30 December 2011

The Nerdist? On BBC America?

It seems incredibly strange that The Nerdist Podcast would get picked up for various TV specials by BBC America, and not the cable net (supposedly) devoted to science fiction -and thus nerds and geeks- The Sci Fi Channel. Oh wait, they call themselves SyFy, which seems to have given them license to do as little science fiction as possible.

The Nerdist Podcast was started by Chris Hardwick, host of the E! cable series Web Soup. The weekly show is about, as Hardwick says, "what it really means to be a nerd." It began in February of 2010, and Harwick has had an eclectic group of guest that have included Rob Zombie, Stan Lee, Jeri Ryan, Ozzy Osbourne, Drew Carey and Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. 

It's success led to a 2011 TV pilot with guest appearances by  Craig Ferguson and current Doctor Who, Matt Smith. The pilot scored well with BBC America, which then ordered five more specials to air beginning Christmas Eve and to continue on the cable net through 2012.

As I watched it, I began to wonder what a show that is devoted to mostly nerdom -super-hero, science fiction and fantasy movies, along with everything in between -sci fi TV, games, music, science and which actress was hotter (though, sadly no books or anime) is on a BBC America and not, say the damn Sci Fi...sorry, SyFy Channel? This is not a slight against BBC America in any way, because somehow this cable network is filling a void left by NBC/Universal's dismal attempt to crossbreed science fiction with Daytime Television story lines, while airing snooze inducing reality programs, game shows and wrestling.Not only is Doctor Who been a hit since moving from the Sci Fi Channel, they've brought us Being Human (and have tried a poor copy here in the US) and other well done British science fiction.

I know there is a audience for it, though. Sadly, SyFy's low-budget crap-a-thon Saturday Night Cheese Fest Movies (and the more silly the title, the more viewers apparently as well) does extremely well for them. I'm unsure though they care that they are producing crap that -perhaps- Roger Corman should not be suing them for copyright infringement. It seems, in the end, about profit and the shareholders. It seems Craig Engler, the senior executive at Syfy, is in reality the real Jack Donaghy of one NBC's best comedies, 30 Rock. Donaghy will do almost anything to get ratings up at the series "fictional" NBC network, and will scrap the barrel if he has to do it. His "synergy" has lead to some hilarious (MiLF Island) interactions on how network TV considers shareholders first, viewers last (even though I believe a show like this would actually work. No one would admit they watch it, but it could get great ratings).

I've tweeted Engler a few times over the last few months about his cable net, being critical of such sci-fi lite programs as Warehouse 13, Eureka and Haven (which gets the award for producing a fantasy show based on classic Raymond Chandler style noir novel called The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, which had no elements of fantasy at all). He, of course, believes the "millions" who watch these shows would take a critical view of the way I think they're trash. Which is fair, everyone has an opinion. My arched eyebrow comes from the extreme knowledge that I no longer am part of the demographic that this cable net is after. That means -for some reason- I can no longer have great shows like Caprica, Battlestar Galactica and Farscape because they're themes, as the late Michael Piller once said about Star Trek: Voyager, were "too lofty for a (show like Voyager's) broad-based audience." Somehow, I think this is how Engler approaches series development.

Part of the blame is that there is so much to view these days, so many platforms for people to watch them on, that the cable nets (who don't have the same budgets that broadcast net's have) have to produce shows cheaply. But that being said, if money can't be spent on sets, visual effects and location shooting, why are the scripts not more character driven? It seems they know a plot driven show is expensive, but ignore it for paint-by-numbers characters and trying to show more sex than most nerdist need, or want. After all, a nerdist likes the girls (lesbians's included), but they're terribly afraid of the opposite sex. Gay male nerdist have it the worst, in my opinion. 

So why is not the Nerdist a weekly, monthly or occasional special on SyFy? Did no one think at NBC/U that people would watch this? Though, even as I say thing, I can picture Engler printing out reams of data indicating that they would not. But the show would be cheap to produce, and even a tepid rating would make money for them -would studios not be interested in airing trailer for their upcoming nerdist movies on a show like this?

Yes, true science fiction has been regulated to "cultish" nerd girls and boys, but with the rise of social media, explain to me why a cable net that was designed -at least at first- as a place for all nerdist to live, has kicked us to the curb in favor of wrestling and ghost hunting? With the continued success of certain superhero based movies and, on occasion, a pretty good sci fi film (which does escape me at this moment) and fantasy we nerds deserve a show like what Hardwick is doing.

And as much as I love BBC America, this show should be on The Sci Fi Channel.

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