Let’s start with a story…
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was sitting on some bleachers in a studio full of my fellow co-workers staring at a music stand draped with a black cloth. Beneath that cloth lurked our new company slogan and beside it stood our beaming CEO eagerly waiting to unleash it. Before it was released, she proudly boasted that the slogan had been donated and our benefactors were one of the premiere advertising company in our area – a donation that would not only help revitalize our company, but would help drag it into the 20th century (sadly, the century was wrapping up and we were plowing into the 21st). This particular advertising agency was well known in our area. It was one that sported many of the more popular initials in its name (no x’s or q’s there) and whose very name let you know that they were hip and edgy – no stuffy last names of executive octogenarians strung together for this bunch.
Everyone in the room was filled with anticipation and glowing gratitude as we reflected on charity and how it’s nice to give to the community and even better to have a tax write-off. Looking back, I now suspect the company threw their top local community college interns at the task of creating this “free” slogan. (Oh, and it turns out that “free” actually costs a whole dollar, but it does allow you to have the rights to your slogan.)
When the cloth came off, what I saw was not the bright future of our company, but an amazingly large turd sitting on that stand. A money sucking turd. A turd hell bent on costing us a re-branding fortune. The CEO smiled with great pride and I swear someone shrieked while another person exclaimed “JESUS!” and the rest of us sat in horror-stricken silence, golf-clapping the brilliance of the turd. The surprises didn’t end there. We were also being blessed with a new digital logo – one that was supposed to make us look “high-tech”, but the CEO failed to qualify the statement with “yes, high-tech for 1982 – someone go unearth the old Epson dot matrix, mama wants to slap the new logo on some stationery.” And maybe we weren’t that blindsided – I seem to recall a voting process where several options were presented, but truly when faced with the possibilities we were forced to apply the “suck” scale and made our decisions based on what seemed to suck the least.
I imagine that’s exactly how the minions at the Sci Fi network recently felt the day they heard the news that they were no longer going to be the Sci-Fi network, but were going to “Imagine Greater” and become Syfy.
I’ve given the new name a little over a week to grow me. I mean, at this point, everyone has had the opportunity to take a swing at the name, but now I suppose it’s my turn. I have to start with one of my obvious peeves – the misspelling. Why grossly misspell Sci-Fi especially when the network clearly wants to distance themselves from the genre? Why not a completely different name? Sci-Fi still sounds like Syfy, unless you pronounce it “Siffy”, which is actually what I prefer to call it. As for the misspelling, I can barely take brands like “Artic Ice” or “Liquid Plumr” not to mention any brands that incorporate words like “Qwik”, “Cheez”, “Brite” or “Krazy” and now we have Syfy? Really? Brands like “Infiniti”, “Gleem” and “Flickr” slip by me virtually unnoticed, but “Syfy” makes me choke every time I see it.
As I now re-read the CNN article, “Sci-Fi Channel becomes Syfy; will viewers tune in or drop out?” by Todd Leopold, I can’t help but feel the same amount of contempt for the Syfy channel’s president, David Howe, as he surely must feel for me, one of his core viewers. According to the article the original name is seen as a “barrier” and the feeling is that the viewers will be there if the programming is good. This is already an uphill battle for the network, because the programming is not good. My husband describes it as the “bad movie/wrestling/Ghost Hunter channel”, a fairly accurate description now that their one critically acclaimed show has come to an end. When the channel first aired, you knew you could count on it for re-runs of Sci-Fi classics or original shows like Good vs. Evil or The Invisible Man. Now it’s where I go when I want to watch schlock horror “hits” like “Mansquito”, “Ogre” and “Mega Snake”, and that urge never hits me. “Warehouse 13” is being touted as the “flagship” of this newer/sexier rebranding effort and Howe is quoted as saying it “epitomizes the essence of the new Syfy”. I’ve watched it. Two episodes. I think that’s about all the time I need to devote to the series and it’s hamfisted send-up to “steam punk” and quite frankly, if this is the direction they’re going, then I’m glad they’ve parted ways with the term “Sci-Fi”. The show isn’t “bad”, it’s just not “good”. In my opinion, their “flagship” should be “Stargate Universe” with Robert Carlyle and money should be thrown at the executive producers, Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and Carl Binder. But I guess that’s Sci-Fi and not the new Syfy, Sci-Fi’s buck-toothed, illiterate cousin.
The executives at Syfy must truly see their core viewers as dirty and undesirable based on their series of decision – from methodically divorcing itself from science fiction over the years to this latest rebranding. My apologies to them – you see, I actually chose to watch science fiction on a channel calling itself “Sci Fi” because I expected science fiction shows. And while Sci-Fi may be geeky and in the narrowest of definitions imply people are floating around in space, what does Syfy say? The network can’t spell? They get to make more poor programming decisions? The implication from the execs at SyFy seems to be that by misspelling Sci-Fi, more people will be drawn to shows like Battlestar Galactica? Really? Who are these people? Drunk people? Blind people? The execs also seem to believe that if you slapped Battlestar Galactica on the Biography channel or TNT, more viewers would be drawn to it because they would be fooled into thinking it was something else. I’m sorry, I do love Battlestar Galactica, but what’s keeping the mainstream from the show is not that it’s on a channel calling itself “Sci-Fi”.
Needless to say, I’m incensed and a lot disappointed. I enjoy Sci-Fi and this new Siffy obviously has no place for me. I can only hope channels like Biography, History, Discovery or even the Military channel don’t wake up one day and say “you know what? Our viewers aren’t cool. Let’s move away from our roots and try to be more like the CW network. We want THAT demographic.” Who knows though, maybe tomorrow I’ll turn on BBC America and find we’re broadcasting from Dubai – I mean, it is sexier and think of the revenues.
… and I’d like to think that when the out-of-touch execs at Siffy unveiled their personal enormous turd of an idea, their more savvy staff snorted with displeasure and maybe a shriek was heard or an indignant “JESUS!”. … and I sincerely hope they didn’t pay more than $1 for the new name.