"Caprica" has been already canceled, and many fear that "Stargate: Universe" is next.
On its last episode, "Caprica" managed just over 843,000 viewers with SGU only slightly ahead with a little more than a million people tuning in. Meanwhile, more light-hearted shows such as "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka" are pulling in significantly higher figures during the summer season.
Already some fans have started a campaign to raise awareness for the series, encouraging people to watch the show and help stave off a cancelation order. But if they really want to make a difference, what they will need is numbers.
Series star Patrick Gilmore -- who plays Dr. Dale Volker in the series -- says having people tune in on Tuesdays instead of waiting to watch it later on the DVRs will make a big difference in the life of the show. Well, probably a better difference of those people happened to be Nielsen families as well.
"In the last two or three weeks, I've really learned a lot about ratings and how they work," Gilmore told Airlock Alpha. "Because we take interest we go, 'Well, wait a minute, how does this work, and why is this, and why is it that 'Caprica' got canceled and how does that affect us?'"
Are SGU's ratings really that bad? Sadly, the answer is both yes and no. This season has allowed the show to stand apart from other Syfy broadcasting thanks to a massive increase in views through alternative platforms such as iTunes and Hulu. However, this doesn't help the series on a weekly basis as it has a direct impact on advertising and sponsorship : two key factors in broadcasting the series.
"People are watching us; we have the numbers to sustain the show," Gilmore said. "But the Nielsen ratings are so archaic that they dont take things into account [platforms] like iTunes, and DVR is just such a new technology. And you know the sponsors : if someone is watching the show a week after it airs, then it does the sponsors no good because their promoting things that have already happened."
The audience size watching the SGU within a week of its air was up 78 percent over the live viewers, Gilmore said, which was shockingly good.
"They may not count because it's too late, it has been a week," he said. "And that is why Hulu went to 30-day delay to get people to watch it live. We need the live numbers."
However, SGU has always received a bit of a hard time when it comes to the fans of the franchise. Over the last 15 years or so, viewers have become accustomed to light-hearted fun and an almost care-free attitude to saving the world : not completely unlike the tone of "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka."
So with a bleaker outlook on life in general, "Stargate: Universe" aimed to break the mold and stand out from its predecessors. Thematically, it as different to "Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate: Atlantis" as wrestling is from science-fiction (and look at how well that combination is doing), prompting a lot of fans to tune out early on in Season 1. But at the same time, the new direction has attracted additional viewers that look for more of an edge in what they become invested in.
Almost "Battlestar Galactica" in nature, SGU learned from its first season, prompting for a shift of the story to more ship-bound adventures. Another change (and it was quite a biggy) was the moving the series to a Tuesday night ... something that initially came as a vote of confidence in the series. After all, if you can hold down the Friday night graveyard shift, then a mid-week slot must seem like a stroll in the park.
That's not exactly how it worked out, however.
"Tuesday is a tough night. We were thinking, 'Great! A lot more people are watching Tuesday nights. People are watching TV because on Friday nights everyone is going out,'" Gilmore said. "But what we failed to take into consideration was the 'Glee' Britney episode, the American election, the World Series, the coal miners : it was just this ridiculous comedy of errors of things that we're up against. And we were kind of like, 'Yeah, well : of course.' Whereas 'Sanctuary' with their wrestling lead in, their ratings went through the roof."
Like last year, the second season of the series has been split with the show taking a break after ten episodes and will then return in 2011 for the final 10 episodes, which -- according to Gilmore -- are made of some pretty hard stuff.
How hard exactly? Viewers only have a day to find out as apparently the next episode is going to be key in establishing the atmosphere that the series will take for the rest of the season. It will be faster, more thrilling and, hopefully, will encourage back some of the viewers that have strayed from the series since its debut.
"'Malice' was a Robert Cooper joint. He wrote that and he directed that, and you know that when he steps to the helm that something big is gonna happen," Gilmore said of the now-departing executive producer. "I watched the mid-season finale, 'Resurgence,' with David Blue, and it was the first time that either him or I had seen it. And the DVD commentary is what we were doing, but there wasnt a lot of commenting as we were just leaning in and watching the show. It's fast paced and there's a lot of action. It's just hit after hit after hit. We've really picked up the pace."
What will make the rest of Season 2 so compelling, though, is the characters. Already SGU has completely disregarded the classic Stargate team-of-four premise and now focuses on a ragtag group of people who may not actually be up to the task of surviving on Destiny, a ship launched thousands of years ago by the Ancients, to deposit stargates in distance galaxies. The first season served as their introduction, and now this season will really test their mettle : and some of them may not survive the experience.
Gilmore, who is an avid "Lost" fan, is keen to compare SGU to the castaway drama, insisting that both shows focused on the wrong people in the wrong place. As a fan of "Lost," Gilmore became more transfixed by the characters themselves rather than the settings around them or the situations they found themselves in. And SGU certainly has that in common with "Lost."
Not only that, there is a specific ending in mind.
"'Lost' is a great comparison to 'Stargate: Universe' because the finale, when we get to film the series finale, guaranteed there will be people that werent pleased with it after all this build up," Gilmore said. "And I don't know the ending; they're keeping that under lock and key. But what I'm hoping is there will be satisfaction in the journey of the characters."
Will Syfy allow the series to reach the completion of its five-year arc? Only time will tell, but Gilmore cautions against comparing this year with Season 1.
"In Season 1, you had to establish the characters," he said. "You had to really start to care about these people that are in the situation. And once you know them and you know how they react to their environment and you really feel for them, that's when you put them in the dark places and that is when you start getting the fast-paced action because then there is more at stake.
"If you started with bang, bang, bang right off the top, then you dont know these people. And if someone gets killed, it doesnt hold the same gravity."
Of course, death isn't a foreign concept to SGU. In recent weeks, T.J. (Alaina Huffman) has lost her baby, Riley (Haig Sutherland) was smothered by his commanding officer on an alien world, and who knows what happened among the Lucian Alliance soldiers that were left behind on a barren rock. These are all signs of what has to come.
Gilmore can be seen as Trennan in Syfy's newest web series "Riese: Kingdom Falling." In the fantasy series, the kingdom of Eleysia has just undergone a political and religious coup, leaving behind chaos and disarray.
Originally produced last year as a web series, "Riese" proved to be so popular that a second chapter was developed, quickly capturing the attention of Syfy. Since its original online broadcast, the series has gathered a tremendous amount of critical attention and has also been compared to "Sanctuary in terms of quality, scope and aspiration ... three things that led to "Sanctuary" being converted for television.
"Stargate: Universe" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy. For a sneak peek at this week's episode, click here.
Riese: Kingdom Falling is now available at Syfy Rewind with new episodes being added on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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