Must See TV

Well, I held off for a long time but finally succumbed. Over the weekend I watched the Battlestar Galactica mini-series and the first episodes of the new series. As disgruntled as I am with the SciFi channel in general, I have to admit they're doing a pretty good job. The writers and creative personnel have done an excellent job of reimagining the Galactica universe. I'm impressed with the inclusions of bits and pieces of the past series as "history" from the first Cylon War. I'm also impressed with the explanation of why the Galactica survived while the rest of the fleet was destroyed. The effects are solid and the acting is good. The set and costume design are very well done. Overall, I'm sold. I have a reason to watch the channel on a regular basis again.

SciFi Daily has review of the first two episodes up, and it includes a great quote from Edward James Olmos:
“She thinks we'll win them over. It's not about winning them over,” he said. “It's about them becoming understanding of the world that we've unleashed. The world that we've unleashed has nothing to do with the world that they were visiting back then.”
He is speaking in reference to Sauron's Love Child and her attempts to win over fans of the original series. Speaking as a fan of the original series, the new one is better (so far). The old one was, as the picture of Moffit shows, pretty cheesy at points. People in my age group are fans because in 1979, we were kids and that's all there was on TV for sci-fi. Nobody is going to claim that it was groundbreaking or great, but it's all we had back then. Nostalgia is what drives the fondness for the original, not an appreciation for the nuances of story and character.

However, the new shows that SciFi is attempting to foist off on us are out. I think SciFi Daily may be a little harsh... no, actually I don't. SciFi channel is pretty much a seething, festering pool of liquid shit from which good things occasionally crawl in an attempt to escape the hideous and painful death that eventually comes to all things good which languish within. My biggest problem with the network is that it is run by people who have no genuine feeling for science fiction. I don't mean to say that they don't like or enjoy science fiction, just that they don't understand it on an instinctive level and I think they lack any real enthusiasm for it. Bonnie Hammer is the penultimate example of this. She may be fabulously talented at the business of television, but she knows crap about science fiction, as the decisions the channel makes under her leadership demonstrate. More damningly, she appears to show no desire to learn.

As examples of what I mean, I have to turn to publishing houses. People like Jim Baen and Donald A. Wollheim are the kind of people who understand and have enthusiasm for the field. (Uh, past tense in Mr. Wollheim's case.) The publishing houses they founded are household names among science fiction readers. Anybody who doesn't have a book from Baen or DAW sitting on the shelf just doesn't have much science fiction. If you've never read anything published by one of those two houses, you can't possibly be educated within the genre. I don't see that Bonnie Hammer and the rest of the suits at SciFi channel display anything remotely resembling that level of expertise and passion for the genre.

Ultimately, that's the biggest problem with the network. It will kill them sooner or later if it isn't fixed. I know from my perspective that I rarely turn it on anymore. Big events they've done lately just made me cringe. Taken? What, Steven Spielberg wasn't finished after the director's cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind? He had to revisit the subject again? Any of the Dune stuff they did was just laughable. Anybody remember the muppet kangaroo rat from the mini-series? Or the horrible special effects? I didn't even bother to watch Children of Dune, simply because the first mini-series was so bad. More to the point, the vast majority of the original products of the channel will be forgotten within 2 years. Is anybody going to remember that awful thing Shannon Doherty was in? Or any of the orginal movies they've made? So far, the two best shots they have at long term relevance are Farscape and Stargate. Battlestar Galactica may turn out to be a winner, but it's too early to tell.

Anyhow, watch the show on Friday nights. It's worth an hour of your time.


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