SyFy’s TV Formula

Nope, I’m not talking about Stonehenge Apocalypse (“We can’t just sit on our hands while Stonehenge destroys the world!”) or any of SyFy’s infamous monster mashups, I’m talking about three of their original TV shows: Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Haven.

I’ll say up front that I’m not a huge fan of any of these shows, but I do watch them and I find their formulas interesting:

Eureka (2006) came first, and centers around a town filled with geniuses. In most episodes, an item of technology or a scientific experiment intentionally or unintentionally causes a problem that the heroes must solve.

Warehouse 13 (2009) came next. In each episode, a historical supernatural artifact intentionally or unintentionally causes a problem that the heroes must solve.

Haven (2010) is the most recent show. In each episode, a person in the town of Haven with supernatural abilities intentionally or unintentionally causes a problem that the heroes must solve.

There’s a specific team of “good guys” in each show that save the day. I find all the characters generally likable but nothing special… as I find all the shows. There’s a safe blandness, yet comfort in their faithful delivery on their premises. You know exactly what you’re going to get in each episode, but you tune in for the journey. (Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to make fun of a romance novel!)

I’m not trying to bash these shows — I watch them, after all! — I’m just pointing out a formula I’ve noticed. Is SyFy on to something here? Do you like these shows? If you like one, do you like the others?


Comments

Jamie 7 years ago .

We don't get cable, but WAREHOUSE 13 (which is a Canadian production) airs on one of our "free" channels up here. I've watched it. And you're right: it's bland, safe, tapioca-flavored television.

You've identified a dynamic that operates in the world of "light entertainment" (whether of the literary, TV or cinematic variety). The dynamic is … Adventures, but nothing too hair-raising. Plot twists, but nothing too original. Speculation, but nothing beyond reach of the viewing audience's own capacity for make-believe. All the shows you're talking about are variations on the "Fellowship of the Ring" formula – a group of people (beings) must work together to solve a problem. (I've never seen LOST, but I believe it operates along similar lines.) Shows featuring bold loners, anti-heroes or misfits are increasingly rare.

    Jenn Reese 7 years ago .

    Yeah, I think you've got LOST pegged incorrectly. I have a lot of problems with the show, but it's definitely ambitious and character-driven, and most of the mysteries never get solved at all. It's pretty much the opposite of SyFy's fare.

    But yet… there is something about SyFy's formula that works for lots of people. Warehouse 13 is one of their most successful shows ever. It's fascinating to me.

      Jamie 7 years ago .

      See my reply to Chris below.

Chris East 7 years ago .

Despite the team-vs.problem connection, I wouldn't throw LOST in with these Sy-Fy shows. LOST is considerably more complex and interesting, and on the whole way more compelling. Also, great chracters. It's not perfect, mind you, and often frustrating, but in my opinion shouldn't be mentioned with this group of shows.

I haven't seen HAVEN, but neither WAREHOUSE 13 or EUREKA did much to hold my interest the couple times I saw them.

Adam Rakunas 7 years ago .

Eureka's first season was quite different from the rest of the show. The creators were shooting for bigger external arcs that would have made for an interesting show. Unfortunately, SciFi became SyFy, and the Powers That Be turned on the Bland-O-Matic 2000. It's a fun show with some funny bits, but it's not something I MUST watch.

Now, if the creators of Being Human even think about going near the Bland-O-Matic, there's gonna be trouble.

Christine Ashworth 7 years ago .

I didn't see Eureka when it first came on, so I only drop in when dial flipping. I like Haven though, I like the actors in it. And I like Warehouse 13, too. They both fill the void when I need to chill out and don't want to watch reality TV.

But yeah, Being Human is the best thing to hit TV EVER. I need to own that series. And you know me, Jenn – I rarely watch anything real-time! But isn't that a BBC series?

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