The Event: Syfy launch party
The Date: July 7, 2009
The Venue: "The Imagination Park" at Rockefeller Center, New York
The Crowd: Syfy executives and talent (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly of "Warehouse 13," Joe Morton of "Eureka" and Josh Gates of "Destination Truth") and "Today" hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford
The Food: Sadly none, unless you were on the "Today" film crew
The Drinks: A pristine white pop-up bar served coffee from Dean & Deluca as well as assorted juices and bottled waters for the early-morning party
The Swag: None readily available, although TV reporters received a commemorative "Warehouse 13" vault-shaped press kit that talks when you open it.
The Scene: After months of preparation and blogger speculation, the year's most controversial cable rebrand -- Sci-Fi Channel's transition to Syfy -- launched today to heavy fanfare from parent company NBC Universal. Freeloader hoofed it to the launch party at Rockefeller Center's temporarily transformed "Imagination Park," where purple-and-white Syfy-branded flags, a giant lollipop, a life-sized viewfinder and even Kathie Lee Gifford all awaited us.
In the first few weeks since Syfy announced the impending name change back in March, Freeloader couldn't think of a more hyped-up cable TV event this summer. Of course, that was before Jon and Kate filed for divorce or Michael Jackson passed away. But for one imaginative hour at Rockefeller Center in an NBCU-branded bubble, the Syfy transition seemed almost as big as the months of marketing, constructive criticism and Twittering made it out to be.
We chatted briefly with Michael Engleman, Syfy's VP-creative marketing, who appeared both excited and exhausted about the new brand and tagline, "Imagine Greater." Syfy, he told us, is a "connective tissue that brings all the seemingly different elements of the brand together." The explanation made Freeloader think of Syfy sibling network USA, which created the tagline "Characters Welcome" five years ago to help viewers make sense of a channel that featured wrestling, "Monk" and U.S. Open coverage all under one roof.
Mr. Engleman added that the Syfy brand will be tweaked and adjusted going forward, based on audience feedback and other elements that will naturally be introduced as viewers familiarize themselves with the new brand. "You can't place any limits on people's imagination," he said.
Next, we got a front-row seat for Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, hosts of the fourth, wildly entertaining hour of "Today," as they grilled "Warehouse 13" cast members Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock about their network's new brand name. Mr. McClintock said "Sci-Fi" made his wife think of science fiction, and therefore she wouldn't watch it. Ms. Kelly compared Syfy to the plotline of the show, which is about exploring the common aspects of a parallel universe as much as it is about aliens and other uniquely sci-fi plot devices. Ms. Gifford then asked the starlet, "So, where's the rest of your dress? In that warehouse?"
Leave it to our favorite "SNL" parody subject to "imagine greater" than Freeloader ever could when it comes to good Syfy puns.