Monday, June 09, 2014

The Wheaton, The Bad, The...Well, It's Syfy

So. The Syfy Channel.

It's come as kind of a surprise to me that the network that has supposedly devoted itself to all things science fiction and fantasy has somehow been epically failing at cashing in on the rise of the nerd culture trend. Since the end of the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, the network has been in the throes of a massive identity crisis, oscillating between low-budget sci-fi niche shows, trashy reality programming, and oh, yes, SHARKNADO.

Free Willy!!!!

Although the first season of Defiance was reasonably successful, the silly but sometimes watchable Warehouse 13 and Eureka have gone off the air, and Syfy canceled Alphas, which was their best post-Galactica original series to date, and they essentially canceled Being Human. Syfy has, for the most part, seemed like a post-adolescent urban hipster experimenting with his facial hair -- one week, it's a waxed Edwardian mustache, and the next week, the cast of Opposite Worlds is chainsawing its way out of a shark abdomen. Just whatever you do, Syfy audience, don't think too hard. 

Next week, these two giant robots are going up against my hair gel!

They tried battling robots and they tried a nerd Jersey Shore. All to no avail.

The execs at Syfy, who clearly hate anything that is science fiction or fantasy, have finally rolled over and made their peace. They've given their demographic what they have always truly wanted in the depths of their soul.

Our market research and focus groups indicate... Fuck it. Just give Wil Wheaton a show.


My own show? So I can get wasted and crash it into shit? Rockin!

Okay, okay. Calm down. Clearly, The Wil Wheaton Project is an attempt to cash in on snarky clip shows like The Soup and Tosh.0, but this is a concept from non-nerd cable networks that might actually resonate with the Syfy audience.

Basically, the concept is The Soup. Wil Wheaton, actor, blogger, tabletop gamer, and fine purveyor of geek culture,  is your guide through the wild and wacky world of explicit threesomes on Salem and Game of Thrones.  I've watched the first couple episodes that have aired and it's what one would expect from the Master of Snark. Wil shows clips of various science fiction and fantasy shows that can be found across the network spectrum, and rightfully skewers them in ways that they totally deserve (yes, I'm looking at you, Dracula). The only problem with this show methinks is convincing people to watch.  Although the execs at Syfy have apparently given Wil free rein to take pot-shots at their less-than-stellar offerings, I'm not so certain that members of Wheaton Nation would want to willingly go watch Syfy. He's got clips aplenty, and the show has potential, but I think TWWP needs a bigger budget, more guest appearances, and more Drunk Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  

Wil Wheaton is a really funny guy. As I previously mentioned, he was quite hilarious on buddy Chris Hardwick's Comedy Central show, @midnight, but the show might benefit from more writers and more nerd jokes. There should also be more guest stars. He had on staples like Felicia Day and his BFF Hardwick, but I'd like to see more guests like maybe Carrie Fisher or Patrick Stewart. 

Please watch. As Wil himself said, "Or they'll replace me with redneck ghost hunters." Truth.

On that note, shall we move on to a Syfy show that has been inexplicably renewed for a second season, Heroes of Cosplay?

I'm just going to say that I am not a cosplayer and haven't been, really, since elementary school Halloween parties. Okay, there was that one time I came out of retirement and dressed up like Penelope Clearwater for Halloween, but other than that, I, as a grown adult, do not dress myself up in costumes and go to conventions with the aim of winning prizes. Obviously, I'm looking at this show as an outsider, so let me give my objective opinion. 

Basically, the premise of Heroes of Cosplay and Tiaras? I guess? It's supposed to be a documentary reality series about cosplayers who create their own costumes and go to conventions in the hopes that they will win prize money in the costume competitions. That doesn't sound like a bad way to spend a Saturday, amirite? Well, I have some qualms. 

First off, I don't understand the name of this show. Why are they "heroes" of cosplay? There's nothing particularly heroic about any of these people. I watched episodes from the first season here and there, but I got fed up with the histrionics of one of the female "stars" in particular, who appeared to wait until the last minute to finish her costume and then yelled at her boyfriend, whom she'd forced into helping her. There is a lot of un-heroic procrastination and bitchiness coming from several of the featured cosplayers, I can't tell if the production team is editing the episodes to make it look like they are running out of time before the convention, or if these "heroes," who claim to be semi-professional cosplayers, actually do wait until the last minute to finish their costumes, and they are total nightmares to their significant others and friends in the process. In which case, I have to ask, don't they know better? It seems like they're shooting themselves in the foot trying to create all this drama. The only one who seems to have her shit together is Yaya Han. According to the show, Han is a cosplayer whose costume creations and social media presence have enabled her to have a career as a professional cosplayer. Of course, she isn't really competing so much as she is judging and attempting to mentor her friends and fellow cosplayers.

Other mentors features this season include Brian Henson, of Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. It's nice to see him on the show and his insight is interesting, and the inclusion of the mentors this season is a good improvement. But it doesn't really do much to diminish the cosplayers' narcissism and the fact that they act like cosplay is serious as bubonic plague, but the show makes it look like they procrastinate to finish their costumes on time. 

You guys, the cognitive dissonance is killing me. If you're going to throw your costume together in the hotel room and and assemble it with hot glue and hope it says together with a lick and a prayer (and PVC pipe), and then realize your shiz is scratched so you run out to buy paint at Walgreen's before it's time for you to go on stage, you might as well rename your show Heroes of Costco. Or Home Depot. Or something non-heroic. 

Also, who is judging these competitions? I don't go to cons, as I said, and I see some of the costumes that are chosen for prizes, and others that are overlooked, and I can't really understand why some costumes win big prizes and others get nada. Perhaps new judges are in order?

Darling, you rang?

The show isn't terrible, but it's also not that great, either. The most interesting part of the entire program is when they are at the conventions and they reveal their costumes, but there is a whole lotta unnecessary lead-up to get to that point. I think the producers could do something more interesting with the rest of the time other than trying to create fake dramatic filler. 

Ironically, the "extras" that are featured on the show's Syfy site are actually kind of interesting and perhaps they ought to be included in the broadcast. If they showed the elements of costume construction and how-tos, instead of "OMG I MAILED MY COSTUME TO MYSELF AND IT'S NOT HERE YET"  'twould be more compelling programming. I think that is where part of the success of Face/Off comes from. On Face/Off, contestants are given two or three days to finish a project on their own or in teams, from start to finish. On Cosplay, it seems like the "heroes" have an unlimited amount of time to finish their costumes. They're not under any actual time constraints that they haven't created themselves, and even those seem disingenuous. 

I do feel that they should put more emphasis on the costumes and costume construction and less on creating fake drama. The costumes people come up with are actually pretty cool, and they are the best part of the show. I really enjoyed the Skeksis costume that one of the cosplayers created, but it of course did not win a prize. IT'S WATER FOWL, PEOPLE. Like what the actual hell?

I really do feel like this show is a rip-off of Toddlers and Tiaras. Um, Syfy? YOU'RE RIPPING OFF TODDLERS AND TIARAS.

What's next, Syfy? Nerd brides planning the perfect nerd wedding? Nerd-themed cake competition? The exploits of a child redneck cosplayer and her family's sci-fi/fantasy-themed struggle against generational poverty and diabetes? I just.

Okay, it may appear as though she is about to devour you alive, but I applaud her use of proper headbanding.

Info about both shows available at


Scienter said...

I will admit it... I enjoyed Opposite Worlds. *hides*

Arsenic Pie said...

Your secret is safe with me.