The maker programme Steampunk’d “will not be picked up for a second season” (being British that’s the last time I’ll use the word season to describe a series in this article) according to the GSN blog page. GSN being the network that commissioned it in the first place. The eight episode show was widely criticised by steampunks and away from that had other, more popular programmes to contend with including Skin Wars and The Chase USA.
Steampunk’d opened to 198,000 viewers which is a small audience, although the lion’s share of that demographic was 18-49 year olds, which is likely what GSN were looking for. The show averaged at 278,000 viewers with 114,000 of those in the preferred age range.
So why cancel it?
According to the blog author it never really stood a chance after the third week. That episode saw a massive dip in viewers, although it rose to a healthy 298,000 for the finale which saw Steampunk Eddie crowned Winner. There are lots of executive reasons why it was cancelled which the network is privy to and I won’t go into that. If what I saw on the second episode is anything to go by, I can see why the viewers dropped off by the third episode:
“The secret device in one of the rooms was operated by a piece of string. Now I’m no maker and I have a lot of respect for these people, I acknowledge the pressure they’re under and time restraints, but even I was disappointed at that. Looking at it from an outsider wanting to learn about steampunk, in this second episode they would see stuff using string and makers employing the same techniques each week. They would also see a contestant gush over one of the judges before said judge tore them to pieces. I understand that the editing plays a large part in what we actually see on screen, but those words had to be said in the first place and I winced as I listened to Kato rip Ladyhawke apart. I understand that they need to find someone to vote off, but steampunk is about support and encouragement. Ladyhawke had her idol tell her she wasn’t good enough. To her face. On television. I wouldn’t be surprised if she never lifted a needle again, though it would be a shame. Is Kato to blame for that, though? She doesn’t come across as the type of person that would do that. While she’s a business woman and has to be focused and business minded, we’re all friendly geeks – especially with each other.”
I watched the first two episodes, but the cast has been vocal about the experience now that the gag order is off. Living in Britain, I struggle to get access to the full episodes and by luck I found the first two. I enjoyed the first show and reviewed it here: Steampunk’d Series One, Episode One review. After watching the second episode I found that I wasn’t left wanting to see the third. Maybe that’s what happened to many other people who deserted it on the third episode. Maybe it was the lack of drama this time (let’s face it, they’ll never get it right) or the mediocre suspense or maybe it was that I was torn between feeling sympathy for Ave collapsing and feeling that she over-hammed it. As a side note I don’t for one moment think she was making it up. I just think that the way she collapsed while the cameras watched and didn’t do a thing despite seeing someone clearly in distress, leaves my mind in turmoil.
That being said I do like to think that this is another case of big business trying to make money out of steampunk and steampunk sending them the Churchill salute. We’re not here for exploitation, we’re here for our love of creating things that look 100 years old. We’re here for our mutual appreciation of creativity and the people behind it. Fashion designers have tried it already and moved on. Steampunk wasn’t the big buzz word that IBM predicted it would be two years ago.
It could be that the show suffered from what I see a lot of programmes suffer from, although more compacted in this instance. I’ve watched a few programmes through multiple series and I’ve noticed that the third series was the slowest and in some cases classed as the worst. Hawaiian brain bungler Lost is the most obvious example as many viewers switched off when the third more character based series started. By the time it picked up again on series 4 most people had lost track. Personally I feel that American Horror Story – Coven was the weakest of the series that have aired. Maybe with Steampunk’d they got the same problem and just couldn’t recover with an already small viewer count.
It would be nice to see more steampunk on television. There’s a lot of Victorian gothic drama at the moment such as Penny Dreadful and the new Frankenstein Chronicles. An actual steampunk driven series would be great to see though.
Roving reporter Phoebe Darqueling attended a Steampunk’d Tell-All session at Steampunk World’s Fair in 2017. Find out more about what it was like to be a cast member from the group and from winner Steampunk Eddie.