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Syfy Is Finally Embracing Sci-Fi Again (Opinion)

The network's recently unveiled development slate is stuffed with the kind of genre entertainment -- space operas, time travel, urban magic -- it has forsaken for so long.

Ronin Comic Cover - P 2014
Frank Miller's "Ronin"

If you are a fan of genre entertainment, you’ve probably been frustrated by Syfy for the past five years or so. Basically, since the network dropped the vowels from its name. "Frustrated" might be a kind word for it.

After Battlestar Galactica went off the air, the NBCUniversal network seemed intent on being anything but a science fiction network, systematically shedding itself of long-running series like Eureka and Warehouse 13, as well as promising newcomers like Caprica and Alphas (full disclosure: I was a staff writer on Alphas). Instead, it favored increasingly out-of-place reality programming and shows imported from the Great White North, which somehow looked even more Canadian than the Syfy Originals, also shot in Canada. Tuning in to Syfy, you’d never know if you were going to encounter a cooking show (Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen), an auto-detailing show (Dream Machines) or wrestling. And a number of series featuring night-vision footage of what would never be actual ghosts.

STORY: Syfy's Plans More Space Operas, Less 'Sharknado'

Syfy was running as far as it could from sci-fi. And so viewers found their nerd jollies elsewhere. The Walking Dead turned into the biggest TV series on cable, with ratings that would dwarf anything not found on broadcast. The CW quietly turned into the genre network, stocking its schedule full of series like The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, The Originals, The 100, Beauty and the Beast and Star-Crossed. J.J. Abrams was littering broadcast with shows like Revolution and the just-canceled Almost Human.

But under new exec vp original programming Bill McGoldrick, Syfy is finally staking a claim to the sci-fi throne that would’ve been the network's -- if it hadn’t decided it didn’t want it. Look at Syfy's moves over the past six months -- starting with announcements that it was adapting Frank Miller’s Ronin, Jonathan Hickman’s Pax Romana and Robert Kirkman’s Clone, along with The Magicians, 12 Monkeys, The Expanse, Dominion, Z Nation, Letter 44, Ascension, Killjoys and Olympus.

Interstellar bounty hunters, far-flung space opera, fallen angels, dimension-hopping samurai, time-traveling Roman legionnaires.… Of course, all of these series won’t make it on the air. (And Syfy still has some dodgy reality shows and wrestling.)

But if even half of them do, this is the Syfy we always wanted and never got.