A massive hurricane is currently tearing up the ocean just off the coast of Mexico, and the surf here in Southern California is huge. Waves between fifteen and twenty feet have been common, and on Wednesday, Anne and I went down to the beach to see them for ourselves, and take a long walk along the sand.
School has just started, so there weren’t many people down there. Parking was easy, and after a quick walk across the hot sand, we got to the edge of the water. We stood there for a few minutes and watched enormous waves explode into foam, before the ocean seemed to completely flatten out into deceptively serene beauty between sets.
We walked about four miles down the sand, and another four miles back. We shared a meatball sub for lunch, and a little after 2pm, we got in the car to head home.
We were about a quarter mile from our house when my cell phone rang. I vaguely recognized the number, so I picked it.
“I have [Syfy Network Executive] for you,” a disinterested assistant said.
“Okay,” I said. The line fell silent, and I knew that my work with Syfy was over.
“How are you?” He asked me.
“I’m fine,” I said, honestly. “I just got back from a nice long walk with my wife, and it’s been a pretty great day.”
“Well, I’m about to make your day less great,” he said. Then, he told me that Syfy will not be ordering more episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project.
He assured me that it wasn’t the quality of the show. He told me again and again how much he loved it, how funny he thought it was, how much he liked me, how much he wanted to find other things to do together.
Ultimately, he told me, the executives in New York just didn’t think we had enough viewers to justify more episodes. I didn’t say anything about the total lack of promotion off the network, or point out that our ratings were on par with The Soup, or that ratings are always lower in summer than the fall. I didn’t bother saying any of that, because I know he knows that. I was reasonably confident that he made those arguments with New York when he was trying to get the show renewed. I presume he fought hard for us, but ultimately couldn’t sway executives in New York who never seemed — in my opinion — to really understand what kind of show we were doing, who I was and why I was hosting it, and how to engage with and promote to the audience who would like it.
I thanked him for the call, thanked him for the opportunity to do a show that Syfy had never tried before, and sincerely thanked him for all his creative support. He’s a good guy in an industry full of bad guys, and I genuinely enjoyed working with him. I know that he’s trying really hard to put the sci-fi back into Syfy, and if anyone can do it there (which is going to be incredibly difficult, I think), he’s the guy who can make it happen.
I hung up the phone, and told Anne that we weren’t being renewed.
“How do you feel about that?” She asked me.
“I’m really okay with it,” I said. “I’m super sad that I won’t get to work with my writers and producers, and I’m sad that we don’t get to keep writing jokes, but I did everything I could to help the show succeed. I promoted it the best way I could, I worked hard to write stuff that was funny, and I tried so, so, so hard to get the network executives in New York to understand how they could help the show succeed.
“I can only do so much, and we didn’t get a lot of promotional support. I did everything I could, and I’m proud of the work we put on the screen. On the one hand, it’s a shame that they stopped us right when the show was hitting its stride, but on the other hand, we went out with some great episodes.”
I’m disappointed that I won’t get to keep working with people I really like and respect. I’m sad that we won’t get to do more silly segments like How Will They Bite It? and Skeletor Reads Angry Tweets. I’ll miss the scarecrow most of all.
I’m grateful, though, to the people at Syfy who believed in us and gave us a chance to succeed. I’m grateful for the creative support we got, and I’m grateful that I got to spend my summer working with wonderful, talented, funny people. I grew a lot of levels in comedy writing over the last 18 weeks or so, and I owe it all to the amazing people I got to work with.
I had made a decision the day we wrapped the show, that I was going to be okay whether Syfy picked us up, or not. I can honestly say that I am really okay with where I am today. I’m looking forward to doing Tabletop and our upcoming RPG show. I’m looking forward to writing more stories, getting excited, and making more things.
Thank you to everyone who watched our show. Thank you for your kind words, and for being part of a pretty great summer.
Until next time: Play more games!
Oh, and let me just stop this before it starts: we nerds have a penchant for letter-writing campaigns and stuff to try and save shows we like. Please don’t do that here. It’s not going to happen, and we should instead put that energy into something else, like getting #butts to trend.