From Former Geek Magazine Scribe, Nikki Griffin
I’ve spent all week reading articles about which shows are getting axed and which shows are getting picked up. For an avid sci-fi television fan, this time of year can be the most brutal. Networks just don’t seem to give good sci-fi a chance. Past shows like Jericho, Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Flash Forward come to mind. Even this year, freshman drama, Limitless, is facing imminent cancellation. One thing that those sci-fi shows have in common is that they aired on broadcast television, as opposed to a cable network. What if I were to tell you that there is an amazing sci-fi show, currently on the air, that has the production value of a feature film, a legitimately talented cast of actors, rich characters, and a deep mythology rooted in a film with an established fan base?
There is. It’s called 12 Monkeys and it’s on the cable network Syfy.
12 Monkeys is now in its second season, and though it seems to be getting great press and good reviews, it is on that dreaded cusp of cancellation. Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with 12 Monkeys actor, Todd Stashwick, whom you may know from other ‘geek fare’ such as Heroes, The Originals, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, or as Richard Sionis on Gotham. Or maybe you saw him on Justified, The Riches, or Weeds.
Stashwick, who plays Theodore Deacon, (a character not dissimilar to The Walking Dead’s Negan) is an exceptional actor. His 20-year career has roots in Chicago’s famed improv group, Second City, and his geek blood runs thick; he co-writes a comic, The Devil Inside, and is also co-writing a Star Wars video game. I told him that recently, I’ve been hearing comparisons of 12 Monkeys to another great Syfy show, Battlestar Galactica:
Todd Stashwick: Wow. That is high praise. Hey, I’ll take it. To be on a show that I would be screaming at my friends to watch, even if I wasn’t on it, is pretty darn rewarding. We are telling the kinds of stories that I would be delighting in as a viewer. Any table scraps, in the best possible way, any comparison we can have to that show is a long shadow to stand in. I am honored. I agree with a lot of what they are saying; It’s hard sci-fi. It’s compelling relationships. It’s deep-rooted mythology, its trippy and scary at times, it’s funny at times, it’s a romance at times, horror show at times. It does have that satisfying vibe that Battlestar had. Which is that it’s an old property, that existed in another form, that had a beloved fan base long before we got to it. We have found a way to make it our own. It has elements of weird, trippy, deep mythology, that Battlestar also played with: [both] having a deeper mythology than the original product had. So, I see what people mean when they say that. I’m humbled at the comparison. I hope that we reach the level of fandom that they reached. That place in their heart. If they’ve been missing out on that Battlestar feeling, we give them kind of that, but we give them our own thing.
I am hoping that word gets out that Syfy has really returned to form with another well-executed show based on a previously explored mythos that both expands and improves on the original source material. 12 Monkeys is the second coming of Syfy as a network, and as a destination for true sci-fi fans to find a community. Stashwick has been on a campaign of his own to spread awareness and part of that message is that it must be watched live:
TS: We need your day-to-day eyeballs. Audiences right now have been taught to wait and binge. And I think one of the strengths of our show, is we are slowly building that online fan community that loves talking about it in between episodes. With sci-fi shows, and fantasy shows, like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, half the fun is, “Oh, my God, that ending” Immediately going to twitter. and talking about it. The back and forth, and all of the stuff that happens in between episodes that you just don’t get if you binge watch. You just don’t get that community feeling, and so much of geek culture is about that community feeling. When the amount of time between episodes, is just the amount of time that it takes you to get up and go to the bathroom, or get another drink, and sit down and watch another episode, I see the appeal, but you lose that ability to speculate and to gather around the campfire, and wonder and hate on, and love on, and all the things that are amazing about social media. You lose that ability if you don’t watch it day to day. I think we’re starting to reach, there are enough articles coming out right now, ‘The Best Sci-fi Show You’re Not Watching, The Sci-fi Show Women Should be Watching’…We’re starting to have that be such a common theme, and I think that sort of happened with Orphan Black, as well. Where, it’s, ”Alright, already. I gotta see what everyone is talking about.” Hopefully that happens sooner than later, right?
Just like network television, cable networks make money from advertising, and 12 Monkeys is just not pulling in the live numbers. I’m as much to blame as anyone, since I just tuned into the show a few weeks ago. It was “on my list” of things to watch, and I figured I would just get around to it on Hulu or the Syfy streaming service on my XBoxOne. Here’s the thing: that’s not going to help. Advertising executives need to see those numbers; even DVR playback doesn’t count unless you watch it within the first 24 hours, and LIVE numbers are the most weighted numbers. But what I discovered after finally watching the first 6 episodes on Hulu, is that 12 Monkeys deserves a movement. What can you do to help? Stashwick says:
TS: Tweet about it. #12Monkeys. Join the discussion groups. There’s a great group on Facebook called Addicts of the 12 Monkeys, a really great community that is dedicated to helping us get a season 3. As well as, just talking with each other about it, and they’re smart and they’re kind and they’re cool. There is one woman who made 12 Monkeys teas. There is a red forest tea, a Deacon, Scav King tea, there’s a great community out there waiting for you. But you gotta watch the show to know what they’re talking about. I think there is a fun notion of getting in on something on the ground floor. Like when I was watching Dr. Who in ’04. I was there from Christopher Eccleston on up. I followed and loved these characters from the beginning, and now, it’s taking on a life of its own. I think the bottom line is if people want more really good, thoughtful, sci-fi on their television, they have to support the really good thoughtful sci-fi television that’s on. Believe the hype. I would not steer you wrong. This is possibly the best sci-fi that is on television right now, and if you want to keep it on television, WATCH IT.
12 Monkeys is on Syfy, Monday nights, 9/8c. Join the movement. Here’s a look at tonight’s episode…