Saturday, February 19, 2005

 

The DEA Needs To Ban Battlestar Galactica.

My brother Thom, for some unknown reason-- probably involving Libyan terrorists and shiny bomb-casing filled with used pinball machine parts-- does not have cable TV right now.

Thus, for many months, he has been completely in the dark as far as the new Battlestar Galactica is concerned.

Until this week-- I sent him DVDs with the miniseries, as well as the first six episodes of the season.

I spoke to Thom this evening, and he admitted the truth that every fan of the show already painfully knows.

This show is crack.

He explained how when he reached the last disk he immediately wanted to watch the rest of the season. I've been feeling the same way too after each episode. More, must have MORE!

I'm trying to think of another television show that has ever had this kind of run in quality in its first season, and I'm coming up blanks. Most shows simply start slowly, and build towards greatness. Battlestar Galactica is the first show I can remember starting out perfect and building from there.

I love the Sopranos, but I'm partial to the later seasons more than the first.

I find Deadwood outstanding, but it's definitely an acquired taste, and not objectively outstanding.

As much as I love 24, the first (and third) season of 24 never grabbed me. For my money, the best episodes of the show are still the first twelve of the second season ("I need a hacksaw," "They will shoot your wife and children!"), but those can't count.

Believe it or not, the closest example I can think of is the first season of the West Wing. As much as I now dislike the pablum the show became, when it first appeared it was a mainline of black-tar wonk right into this political junkie's veins. Yet, the show involved a lot of verbal smoke and mirrors that didn't hold up over time.

Galactica, however, actually *improves* upon reflection. It really is just an incredible display of precision engineering. Every episode so far takes science fiction cliche and convention and arranges it into a seriously delicious weekly drama. It's dramatic balance so far is impeccable.

I'll say it, and mean it: it is the best drama on television right now. Period. Doesn't matter if we're talking sci-fi, cop show, crime show, whatever-- it's the real deal.

Aside from the inevitable letdown (*no* show can stay this good forever. . . right?), the biggest problem I can see with Galactica stems from just how tightly woven together it is.

Case in point: when I first raved about the season to my brother, I urged my brother to download an episode off of Kazaa or similar, just to see what it was like. Unfortunately, he downloaded an episode that hasn't even aired yet-- as the season has already run its course in Britain. Thus, Thom got to watch an episode well after last night's #7 when he had *no* background whatsoever (he hadn't even seen the miniseries by this point).

Thom came back to me and said, "Eh. I don't get it."

He gets it now, alright.

Also tonight I spoke to my friend Lori, who at her boyfriend's Friday night watched her first episode. Her reaction was just the same, which I can easily understand. She's not a sci-fi fan, and the trappings of the show are obviously sci-fi. Of course, as anyone who watches the show can tell you that's like calling M.A.S.H. a military show, or The Sopranos a mob show-- science fiction is merely the means to the storytelling end.

However, given my brother's reaction-- going from skeptical to hardcore addict-- I'm curious if anyone has been able to appreciate the show without starting from the miniseries forward. Given how each episode relies so heavily on knowledge of the previous stories, I don't see how anyone can easily jump in midstream. While the intricate plot threads have been wonderful for those fans from the very beginning, I fear that it may be hard for the show to grow in audience given the high cost of buying into it. I guess it's a good thing the show is a monster hit, and has been renewed for a second season.

Anyways, to my friend Lori: don't take my masculine-word for it; Jennifer loves the show too.

And to Thom? Welcome to the addiction, bro. Wash the needles before you stow 'em.

___
Comments:
Dave: There are downsides to being an ex-pat. If this show ever makes it to Japan it'll be four years from now and each episode will be titled something like "Battru Staa Garatuka - Starbuck vs. The Breast of Nipple."

I have only seen about 10 minutes of the season's premiere show (they had scouts out looking for water or something) as I was home to visit family in January. What little I saw looked like quality TV. And the arguments you are making sound *exactly* like the arguments I was making for Buffy:TVS when trying to get skeptical friends to watch it.

"Ignore the premise. The monster and fantasy thing is only a hat rack to hang a story on. Listen to the writing. Watch the character development. Look deeper into the pathos this thing is relating.."

Buffy was the first, best example of great storytelling overcoming a goofy set-up and a low budget. Babylon 5 couldn't touch it in terms of script quality and complexity.

Now you've got really wanting to see this thing. Buffy was a great ride. For seven years I debated with on-line friends back in the states the direction and meanings of objects, events and characters in each episode. And the anticipation of the next installment was blissful anxiety as I wanted to see how Whedon could upset my set of preconceptions and expectations.

I'll have to see if I can get some one to get me some of this jack in the mail.
 
Screw washing the needles man... I'm quiting my job and moving to England for the remainder of the series, so thats way, I can gets my BG fresh!
 
Firefly. i gave a young lady the dvds and she said "this is the dumbest...where's the rest of it?"
i'll have to look up battlestar galactia.
 
Actually, I missed the miniseries because I thought that the inaugural episodes would be a repeat of it. What a maroon! I started with episode 1 and I'm a huge fan. I'm guessing at some of the backstory, but I would dearly love to see the miniseries. Any hints?

It is tightly written, beautifully produced, and well-acted. I will probably have to avoid the trailers for the next week, because they just set up your expectations, only to have them twisted up in knots.

You're also right about the first 12 episodes of 24 season 2. That was a great ride. Too bad it crashed and burned.
 
Thank you very much for this post! I picked up the mini-series DVD and it was great. I think i'll pick up Firefly too.

Thanks again!
 
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