Syfy’s About-Face: Nine Shows That Might Help The Network Redeem Itself

Earlier this year, Bill McGoldrick, Syfy’s executive vice president of original programming, made the bold claim that the network was headed in a new direction, and that they wanted top notch scripted programming that could compete with well-respected cable entities such as AMC and HBO. Ascension was one of the first projects announced that suggested Syfy might really be trying to reform after years of cheesy TV movies, paranormal “reality” shows, and inexplicable wrestling.

A six-hour space opera “event series,” Ascension imagines an alternate history where, in the heat of the 1960s space race, the U.S. launched the titular starship on a top secret mission of colonization. Fifty years later, the vessel is still en route to its distant destination, loaded with hundreds of men, women, and children hoping to make a new home on another world. But when a young woman is murdered, the inhabitants begin to wonder about the true nature of their mission.

The first trailer, which you can see below, is a moody and effective teaser, imagining how a small, contained society might have developed over five decades, with traces of 1960s culture mixed with more futuristic trappings (check out that flag!). Mysteries often make a good mix with science fiction (see: Leviathan Wakes), helping ground the fantastic elements with the uglier elements of human nature. Whether Ascension will blend those disparate parts into a satisfying treat remains to be seen, but hiring Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer is a nice start. Ascension was created and written by Philip Levens, who previously wrote for Smallville and the 2008 Knight Rider reboot. Those credits suggest this could go either way, but we’re cautiously optimistic. – David

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Spacey Political Comic Letter 44 Gets Series Development At Syfy

letter 44With seemingly little disregard for a potential overload, Syfy has been busy the last couple of months attempting to rebuild their brand with a new outlook towards legitimate science-fiction programming. President Dave Howe has lined up project after project in the network’s deep development slate, and the latest addition to their list is one of the more exciting new comic series on the market. With a formal announcement pending, Syfy will try to turn the Oni Press mystery thriller Letter 44 into a full series, making this yet another space-based piece of fiction for the network. Maybe my thousands of angry letters to Syfy’s creative teams over the years finally got through.

To bring this tale of political sci-fi to audiences, the network has tapped genre filmmaker Jonathan Mostow to take the multi-hypenate job as writer-director-executive producer, the latter of which is a duty he’ll share with Closed on Monday‘s Eric Glitter and Peter Schwerin (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Rene Echevarria (Terra Nova). Mostow’s last few projects have been in our genre of course, as he directed 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and 2009’s so-so graphic novel adaptation Surrogates. His last writing gig was the story for Mark Tonderai’s derivative thriller House at the End of the Street, and he directed at least one episode of Syfy’s upcoming adaptation of The Last Ship. Obviously he isn’t the most standout of filmmakers, but his source material is damn near flawless this time around.

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Letter 44: Read The Entire First Issue Of An Awesome New SF Comic Free Online

Letter 44Science fiction and politics aren’t always the most comfortable bedfellows, though there are notable exceptions like Independence Day‘s President Whitmore and Brian K. Vaughan’s excellent Ex Machina comic series. A new exception has joined the bunch, as Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque’s intriguing new Oni Press comic Letter 44 just released its second issue, deepening the mystery that the debut set up so solidly. You say you’d like to know what this mystery is? Well, you’re in luck, as the entire first issue is available to read on io9.

Soule — best known for Strongman and Strange Attractors — and Alburquerque have created something entirely unique that is based on a recognizable reality and utilizes a classic aesthetic that focuses less on bright splash pages and more on telling a clear and concise story.

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