Is SyFy The Next Sci Fi Channel?

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What’s gotten into Syfy?

It’s almost like someone over at the network decided that the channel that used to be devoted to the science fiction genre, should actually be programming science fiction genre fare. In a series of announcements today, Syfy has opened the floodgates to production on scripted an unscripted shows that would rival the Sci Fi Channel in its heyday.

We’ve already had news about Ascension, and are just getting word that Tricia Helfer will be playing Viondra Denniger, described as being “beautiful, manipulative, and dangerous”. That’s starting out as a six-hour mini-series with an eye toward extension into series status. Denniger is the ship’s steward who also happens to be married to the captain. Ascension will debut in November.

Plus, we already had news about Dominion, Twelve Monkeys, The Wil Wheaton Project, and several other projects (many of which have yet to materialize).

Now let’s get into all the new stuff announced today in New York. Details are from Syfy press releases.

Scripted Programming:

KilljoysFrom the producers of Orphan Black (Temple Street Productions) and the creator of Lost Girl (Michelle Lovretta), Killjoys follows a fun-loving, hard living trio of interplanetary bounty hunters sworn to remain impartial as they chase deadly warrants throughout the Quad, a distant system on the brink of a bloody, multiplanetary class war.

Creator/executive producer/showrunner: Michelle Lovretta (Lost Girl, The Secret Circle). Producer: Temple Street Productions (Orphan Black, Being Erica). Killjoys is produced by Temple Street Productions (Orphan Black, Being Erica) in association with Syfy and Bell Media/Space. Executive producers: David Fortier, Ivan Schneeberg/Temple Street Productions. International distribution via Universal Cable Productions.

Clone – Based on the best-selling graphic novel. When retired soldier Luke Taylor investigates a break-in at his house, he never expected who the burglar would be: A clone of himself.  Drawn into a vast government conspiracy when his wife is kidnapped, Luke must use all his combat skills and network of military contacts to get to the bottom of the secret biotech program that is responsible and the hidden agenda that goes all the way to the top levels of power. Writer/Executive Producer: David Schulner (Dracula, Ironside). Executive Producers: Robert Kirkman of Skybound Entertainment (Creator, EP, Writer of The Walking Dead)and David Alpert of Circle of Confusion (The Walking Dead). Studio: Universal Television.

Letter 44 – Based on the graphic novels of the same name. It is tradition for the preceding President to leave a letter for the newly elected President on the desk of the Oval Office. In this letter, new President Stephen Blades learns this stunning secret: seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate and they’re nearing the conclusion of their epic journey.

Executive Producer/Writer/Director: Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3). Executive Producers: Eric Gitter (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) and Peter Schwerin (The Flock, Scary Movie 2) from Closed on Mondays.  Executive Producer: Renee Echevarria (4400, Terra Nova). Studio: A co-production of Universal Television and Universal Cable Productions.

Magicians– Based on the book series, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, the one-hour drama follows a group of 20-somethings in New York who study magic and discover that the magical fantasy world they read about as children is real and poses a grave danger to Earth.

Executive Producers/Writers: Sera Gamble (Supernatural) and John McNamara (Common Law, In Plain Sight). Executive Producer: Michael London (Lola Versus, Milk). Studio: Universal Cable Productions.

Pax Romana is about a Special Forces team that travels back in time on the eve of World War III to “fix” the future by altering the past. Their destination: Ancient Rome. Roman legions battle modern day attack helicopters, tanks and soldiers, while thought-provoking themes are explored as the leaders of the expedition fight over their vision for civilization. Writers: Matthew Federman & Stephen Scaia (Jericho, Warehouse 13, Human Target). Co-executive producer: Jonathan Hickman. Executive producers: David Alpert of Circle of Confusion (The Walking Dead), Federman and Scaia.  A production of Universal Cable Productions.

Ronin, published by DC Entertainment — eight centuries after a Japanese Ronin samurai failed to protect his master from a demon, he awakens in a futuristic, nihilistic New York in the body of Billy, a medical experiment. Now Billy/Ronin is chasing the demon, which has reawakened. Both parties want control of a sword with magical properties and will stop at nothing to get it back. Studio: Warner Horizon.

 

Unscripted Programming:

Adam + Eve (WT)Adam + Eve follows three individual and uniquely-paired couples – all meeting one another for the first time – to experience isolation in separate remote locations over the course of 90 days without any other human contact. As their psyches and bodies are tested by the need to survive, the social experiment will examine the dynamic between two people who have only each other for comfort.

Production Company: Studio Lambert/All3Media America (Undercover Boss, The Million Second Quiz). Executive producers: Stephen Lambert, Greg Goldman, Eli Holzman.

Alive and Alone (WT)Alive and Alone is a first-person POV survival show where, each episode, the “lone survivor” of a remote disaster must use wits, along with whatever can be carried from the wreckage, to make it out alive over the course of nine days. The survivor will self-document the journey while also wearing the latest in biofeedback technology which will capture how the mind and body copes with the grueling experience.

Production Company: BASE Productions (Haunted Highway, Man vs Cheetah). Executive Producers: John Brenkus, Mickey Stern.

Billion Dollar Club (WT) – What if the odds were 2% massive success and 98% complete failure?  Would you take that bet?  Set in the belly of the beast – Silicon Valley, Billion Dollar Club is a high-adrenaline, high-stakes docu-series that immerses viewers in the brilliant and cutthroat world of today’s most interesting and forward thinking innovators. The series follows two of the world’s most aggressive accelerator programs: the software concentrated, 500 Startups, led by the relentless drill sergeant Dave McClure; and the hardware focused, Highway 1, headed by quirky genius Brady Forrest, as they guide, challenge, inspire and push a select group of startup companies on a quest to get their innovative ideas off the ground. Who is sitting on the next big thing? A billionaire may be born – launched or sent home!  

Produced by Zero Point Zero Production, Inc. (Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, The Getaway, The Hunt). Executive producers: Lydia Tenaglia, Christopher Collins.

Family Affects (WT) – A comedic workplace docuseries following the misadventures of a fiery family-run special effects pyrotechnics company in Hollywood. The show centers around Tom Ceglia, his five kids and their crazy uncle Al as Tom prepares the next generation for his retirement and decides who will take the reins of the business. Will it be his clever-yet-unmotivated son or his outspoken-and-underprepared daughter? In an industry strangled by big digital effects, this family survives and thrives on controlling deadly forces of nature — but can they survive each other? These loud characters blow things up for popular TV shows, commercials, music videos, and live events, all while managing the quirky antics that will solidify their place as America’s most explosive family.

Production Company: Angel Valley Media. Executive Producers: Matt Lewis and Aaron Sherry

Fantasy Makers (WT)Fantasy Makers is a family docuseries following the loud, energetic and colorful cast of characters who own and operate one of New York City’s premiere haunted attractions, Blood Manor. When they’re not scaring up city dwellers, the cast is out planning wild-themed events for clients, allowing their most extreme and imaginative fantasies to come to life. Production Company: Vidiots. Executive Producers: Michael Amoia, Anthony Amoia.

Geeks Who Drink– This game show centers around the geek pub quiz phenomenon, in which three quizmasters challenge teams in a live geek trivia battle.

Production Company: Condé Nast Entertainment (The Fashion Fund, Vanity Fair Confidential), Kinetic Content (Digfellas, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, The Taste). Executive Producers: Chris Coelen, Dawn Ostroff, Joe LaBracio, Emma Conway. Supervising Producer: John Dicker.

The End is Near (WT) This anthology docuseries profiles fascinating men and women who truly believe humanity is on the verge of a sci-fi-like apocalyptic scenario. Whether it’s a robot revolution, unknown super virus or close encounter of the fifth kind, each episode will follow the stories of the brave families or groups of people who have united to take a stand.

Production Company: Hot Snakes Media (Amish Mafia, Breaking Amish). Executive Producers: Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista.

Twins (WT) – Twins is a house reality social experiment testing fraternal twins who claim to have twin ESP. Through a series of twin telepathy challenges and specifically designed house rules, a big twist will reveal a shocking surprise! 

Production company: Electus (King of the Nerds, The Hero). Executive producers: Ben Silverman, Chris Grant, Corie Henson, Jessica Sebastian.

Town of the Living Dead, premiering Tuesday, October 7 at 10PM — the colorful folks of Jasper, Alabama are determined, once and for all, to complete their zombie movie, Thr33 Days Dead… now six long years in the making. Based on a town urban legend, their film centers on a group of friends trying to survive a zombie apocalypse in rural Alabama. The series will follow the intrepid and motley crew of amateur filmmakers as they struggle against every obstacle imaginable to get to a final cut of their film…which could someday become a movie!

Production company: True Entertainment (The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes). Executive Producers: Glenda Hersh, Steven Weinstock and David Stefanou.

 

Transmedia Programming:

The “transmedia” ranges from content connected with existing shows, to brand new initiatives.

DEFIANCE

In-Show Avatar

Season 2, premiering June 19, will feature a new character based on an actual player’s in-game avatar. The winner of the “Play the Game, Join the Show Contest” was revealed on Facebook in a video by the show’s executive producer, Kevin Murphy, in September. The live-action character based on the winner’s avatar will be joining the show’s cast this summer.

The Defiant Few

Defiance is unveiling a new way for fans to interact with the show online and via social in Season 2. Starting with premiere, every week, viewers will be invited to participate in a parallel storyline where they’ll be encouraged to take on “missions” consisting of web-based casual games and challenges that will propel this storyline and give viewers a chance to win substantial real-world prizes.

DOMINION

Citizen’s Handbook – A Guide to Vega

Created by the series’ writers, Citizen’s Handbook – A Guide to Vega will provide an immersive, interactive guide/handbook to the fictional city of Vega, featuring exclusive video and multimedia content created specifically for this experience. It will allow viewers to delve into the rich mythology of Dominion weeks before the series premieres on-screen on Syfy June 19.

FACE OFF

Earlier in the year, Syfy enjoyed great success with the Opposite Worlds Twitter Popularity Index, which created a new means of interacting with a competition reality show via social media. Kalev H. Leetaru utilized his patented research methods technology to measure the “social sentiment” around the contestants on the show, producing the weekly rankings from “most popular” to “least popular.” Syfy will now use the next generation of that innovative technology and apply it to Season 7 of its highest-rated unscripted series Face Off, giving viewers the ability to directly affect the outcome of the show by cheering for, or talking smack about, players on the show via Twitter in natural-language tweets.

UNDERLINGS

This new 10-episode live action original digital series, produced by Universal Cable Productions and More Media, is a workplace comedy that takes viewers inside the criminal organization, G.O.R.I.L.LA. (Global Oppression, Rebellion, Intelligence, Larceny, and LAsers), and introduces them to the three guys who make sure the printer is stocked with toner, organize the office karaoke night and keep the death rays deadly. Syfy’s first original digital comedy stars Jonathan Howard, Chris Mena and Tony Vitale with Jessica Chobot (Nerdist News), Michael Naughton (Kirby Buckets, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), James Adomian (Comedy Bang Bang, @midnight) and Joseph Gatt (Game of Thrones, Banshee).

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And yes, we’ll also be getting Sharknado 3. Location TBD.

This is a robust mix of narrative and “reality” programming that feels more in line with the traditional network fare fans saw prior to the branding change in 2009. Most likely, this is a direct result of new Syfy Head Suit Dave Howe telling his programming exec Bill McGoldrick “get us back where we were”. How many of these will actually air remains to be seen, as we’ve still not seen the adaptation of Childhood’s End or High Moon, among others announced last year.

What do you think? Is Syfy on its way back?

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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