It’s a sad day for fans of the ol’ ultraviolence, as Syfy’s “Blood Drive,” a gleefully disturbing mash-up of horror and sci-fi tropes, will not be returning for a second season. In a heartfelt letter to fans yesterday, creator James Roland described how much making the show meant to him — and how disappointed he was that it had been canceled.
“I got to make a show that I love so much I actually watch episodes as a fan (don’t tell anyone it makes me sound like a douchebag). The past two years are maybe the best of my life, creatively and personally. But none of that prepared me for how incredible it was seeing the show connect with you all on a deep level,” Roland wrote.
Set in a post-apocalyptic 1999, “Blood Drive” skewered both specific films (the show featured a cross-country road race similar to “Death Race 2000”) as well as all your favorite genre elements, from zombies to robots to thunderdomes and beyond. It was a bold experiment in grindhouse television, rich with meta-commentary on its own format and characters, while also surprisingly well-grounded in the love story between Arthur (Alan Ritchson) and Grace (Christina Ochoa), who are forced to team up for an adventure that could end up changing the world.
It’s hard to describe just how much spark “Blood Drive” brought to the screen, beyond the buckets of blood, explicit sex, and complete lack of shame. As we said in our initial review, “there’s a riveting explosion of creativity happening here.”
So even though “Blood Drive” was a show whose basic existence seemed impossible from the beginning, the fact that Syfy has chosen not to renew it for a second season is disappointing. It’s worth saying this about Syfy, though — if you look back at the original programming it ran since changing its name from “The Sci-Fi Channel” in 2009 you see a lot of choices that reflect a preference for safe thinking over real risk-taking.
There were the occasional oddball scripted imports, but otherwise the network leaned on programming that’d be easy to syndicate internationally, as well as a whole lot of reality programming with at times only a vague connection to genre. (The word “haunted” showed up a lot in show titles.)
However, in just the last few years, following Chris McCumber taking on oversight over the network, there’s been a noticable uptick in bolder choices and riskier plays, especially in the scripted arena, which have built up an intriguing slate of programming. This has led to some real hits for the network. Both “The Expanse” and “The Magicians” have found dedicated audiences and critical success, and upcoming series like “Happy!” and “Krypton” look promising — or at least, like nothing else currently on television.
Not every show is going to work, for whatever reason. Just ask “Incorporated,” an intriguing take on a grim future ruled by corporations, that ran for one season last winter and was not renewed. But Syfy, beyond any other networks, has built its reputation on genre programming. And when you play in the realms of sci-fi and fantasy, you have to take chances, explore new ideas. An alternate term sometimes thrown around for genre programming is “speculative fiction.” And what is speculation if not the exploration of new ideas?
So while we wish “Blood Drive” could keep rolling along — and take heart in Roland’s promise that he’s trying to find future ways of telling the story — at least Syfy gave it a chance, and as the media landscape grows as lawless and chaotic as post-apocalyptic 1999, taking chances might be the only way to survive.