Thursday, June 19, 2008

The SciFi Channel Slides Further into Uselessness

The slide.

In my mind, it started with Remote Control. MTV stands for Music Television and that's what it was when my family first got cable back in the 80s. And being in high school, I was totally in MTV's demographic and I ate it up.

Then they put on the game show Remote Control and I recall it being a big deal because the channel was dedicated to music videos (concerts and music news as well, but all music-related) and here was something completely non-music-related. Why did they do it? I can't read the minds of the programmers, but I suspect they were trying to make money. After all, in the business world (and as Gene Simmons is always reminding folks, it's show "business"), making money is job #1. So they came up with something that would appeal to their demographic and that they could offer to advertisers as something "new."

Well, I was never a huge fan, but I did watch it so obviously the tactic of appealling to the demographic worked and I didn't rebel against it being on MTV and not being about music.

So that is the beginning of the slide. Then there was The Real World in the early 90s and since I was just out of college I was again in the perfect demographic. And again it worked and I paid attention through 2 more seasons.

So along all of these years, MTV morphed into this youth-culture channel with all sorts of game show and reality stuff on it and barely has anything to do with music anymore. But it's still called MTV. Why? Partially because it had become a "brand," but also because it had a slot on cable and satellite systems. I understand it's hard to get a new channel into the line-up so even thought the content changed (albeit slowly over time) the name remained.

Same thing with VH1, which for you youngins stands for Video Hits 1, as in music video. Now it is mostly "celebreality" stuff. But VH1 still works because no one needs to know what it stands for.

A&E used to be like the cable version of PBS - history documentaries and british theater and such. Now its Gene Simmons and Dog the Bounty Hunter. A&E stands for Arts & Entertainment, but now it's just "A&E: Real Life. Drama," because it is hard to call The Two Coreys part of the "Arts" with a straight face.

I remember when TLC was kind of like PBS, too: educational programming, documentaries, etc. That's because TLC stands for The Learning Channel. They were trying to teach us something. Now it's TLC: Life Suprises," and all about Jon & Kate Plus 8 and Little People Big World.

CMT stands for Country Music Television, but it has it's share of slide what with running marathons of Hogan Knows Best, Trading Spouses and Nanny 911, none of which have anything to do with country music.

At least Court TV had the decency to change it's name to TruTV, reflecting it's change from courtroom play-by-play and crime/legal shows to all reality programming.

Similarly, TNN, which was The Nashville Network, changed it's name and programming to SpikeTV, pretty much doing a 100% revamp, but managing to keep it's slot on cable and satellite line-ups.

BET had a pretty wide range to start with - music video to reality programming, it doesn't matter: as along as it features black people, the channel's name still fits. Likewise channels like The Travel Channel, The Food Network and Comedy Central can be relied upon to show programs that make sense given the channel's name.

AMC has been an interesting case to watch. Seems to me that early on it was focused on critically-acclaimed movies, in particular older ones, hence the name American Movie Classics. I wasn't an avid watcher of AMC, but I remember when I saw a commercial for Iron Eagle. Iron Eagle? A "Classic?" Really? I mean, it's a good example of an 80s action flick, but it seemed odd to hold it up with To Kill a Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath and other stuff that it seemed they were showing. But see, what they were doing was the slide - they were programming to the demographic, or perhaps programming to A demographic - one that spent more money and would allow them to charge more for advertising. See, it all comes back to that old money thing. So now, "AMC" seems to be used in all promos instead of "Amercian Movie Classics," and "classics" can now include Funny Farm starring Chevy Chase and Teen Wolf. Not only that, but AMC has slid into Remote Control mode. At least some of their TV shows like Sunday Morning Shotout, have been about movies, but now the channel prevoiously all about movies is airing original tv series about advertising execs (Mad Men), meth cooks (Breaking Bad) and proudly has plans to add more tv series next year. None of which have anything to do with movies. How long before AMC doesn't even show movies. Hmmmm.....

Which brings us to the real point of this rant, the SciFi Channel, or SciFi as it's currently being marketed as.

Wrestling.

On the SciFi Channel.

Absolutely nothing to do with science fiction - a pure and obvious programming change to make more money. Someone ran some numbers and found that there was some crossover in demographics of those who watched some SciFi Channel stuff also watched wrestling. So they put it on and were able to tout it to all the advertisers as some awesome demographics/synergy wizardry and change more money.

I could go on about the channel's choices for programming but that's another rant altogether. To that end, take a look at what inspired this rant of mine: http://www.rimworlds.com/csfcabout.htm - scroll down to read "the screed." And tell them Dr. Squid sent you.

Might the SciFi Channel soon abbreviate it's name to SFC, so that all science fiction reference is removed? Then they can use the tagline "SFC: So. Freakin. Cool."Probably something like that.

Postscript: I watch all kinds of TV shows - this piece is mainly talking about the move away from various channels' originally stated genres as expressed by their channel names. I watch Gene Simmons Family Jewels as well as Dog The Bounty Hunter, Jon & Kate Plus 8 and Little People Big World. In fact I've been to the Roloff's farm, met Amy, bought some pumpkins and checked out their various attractions like this pirate ship:



And further: Yes, I know that the SciFi Channel has been showing wrestling for a while now. I'm just getting around to bitching about it now. I've been busy.

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