'Stargate Universe' Canceled

stargate_universe1According to Deadline, SyFy has officially  announced that it will not  renew MGM Television’s STARGATE: UNIVERSE for a third season.
Recently airing it’s mid-season cliffhanger, the show’s ten remaining episodes will be broadcast in Spring 2011. The cable network has been showing some iteration of the STARGATE franchise since 2002, including the original STARGATE SG-1 and STARGATE: ATLANTIS. SG-1 had a good run, beginning on SHOWTIME for five seasons before being picked up by the then Sci-Fi Channel. ATLANTIS only lasted 4 years before being retired (prematurely,  fans thought) in favor of STARGATE UNIVERSE’s darker take on the STARGATE premise. 
This often literally dark approach—sometimes so under-lit that it was hard to see what was going on— may have been what doomed UNIVERSE. The characters were  lost in space, maraooned on an ancient, barely functioning  space craft. Their shock, rage and disfunctional internal battles made them difficult to like, or even sympathise with or care about.

Ming-Na with Robert Carysle
Ming-Na with Robert Carysle

Towards the end of the first season, the show began to show other sides to the sometimes baffling attitudes and hostile personalities of the trapped military personnel and scientists. This year we got more insight, and a real level of empathy was developing. But for the average viewer, it was too little, too late.
According to the item, STARGATE UNIVERSE recently averaged only a 0.5 in viewers 18 to 49, apparently below the average ratings for SyFy’s shows that are being renewed.
A similar thing happened with the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA spin-off CAPRICA, canceled last month. The GALACTICA reboot might have been  grim at times, but it made the viewer care about it’s flawed characters. The spin-off did not lay the groundwork of getting the audience to empathise with its major (and many minor) players before taking them down dark pathways.
Tellingly, the shows that are returning are the frothy, ‘quirky’ dramedies, WAREHOUSE 13, EUREKA, and HAVEN. Those shows rate well, featuring engaging, amusing and/or sympathetic characters.
Perhaps this will be a lesson to genre television producers: Build your characters up, before tearing them down.

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