Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Jason at Armchair Generalist has posted on the Sci-Fi Channel's developing new image here. It involves changing a mediocre logo into a bad one and a meaningless two word slogan.

In any case, DD watches Sci-Fi channel on cable quite a bit. And despite the much-written of hit, Battlestar Galactica, it often pushes the limit on what constitutes wretched. In fact, it's very frequently 'reality show' wretched, in ways easily rivalling ABC's Handcuff USA.

Take, for instance, the network's elevation of Ghost Hunters. Ghost Hunters is a mindlessly repetitive reality show in which a baseball-capped white trash crew goes to haunted houses. With an armory of Radio Shack-bought electronic sensors and night vision goggles, most of it is shot in annoying grays or greens. On the adverts for Ghost Hunters, of which there are many, anytime there is a noise or a cold draft in an empty dark house, it's evidence of the supernatural.

DD dares you to sit through more than ten minutes of it if you read this blog even semi-regularly. Try to imagine what kind of people find it absorbing and edgy. Then take it a step further and think of what it might be like sitting in a restaurant, sharing a meal and conversation with them.

Ugly, innit?

Then there's the acquisition of professional wrestling. Think of your usual steroidal manbull vaseline-slick ranters sans someone even faintly as amusing as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, a man who no longer wishes to be associated with this manner of entertainment. Johnson, of course, now makes movies for the delight of children, which tells you something -- something awful -- about the demographic Sci-Fi is servicing with ECW pro wrestling.

Perhaps you're thinking now: Why do Sci-Fi geeks like shitty pro-wrestling? Well, they probably don't. But those who run the channel are hedging their bets in much the way the Discovery and A&E channels did years ago. They moved away from high brow biographies and documentaries for the raw realism and wallop of shows about virile men who administer tattoos, work as bounty hunters, build variations on the choppers in Easy Rider, perform stoop labor, clean sewers, etc. The audience is those who, three years ago, moved out of double wides for houses with subprime mortgages in Orange County or the Inland Empire. And who are now back in trailers.

Now, I also know you're thinking "meth cookers!" No, that's moved upscale to Breaking Bad and it's sophisticated entertainment -- like Big Love, an HBO show about how funny and perplexing it is to be a polygamist. These are shows for people who religiously read and take seriously the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.

But I've gotten away from the thread -- the damnable decay of the Sci-Fi channel.

Saturday night, for example, is unwatchable.

The Sci-Fi channel regularly plugs it as 'the most dangerous night on television,' based upon the general premise of the featured Saturday night in-house movie. The idea is simple and numbing: Cheesy computer-generated monster is discovered by a crew of the hapless and two 'stars.' The hapless are destroyed. At the end, the monster is overcome with the two 'stars' left standing.

These movies are simply awful. Consider, or don't, a movie called Kaw -- a piece in which a flock of computer-generated diseased crows escape from a government weapons lab and ravage a town. Think The Birds without any actors, suspense or, even, real birds.

Another bit of dogshite which had to be seen to be believed was the Sci-Fi's idea of Beowulf. Old Chariots of Fire actor Ben Cross plays King Hroogar of the Danes and Grendel is played by a M1-tank-sized CG monster. Story: The Danes drink a lot. Grendel shows up when they're drunk and rips them apart. For about half of it, the Danes never cotton to the fact that they die when they're walking drunk or blacked out on the floor.

This was recycled in another Sci-Fi Saturday night special -- or perhaps it was the other way around -- in which Cross plays a Nazi scientist who creates supersoldiers. The supersoldiers looked suspiciously like the Grendel monster, except with jackboots and SS helmets. This was so atrocious it's title has been wiped from DD's memory.

Did you know the old Anaconda movie is in its third sequel? No? It was made for the Sci-Fi channel and starred David Hasselhoff.

Why are these movies worse than the old B-versions kids used to watch after school in the Sixties?

That's easy.

One, they're in color. You can see in great detail how bad the ridiculous computer-generated monsters look, and how they don't fit the screen action. At least old rubber monster suits had people in them and interacted with the heroes and villains. And black and white TV helped to cover up many imperfections. Second, the old B-types were after school entertainment. They didn't pretend to be anything they weren't, like something to hang your rep on in primetime on a Saturday night.

Have you ever wondered what Mitch Pileggi has been doing since he lost his Director Skinner gig on X-Files?

He wound up on the endless Stargate franchise, part of Richard Dean Anderson's MacGyver empire. The Stargate series, finally cancelled, lived years beyond its freshness date, vacuuming up the crumbs -- bit players like Beau Bridges and Pillegi from the carpet of old TV. Pillegi also starred in a Sci-Fi Saturday night special about killer ants.

If you're really a Sci-Fi channel masochist, you also know Stargate drafted two actors from Farscape -- Ben Browder and Claudia Black -- not that it helped. Farscape, much better, had ended years earlier.

While Stargate has finally been cancelled, it lives on in endless reruns.

Sci-Fi also practices the buying up of cancelled major network stuff.

Take "Invasion," which lasted for about eight episodes last year before being cancelled in mid-stride. So the viewer is left with even more abridged viewing. Sci-Fi aired a full three episodes of it, kind of like getting to watch the first 45-minutes of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then having someone come in, turn on the lights and say, "Well, that's it, show's over, folks!"


Anonymous bonze said...

It would be easy... for poltergeists to haunt your blog.

Seriously, we're talking Sci-Fi Channel, we're talking CREATIVE GENIUS! E.g., from Greg Bear's site:

"DARWIN'S RADIO and DARWIN'S CHILDREN have been released by the Sci Fi Channel and will not be developed by them for a cable miniseries. Executives had changed the tone and emphasis on these books substantially—rendering the New Children into vicious mutant aliens with elf ears, blue blood, and telekinetic powers, something of a mix of "Village of the Damned" and "It's Alive." Eventually, creative differences became insurmountable. "

12:14 PM  
Blogger George Smith said...

That's grim. This weekend it's ripping off "I am Legend" and "The Omega Man" with a Saturday night special called "I am Omega."

5:20 PM  

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