A ragged cup, a twisted mop, the face of Jesus in my soup… And what the McFreak is Ten up to?

While I’d like to be able to gloat that I totally called it, it didn’t really take precognition to know that Stargate Universe was not long for our televisions.

Why did they even bother?  I mean, really?  The problem with science fiction is that it’s always going to look like science fiction.  Sometimes, you can get away with it.  This year, Star Trek and Avatar managed to do extremely well despite being science fiction movies.  There was enough crashes, bangs, and solar flares to excite the non scifi crowd, and there was enough dorkiness and white guilt to pull in the scifi crowd.  It was a good match.

But television shows are an entirely different beast.  You only endure a movie for a few hours.  In order to attract an audience back week after week, it needs to appeal to something that inspires loyalty.  For most people, that’s not going to be escapist fantasy.  For some very strange, almost inexplicable reason, people want to watch people like themselves in rather horrid situations.  Soap operas rate best during deaths and weddings.  Murder-of-the-week shows are a dime a dozen.

Science fiction shows routinely fail on Australian television.  Nothing’s lasted in the daylight hours (with the possible exception of Star Wars: The Clone Wars screening at noon on Saturdays).

So why would Channel Ten continue their kamikaze approach to science fiction programming?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

The science fiction audience is a weird beast.  It’s — almost pathologically — loyal to the shows.  If Channel Ten had kicked the show to eleven p.m., it would have rated solidly.  Science fiction fans are usually single, cashed up males 16-35: an advertiser’s dream demographic.  So you have a loyal audience with expendable income that will follow the show anywhere across the spectrum of the broadcasting schedule… and Channel Ten decides to put it in the prime time slot where the advertising is much more generic and where it has to compete with the mainstream.

Putting an expensive show on late night television also messes with the network’s traditional advertising schedule: cheap, cheap pr0n adverts.

Instead of selling the demographic to advertisers, broadcasters tend to consider the group too much effort.  And it’s not hard to blame them: why try to exploit a tiny group when you can throw spare change at a reality television show, or a random countdown of pop culture hosted by Bert Newton?

So farewell, Stargate Universe.  My TiVo has you on season pass just in case you resurface in the wee hours of the night.

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