Before I say a single word in this column, I want it firmly understood that I am a fan of professional wrestling and have been so since my childhood.
I am also one of the lucky ones who got to live his dream and be a part of that incredible world for a bit over a year till I got hurt and had to leave the business.
Despite this, I remain a fan who now has a far greater appreciation of what these men and women have to endure between injuries and the antics of promoters, management and the like. I bring this up so that no one can try to disqualify what I’m saying in this column as the words of a pro wrestling hater.
Recently, Darren Sumner of GateWorld wrote a piece on his site regarding Syfy and its placement of professional wrestling on Friday nights. In his piece, Darren calls for Syfy to move wrestling off of that night and return scripted drama to that evening’s schedule.
Despite my being a wrestling fan as cited above, I, for one, have always opposed it being on Syfy as a direct contradiction to the stated purpose of the channel when it was founded. It does not belong there and should be told to find a new channel, as there are other ones who would gladly bow at the altar of the WWE.
However, I am a realist, and do understand that due to contracts and the like, that Syfy may be locked in to continuing to carry it for the time being.
Darren has brought up an interesting idea that Syfy should take a very hard look at. Why does Smackdown have to be aired on Friday nights? As anyone with a bit of knowledge of the history of the show knows, it has not been that way all of the time. When the show was on what was UPN and then later The CW, it aired on Thursday nights, and moved to Fridays later on.
Darren did an excellent job in his article discussing the logistics and ratings facts showing that wrestling is hurting Syfy on Fridays and not helping. Programming that has in the past thrived on the channel when it aired on Friday nights is now suffering and knocking on the door of cancellation. However, there are some points that Darren didn’t touch on that I want to address here.
Frankly, there is no logical reason to support that wrestling must air on Friday nights. Wrestling fans are a very loyal lot and will either tune in, or DVR the show whenever it airs.
The reason they tune in on whatever night it airs is due to the skill and creativity of the writer of the shows, known in the business as the booker. It is this individual who decides what is going to happen in a wrestling show, whether it is a house show, or a television broadcast. If the booker is writing a good show, the fans will come or watch. However, if the shows are becoming stale or overly predictable (which the WWE product has been for an extremely long time), they will not.
If the ratings show that Friday is the better night, then I propose that the bookers are not doing a very good job. In wrestling, you will hear the phrase, “building the heat” used a lot. Heat building is what occurs in every house show, or television broadcast, of any wrestling promotion. It is the actions and events in the storyline that gets folks to come back next time it is there, or aired, to see what happened, just like the cliffhanger in a serial, or a soap opera.
If Friday nights is the only night that Smackdown can thrive, then the management of the WWE needs to take a hard look at its writers and seek out the problem there. No show, no matter what it is, is any better than the quality of its writing staff.
Friday nights has been a stronghold for scripted drama for Syfy in the past and it can be again. Scripted shows have always thrived on that evening and, I believe, can do so once again. All that has to be done is move Smackdown to Thursday nights where it first started out, or some other evening, and return Friday nights to the dramas that made Syfy what it was.
The numbers will be there and support this move, as long as the writers start to come up with some original ideas for the show, something that it and “Monday Night Raw” have been extremely short of for quite some time.
I urge the powers that be at Syfy to give serious consideration to this idea. They have already lost the flagship franchise of their network and will lose a lot more if they don’t act to save them. Remember what happened to UPN when “Star Trek: Voyager” left it? Is that what the powers that be as Syfy want for their channel, or there another reason they are not telling us?
Frankly, in light of recent programming decisions, many of us wonder if they want to save any science-fiction on their channel whatsoever.
With respect to Darren, however, I believe he has overlooked the bigger problem with the channel. While wrestling is looked on by fans of science-fiction as a very unwanted and unwelcome intruder to what they see as their network, it is the symptom of the problem with Syfy and not the illness.
More on that very soon in this column.