Syfy is giving itself an extreme makeover. And as part of the network’s reboot, it has ordered to series the long-awaited Superman prequel “Krypton” to series, as well as an adaptation of the quirky graphic novel “Happy!”
The network is also developing an adaptation of the George R.R. Martin novella “Nightflyers,” and, as previously announced, has partnered with Blumhouse Television to develop a new TV chapter of the feature franchise “The Purge” (which will also air on USA Network).
To emphasize the changes, the network unveiled a new logo and look across its platforms. The name hasn’t changed (although that was discussed — including a return to the original Sci-Fi moniker), but now it’s in all-caps: SYFY.
The new look takes effect on June 19. “We took the past year to take a hard look at our business,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. ” This isn’t just a cosmetic refresh or a logo refresh. We’re making a wholesale change from top to bottom.”
McCumber said the SYFY changes are timed to the channel’s 25th anniversary, which will also be celebrated with anniversary programming. The strategy represents a full-fledged embrace of SYFY’s genre roots.
But the change also comes out of necessity, and comes a year after McCumber gained oversight of SYFY in addition to USA Network. While the sci-fi network has a large bench of series, such as “The Magicians,” “The Expanse,” “Channel Zero” and more, it has struggled in the ratings. In 2016, the network ended the year down 30% among adults 18-49.
Part of those declines may be due to a perception that Syfy had moved too far beyond its core sci-fi roots – something the network stressed under a previous rebranding effort. But now, McCumber says he’s all-in on genre.
“Just a few years ago the entire industry, including SYFY, thought you had to go broader,” he said. “[But] genre content is more popular than ever. It tops the box office, it rules television and it dominate social conversation.”
McCumber said SYFY would focus on four core programming areas: Sci-fi and space programming (like “The Expanse”), fantasy (“The Magicians”), paranormal and supernatural (“Channel Zero”) and superheroes and comics.
That’s where the new shows come in. “Krypton,” from David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins”) and Ian Goldberg, stars Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather, and focuses on life on Superman’s home planet two generations before it is destroyed.
“Krypton” also stars Georgina Campbell (“Broadchurch”), Elliot Cowan (“Da Vinci’s Demons”), Ann Ogbomo (“World War Z”), Rasmus Hardiker (“Your Highness”), Wallis Day (“Will”), Aaron Pierre (“Tennison”) with Ian McElhinney (“Game of Thrones”).
The pilot teleplay was written by Goyer and Kindler, from a story by Ian Goldberg (“Once Upon a Time,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) and Goyer, with Colm McCarthy (“She Who Brings Gifts,” “Peaky Blinders”) serving as director and co-executive producer.
“It’s one of most intriguing origin stories in the entire comic book universe,” McCumber said. “I think the Superman fans will be very happy with this.”
As for “Happy!,” the series focuses on screwed up ex-cop turned hit man Nick Sax, played by Christopher Meloni, and his imaginary blue-winged horse, voiced by “Saturday Night Live’s” Bobby Moynihan.
“Happy!” is based on Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s graphic novel of the same name. Morrison (“Batman,” “The Invisibles”) and Brian Taylor (“Crank,” “Gamer”) co-wrote the pilot teleplay. Neal Moritz, Pavun Shetty and Toby Jaffe of Original Film (“The Fast and the Furious” franchise), Meloni and showrunner Patrick Macmanus will also executive produce. Taylor directed the pilot.
“I know this sounds totally bizarre, but trust me, this works,” McCumber said.
In development, Martin’s “Nightflyers” is “one of the coolest scripts I’ve read recently,” McCumber said. “Think of this as paranormal meets space drama – ‘The Shining’ in space with a dollop of ‘Alien.'” The 1980 novella was originally turned into a science-fiction horror film in 1987.
Here’s the “Nightflyers” logline: “Set in the future on the eve of Earth’s destruction, a crew of explorers journey on the most advanced ship in the galaxy, The Nightflyer, to intercept a mysterious alien spacecraft that might hold the key to their survival. As the crew nears their destination, they discover that the ship’s artificial intelligence and never-seen captain may be steering them into deadly and unspeakable horrors deep in the dark reaches of space.”
Executive producers are Gene Klein (“Suits”), David Bartis (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) and Doug Liman (“Suits”) of Hypnotic; Alison Rosenzweig (“Jacob’s Ladder,” “Windtalkers”) and Michael Gaeta (“Jacob’s Ladder”) of Gaeta Rosenzweig Films; Lloyd Ivan Miller and Alice P. Neuhauser of Lloyd Ivan Miller Productions and Jeff Buhler (“Jacob’s Ladder”), who will write the adaptation.
“Nightflyers” and “The Purge” join “Brave New World,” “Hyperion” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” in development.
Among other initiatives, McCumber is looking to expand SYFY’s Syfy Wire digital site, making it a destination for genre news beyond just what’s seen on SYFY. He’s looking to potentially incubate new shows for the network there. And SYFY continues to embrace San Diego Comic-Con as “our Super Bowl.” The network will once again broadcast live for three days during the annual event in July.