Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1044: ShartNado

The SyFy Network is beating the drum that their latest low rent crap-o-rama SharkNado, about a tornado dropping sharks on people, was a huge success.

Their metric was that the movie generated over 5,000 tweets a minute about it during its premiere.

However, in the real world, their original movie was a ratings disaster, generating only a little more than 1.3 million views, which is pretty bad, even for cable.

So what happened?

Basically the whole thing had the air of a really bad joke right from the beginning. People were willing to joke about it, in fact lots of people were willing to joke about it, but very few people were willing to invest the time and mental/emotional/aesthetic punishment required to actually watch it.

And that's the root of the problem with SyFy's original movies.

They're bad jokes.

Bad, lazily composed, jokes with even worse CGI.

Even I joked on Twitter that SharkNado got the green-light because they have two big wheels at SyFy HQ, each covered in random words. They spin the wheels and whatever words come out on top are combined and that's the premise of the next movie. They then reach into a barrel filled with the names of washed up or otherwise unemployable "stars," and voila, they gotta movie!

I now realize that such online japery is part of the problem. SyFy is now using it as a sign of victory, and while it's obvious that such strategies don't work, I've never met a media company that's found a bad idea they just couldn't give up.

And the saddest part is that it is possible to make watchable entertaining science fiction, horror, and fantasy, for television on a low or even micro-budget. Going for badness in the name of "campiness" is a cover for extreme laziness and unoriginality.

I know it's possible, because I've seen it done.

When I was a kid some of the scariest movies I saw weren't R-Rated slash-fests that were all over the theatres back then. They were TV movies, shot with low budgets and tight schedules, and made up for their limited resources with two little things called story, and creativity.

There's no reason why those can't be used today to make science fiction, fantasy, and horror films for television other than laziness and fear of originality.

It's what makes hits, and while it requires actual work, the results will be way more satisfying.

Damn, I'm sounding like a cranky old man.


You kids!



  1. I know SyFy produces ridiculous stuff, but it also aired "Battlestar Galactica"- which, despite its cheesy 70s origins, was one of the best (if underappreciated) shows of the '00s. what gives? How can they produce something great and then not even try to rise above schlock after that? Contrast with, say, AMC or TNT or USA, which, once they had a critical hit, kept investing in the kind of smart(-ish) prestige TV that can, in turn, build brand and audiences. It has more or less worked that way for AMC. Especially since Sci Fi (the genre, not the channel) is mainly the preserve of smart, educated, nerdy people. The only answer I can think of is unimaginitve management that doesn't uinderstand the potential of something like a Sci-Fi channel. Really, the "Sharknado"s of the world belong in the straight-to-DVD bin.

  2. You're right.

    They're ignoring the 1 strategy that can turn a cable channel into something that's actually worth talking about & watching.

  3. "Unimaginative management" has been the watchword of SciFi Channel critics since at least the late Nineties. They have never been friendly with their audiences, canceling series on a whim despite dedicated cult followings. When Bonnie Hammer's regime took over the network, someone (Bonnie herself?) was quoted as saying that one of their first priorities was to "kill off that fucking puppet show." The fucking puppet show in question was Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- one of the most influential comedy series of the era, as you can see from the fingerprints it left all over pop culture since then. The death of MST3K was a harbinger to many of the meaning of the new era -- SFC was going to be run, from here on out, by people who didn't know, didn't understand, and didn't care about what geeks or nerds or science-fiction fans wanted to see on their channel.

  4. It's worse than unimaginitive- it's anti-science fiction, alien to the whole point of the genre. Stupid sh*t like "Sharknado" and its kin is not worthy. They'd be better off commissioning new series like BSG, or co-producing new installments of widely beloved franchises like "Star Trek" or "Stargate" or anything else that real sci-fans like. running reruns of classics like "twilight zone" or "x-files" and having regular runs of classic sci-fi films. Basically make themselves the first destination for sci-fi fans- showing by the programming that they understand what the genre is. The comic-con pehonom and its spin-offs show this is potentially a very large audience, if handled wisely. end-rant, I guess, but nothing makes a true fan madder than watching some dumbed-down reality-show schlock be passed off as the equal of "blade runner" or "minority report" or even MST3K, which was awesome.