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Syfy Standing Firmly Behind ‘Caprica’

EXCLUSIVE: Network EVP of original programming Mark Stern says ‘Battlestar Galactica’ spinoff is here for the long haul

Thanks to the Internet and a thirst for information, television fans in 2010 are far more savvy than they have ever been before.

Blogs, message boards, even Twitter are filled with discussions dissecting ratings, audience attitude and instant reactions to just about anything that pops up on the boob tube. But while smarter viewers typically result in smarter programs, it can sometimes backfire into rampant speculation that could help bury a show.

That’s exactly what Syfy doesn’t want to happen to its newest series “Caprica.” And no matter what Entertainment Weekly‘s Michael Ausiello wants to predict with his cable scorecard, network executives say the “Battlestar Galactica” spinoff is here to stay.

“We’re definitely with ‘Caprica’ for the long haul,” Syfy’s EVP of original programming Mark Stern told Airlock Alpha Thursday. “There’s no question about it. We knew exactly what it was not going to be, that is an easily adopted show. It’s not ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ it’s its own animal. And we definitely recognize that it’s going to find its audience and it’s going to grow its audience.”

Will “Caprica” ever be the top-rated series on Syfy? Most likely not. But then again, neither was “Battlestar,” and that show has become iconically linked with the network.

Live viewership numbers are important, but for a tech-savvy audience like science-fiction fans, so are timeshifted audiences. Syfy just received the first batch of numbers this week for “Caprica” tracking viewers who recorded the second episode of the series and watched it within a week, known as Live+7. Those numbers were better than the network anticipated, Stern said, and actually propelled “Caprica” into the top 10 for cable that night.

“We’re certainly not sharpening the axe by any stretch of the imagination,” Stern said. “We all really believe in the show, and it has a lot of potential.”

The audience does have to grow, but Syfy doesn’t have immediate plans to boost its marketing of “Caprica.” The network believes, however, that the series will start to sell itself beginning March 5 when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Torchwood” alum James Marsters joins the cast as Barnabus Greeley.

“That suddenly throws that whole dynamic with Clarice in a whole new light and gives her a foil to play against,” Stern said of the character played by Polly Walker that is the head of a monotheistic terror cell while at the same time running a private school.

“Caprica” itself continues to evolve, and fans will start to notice it beginning as early as next month.

“The pace picks up,” Stern said. “It was something we were talking with [executive producer Jane Espenson] and those guys about. It’s not really mid-season switch, but more something we decided to do as we were getting on with the show and realizing that we need to amp this up a little more and tighten up the plotting.”

That won’t necessarily mean gun fights, but it could feature at least one Viper battle. Well, we’re not sure if it’s a “battle,” but there will be Vipers. And very soon.

“There is actually a Viper sequence in the show that is coming up in the next couple of episodes,” Stern said. “This isn’t the kind of show where everyone is going to jump into Vipers and fight the Cylon base ship, but we are going to get out more. We’re going to go to Gemenon. We’re going to go to Tauron. But I think these guys [the writing staff] are basically taking their time and making sure what they do is organic.”

Action also will ramp up in the virtual environment of New Cap City where show writers have already plotted out how they can push the envelope in a world where almost anything can happen.

Like many of its shows, Syfy will air the first 10 episodes of “Caprica” before taking a mid-season break. When it returns in late summer, “Caprica” might not be alone on Friday nights like it was the first part of the season.

“We’re definitely looking to pair it with something,” Stern said. But before fans start clamoring for a coupling with “Stargate: Universe,” Syfy already has other plans.

“We most likely want to use ‘Caprica’ as a jumping off point for a new series,” Stern said. He won’t share which series that might be, but using “Caprica” as a launch vehicle to push other programming is the kind of faith the show already has earned, and should be an indication to viewers just how much faith Syfy has in the series.

“We are really proud of this show, and people have to realize we knew going in that this wasn’t just a ‘Battlestar’ prequel,” he said. “It was really going to have to build an audience on its own, and hopefully bring in some of the ‘Battlestar’ audience. But it will have to find a new audience, and it is doing that. And we’ll stay patient as we watch it grow.”

“Caprica” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy. Get a sneak peek of the Feb. 19 episode “Gravedancing” by clicking here.

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