While I believe we have better television programming options than we did in the past, the curse of commercial TV channels are they are always looking for a larger market share. If the numbers aren’t met, the powers that be look for new ways to find a bigger audience at the expense of our brains. In the case of the Science Channel, they have now reduced their channel name to “Sci” and are featuring the J.J. Abrams show Fringe. How this makes any sense for dedicated science enthusiasts is beyond me? The end result will be to alienate actual science geeks and replace them with plain ol’ geeks who don’t know the difference between cryptozoology and zoology.
The cult favorite series Firefly and Stephen Hawking’s Sci-Fi Masters are also in the line-up for the Science Channel. I question why Stephen Hawking, of all people, would be supporting this move to fictionalize the Science Channel with fantasy when there are so many stories that could be told about scientists themselves and their discoveries behind the scenes or at the very least the science behind science fiction? Instead, he is slapping his name on full dramatizations of science-fiction (is Stephen Hawking equating himself with Ray Bradbury?). I also didn’t mind series on the Discovery Networks that explored speculations on future creatures of evolution, alien evolution, and how life would be when all humans have disappeared. These show ideas all had an element or introduction to scientific ideas with various scientists consulting and giving opinions on what would be rational or what would be fantasy. By embracing science fiction fantasy on what was a dedicated science channel it lowers the science IQ of the general public.
My stake in all this is that I’m a science enthusiast with a poor education in that field who is constantly trying to correct a public school education with a religious background so when I turn to the Science Channel my expectations are to see a show produced with scientific consultation. If Science Channel is going to start featuring fiction then what’s the point? I have access to a buttload of science fiction movies far superior then made-for-TV sci-fi films, and for theater releases I much rather watch them on Netflix uncensored and unedited then on commercial TV where my immersion into another world is constantly interrupted.
I suspect by truncating Science Channel to Sci that we will see the channel become Sci-Fi 2–or excuse me, Sy Fy 2 (since Sci-Fi decided it couldn’t spell)– within a short while. I’m not against science fiction, I’m a fan of it, but I’m not a fan of Sci-Fi Channel or now the Science Channel. Blurring the line between real science and poorly written science fiction that embraces the fringe is the last thing we need with pseudoscience nuts making money off a gullible public. How about we simply split Sci-Fi up so we have the different genres: Sci-Fi Cheeze for all the bad films we love because they’re just plain bad (and the new ones being made), Sci-Fi Hard (ha, maybe not, but something that emotes hard science-fiction), Sci-Fi Drama for relatively good TV series and Sci-Fi Classic for B/W movies and old TV series. Then for all the supposed reality shows for ghosts and mythological creatures we can do Sci-Fi Lobotomy.
Not surprisingly, in the afternoon, I tried watching Animal Planet with a special on prairie dogs and eventually turned it off because of the constant plugs for the series Finding Bigfoot. The text never disappeared from the screen when the prairie dog special was on and then when commercial time came viewers were inundated with repetitive previews of the cryptozoology show that felt pretty damn similar to every ghost hunting show ever put on the air (shitty horror music scores, blurred photos, eerie noises, creeped-out idiots, and no skeptical experts).
Basically, the Discovery Networks line-up of channels has been going to shit for awhile now. The good news may be that this opens up new avenues for real science enthusiasts to get creative and create some indie productions online. Fuck commercial TV if it is going alienate scientific-minded people and insult their intelligence. The problem with Discovery Channel is it is embracing the lowest common denominator at a time when information is plentiful and the population should becoming smarter and more skeptical. For all of the fantasy they are putting into their programming they lack imagination in how to present science and “reality” in an entertaining way.