBC-Am this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it.


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