No more ‘Sanctuary’ from the drivel of cable television

Someone might want to hide the candy and ice cream. I’m in binge mode right now, which is not a good state for me to be in.

Why am I so candy-cidal right now? The worst has been confirmed; they are not renewing my favorite television show, Sanctuary. After four years of fascinating stories of the unknown combined with breathtaking graphics, the Syfy channel apparently decided enough was enough, and Sanctuary needed to make room for other quality shows—you know, like Total Blackout hosted by the guy who played Urkel.

Some of you might be asking why I’m so forlorn over a television program. If you asked it to my face right now, I might respond with a slap worthy of Dynasty. For those of you asking what Dynasty is, I would recommend you go Google it and not worry about the rest of this column.

I digress.

For me, Sanctuary wasn’t just another show. I am very particular about what I watch, and my selection of current programs is very small. Sanctuary had the capability of holding my attention for an hour, make me yearn for the next Friday to hurry up and get here, and make me sad when the previews said “Season Finale.”

When I first saw the previews for the new show in 2008, I was very intrigued. My main reason for wanting to tune in was because, as a fan of the first two Stargate series, I wanted to see Amanda Tapping in a new and different role, the enigmatic and long-lived Dr. Helen Magnus. Her skill in portraying Samantha Carter in Stargate convinced me that this new show was worth a shot.

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However, once I watched the pilot, I had a whole other reason to be hooked. Robin Dunne, who plays Dr. Will Zimmerman, is not only an impressive actor, but he looks great with his shirt off. Granted, stories are stories, but eye candy is forever.

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Don’t get me wrong; there were other reasons to watch. It was interesting to see a different take on what most of us would call mutants, freaks and monsters. Dubbing them “abnormals,” the show focused on the study of things you don’t necessarily see every day—folding men, flying people, vampires and Nubbins. They were fascinating tales told in a fascinating way.

Sanctuary also broke ground in other ways. The show did most of its scenes on green screen, which allows the producers to insert backgrounds later on. Doing it this way, you could create all these fascinating places, places that you usually only see in graphic novels. A new show like this couldn’t afford to build or borrow a ginormous mansion that looks like it came out of Victorian England, but with the ability to create finely detailed visual effects, Sanctuary was able to grab people’s attention and not let go.

There were some things about Sanctuary that would throw me for a loop. When the producers turned Dr. Magnus’ daughter, Ashley, into a super-powered tool of destruction who was eventually obliterated, my jaw was on the floor. When they got rid of the soft and alluring music for the opening credits at the start of the third season, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the new music. There are flaws to every show, but Sanctuary’s seductive qualities kept me watching again and again.

Sanctuary helped in another aspect of my life, too. When I first met my roommate, Keith, it took some time for us to figure out what we had in common and what we could do together. One day, I was in the living room watching the first season on DVD, and it caught Keith’s attention. He sat down and watched the rest of the episode, and he asked to see more. I put the first episode in and started watching anew.

When we got to the cliffhanger of the first season, he wanted to see what happened. Fortunately, the second season came out on DVD a few weeks later, so he didn’t have to wait as long as I did (nine months) to see how things concluded. Then we got to the end of the second season, and he wanted yet more. I couldn’t oblige him that time, as the third season had not yet premiered.

With that, our Friday night ritual became sitting down together at 10 p.m. and watching Sanctuary. There were a couple of close calls with me working late some Friday nights covering high school football games, but I somehow made it home in time for the opening credits.

So you see, this was more than a television show for me. It helped me to make a new friend. That’s why it is so frustrating to see that Syfy is letting its quality slip once again and not renewing a show with the capability of telling many more captivating stories.

Here’s what Syfy executive Mark Stern had to say:

“We’re honored to have been part of this incredible series. In addition to garnering unmatched devotion by fans worldwide, Sanctuary was a bona fide trailblazer, setting new standards with its highly innovative production techniques—including pioneering green screen and RED camera technology—and Emmy-nominated visual effects. It’s been an amazing ride and we look forward to our next project with Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood and Damian Kindler.”

Interesting how the statement said nothing about why Syfy was opting not to renew for a fifth season. I was a little concerned when it was revealed that the fourth season would only be 13 episodes like the first and second seasons when the third season went for a full 20 episodes, but the Internet news services claimed Syfy wasn’t green-lighting anything for a 20-episode season last year, so I figured everything was fine.

The bad feeling returned in January when there wasn’t immediate news on Sanctuary’s renewal. Many times before the current season ended, there would be a news flash about Syfy renewing Sanctuary for another year. That was not the case this time, and part of me was hoping that a fifth season would be coming for the winter instead of the fall. No such luck.

The official Facebook page for Sanctuary broke the sad news like this:

“It’s true – the official news is out that Sanctuary will not be back for a Season 5. We will re-post comments from the Producers and the Network. There is no blame here. And we are SO grateful for all of you. Without such intelligent, fun, active fans, we wouldn’t have had an amazing four year run! C’mon now…group hug…”

I think it’s going to take more than a group hug for me to feel better. It’s going to take a sign from the Syfy Network that they’re seriously interested in bringing quality programming that doesn’t fit into a typical dramatic mold. The selections—both in movies and television series—have been tepid at best, and the cancellation of Sanctuary has given me the option to do something else with my Friday nights and steer clear of Syfy.

Right now, my only bright side is that the fourth season will be out on DVD. Once I get it, I might just say adieu to cable television entirely. My small list of acceptable television diversions has become even smaller.

Here’s to you, Sanctuary. You were a dazzling island in a darkened sea of mediocre storytelling. I hope that something just as captivating can take your place, although it’s looking less likely with each passing day. If we’re really lucky, you might find a home on another network, one that appreciates your worth.

Shall we begin?

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