Syfy cancels Alphas so it can shove ghosts into more popular reality show templates
Alphas, Syfy’s two-season-old series about people with mental superpowers that doubled as a sneaky examination of mental illness, has been canceled. The news was first reported via tweets from Azita Ghanizada, Ryan Cartwright, and Warren Christie, who all starred in the show. It was confirmed later via a statement from Syfy itself. As recently as last week, the network was still in negotiations to bring back the show, presumably at a reduced budget, but it would seem those negotiations fell through (or were, perhaps, never all that serious to begin with). The show’s ratings fell 30 percent in its second season, but its first season numbers were also skewed by high numbers for its pilot, numbers the show never again managed to hit. (Those ratings also weren’t helped by a midseason timeslot change that wasn’t very well-promoted, though the timeslot change did manage to stabilize the ratings and keep them from falling.) Alphas actually began life in 2007 as a series ordered for midseason on ABC; you can read more about its tortured journey to Syfy in this Deadline report. The show ended on something of a cliffhanger, but one that can easily be interpreted as the series’ end if fans are inclined to do so.
Alphas was a bit off-brand for Syfy, in that it was mostly a superhero procedural, but it carried dark hints of the sort of strain these people went through because of their powers. As such, it was a darker show than the ones Syfy likes to greenlight, and it always fit uneasily alongside Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Haven, all of which take poppier approaches to sci-fi subject matter. It was, in some ways, a bit of a throwback for the channel to its salad days when it attempted to put largely serious (at least for television) science fiction on the air. The height of that period was probably the first few seasons of Battlestar Galactica, when it seemed as if the channel might actually become a home for more serious, darker sci-fi. Instead, Eureka became a bigger hit and was easier to clone, the Sci-Fi Channel became Syfy, and here we are.
Of course, all of this is neither here nor there, because the channel’s real successes have come from taking a reality show premise, then sticking ghosts in it somewhere. If last night’s debut for Ghost Mine was successful, assume you’ll very soon be seeing Haunted Castaways, The Ghost Race, and Ghosts That Can Sing. Alphas, meanwhile, is available on streaming services, and the second season will join the first there at some point, one assumes.