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Prelude to Top TV Shows List: Battlestar Galatica Bias
2007-01-18 20:01
by Scott Long

Sometime in the next couple days, I'm going to post my Tivoworthy Show List of 2006. Over the past couple of years, the one show I haven't included that many readers here felt was overlooked was Battlestar Galatica. To be truthful, I didn't overlook the show, it's just that I have little interest in the Science Fiction genre. I've enjoyed books by Orwell and Bradbury, but when spaceships get involved, I generally lose interest. While it's bigger than this, whenever I see someone wearing a uniform jumpsuit, like all the Star Trek type shows sport, I think the future doesn't look that much fun. Kind of like going to Catholic school in zero-gravity.

I'm just not enthusiastic about us meeting other civilizations, as I'm more concerened about problems on this planet. Now before you think I'm ripping Science Fiction like I did Dave Matthews, I'm not. I have friends and family members who are Trekkies and I have a lot of respect for them. I just realize that like Indian food, it just doesn't please my palate.

I would make a hypothesis that a majority of the sabermetrically-inclined happen to also be big fans of Science Fiction, so I know around here I'm probably in the minority. I'm a weird one, as I'm a devotee of the statistical approach to baseball, despite having few mathematical skills and not being a fan of the Sci-Fi channel. Since some of my favorite readers here had told me I was missing the boat on Galatica, I tried to open my mind and take in the show. Hey, I enjoyed Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, so I figured if I could embrace the dueling overacting of Shatner and chestplated Montalban, I thought there was a chance I would dig Galatica, as well.

Sorry, it just doesn't do it for me. The acting is better than most TV dramas. Mary McDonnell is always good, plus Grace Park and Tricia Helfner are fun to watch on many different levels. It just comes back to my biases against the genre. It goes beyond just spaceships, as I have a hard time with any supernatural shows. Never a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Ally McBeal, as I need my shows to resemble more of a documentary style. I know I'm missing out with my inability to step out of my head, but it's just who I am. (The one type of genre that I'm able to suspend disbelief and go with it. PORN!!!)

Now I wrote this piece because I knew when I posted my Top TV shows of the 2006, the comments section would be overwhelmed with Galatica's absence. Here is your place to tell me again why I'm wrong. You aren't going to change my mind because my feeble brain is incapable of marveling at space travel, but maybe you can help persuade other followers to join your way of life. So fill your pocket with quarters and put on your new Nikes, it times to take off.

2007-01-18 21:17:55
1.   Ken Arneson
I heart Battlestar Galactica.

Most sci-fi shows incorporate a large dose of wishful thinking. Star Wars: there's a "force" bigger than us! Star Trek: we can get along and solve all our problems!

By contrast, I have never seen any show, TV/movies/otherwise, set out in space or set on terra firma, that is as brutally honest about human nature as Battlestar Galactica.

This recent half-season, dealing with the Cylon occupation and its consequences, was perhaps the most compelling TV I've ever seen. Perhaps some of my interest comes from my having relatives who spent five years of their lives under Nazi occupation in Norway, and seeing those scenes helped me understand a little bit of what they must have went through.

That said, it is quite dense material, and I can see how it would be hard to get into. But once you're hooked in, wow, it's great stuff.

2007-01-18 22:05:44
2.   Scott Long
When I was writing this, I was picturing you as my target audience, Ken. I didn't even know if you watched the show, but I guessed that you did. I've heard similar comments about Galatica, but a phrase like Cylon occupation is why I just can't get into it.

I think a show like Deadwood or Rome can be very dense in their structure, but I have no problem going back into the past. It just seems that when we go very far into the future, I struggle to embrace the subject matter. I never even liked the Jetsons.

If I was the type that believed in reincarnation, I would request to be more Arneson-like in my thought-process, as I sense that you use a part of your brain that has tumbleweeds going through mine.
2007-01-18 22:21:54
3.   Ravenscar
Yeah, this is one of those "you like it or you don't" debates, usually kind of pointless to try and convince someone. I echo Ken's feelings on the writing of the show and its honesty.

ALSO, the characters that are written are especially strong, and translate to a lot of incredible acting. The female roles moreso than the males, in fact. While McDonnell, Sackoff (Starbuck), and Grace Park all do amazing work, none of them have been quite the revelation as Trica Helfer. Outside of being about 29 different kinds of mind-blowingly attractive, she has really shown off some amazing chops in her different "6" roles. Emmy-worthy stuff. I'd love to see this show catapult her to further work.

2007-01-18 22:36:18
4.   Scott Long
It has catapulted the cover of Playboy.
2007-01-18 23:01:54
5.   Ali Nagib
I think that Ron Moore has made two very specific choices that make Galactica very different from most Sci-Fi shows:

1) As Ken suggested, the goal from a character perspective is to make things as realistically human as possible, but this extends even to the "futuretech" in the show. Which the exception of spaceships and FTL travel, which is basically a prerequisite for doing anything that involves space at all, the rest of the technology is practically 20th Century. The show isn't "What we'll be like in the future" but rather "What we'd be like right now if we magically had cool spaceships and everything else is the same."

2) While I've watched lots of Star Trek episodes that give the good morality play treatment to an issue that's timely watching the episode now, Galactica blurs the line between fiction and socio-political commentary on a weekly basis. Sometimes this turns people off, as dealing with issues like terrorism, torture, and military occupation can raise all sorts of hackles (and it's really more of a gritty military melodrama than a sci-fi show anyway). But Moore has clearly made a concerted effort to go beyond dealing only with universal themes and actually take on issues of the day.

As everyone else has said, if it's not your cup of tea, so be it. One drawback the show has is that, possibly as an homage to Spinal Tap, the intensity level is almost always set at 11. There have been VERY few "fun" or "filler" episodes that even a serial sci-fi show like Deep Space Nine would have had at least 4 or 5 a season to break things up. I've watched the show live since the second season started, so the time between episodes helps keep the extreme drama from becoming mind-numbing. But I could see why someone get sick of it if they watched a whole season or more in quick succession.

2007-01-18 23:37:13
6.   Ken Arneson
Well, don't feel too bad, Scott. I seem to only have room in my Arneson-like brain for one sci-fi show at a time. I kept hearing great things about Babylon 5, but I was busy watching Star Trek at the time, so I just couldn't get into another space fantasy. The only reason I could start watching Battlestar Galactica is that they stopped making Star Treks.
2007-01-19 09:21:13
7.   Ravenscar
Ken - I appreciate you hearing good things about Babylon 5 and apologize to whatever fans disagree, but as someone who has inhaled a LOT of sci-fi over the past 25 years I have to say that you really didn't miss much at all there.

I saw that about Trica and Playboy. While part of me leaps (cough) for joy thinking of her willowy frame photographed well (and even the 1-in-250 odds of Playboy doing that are good enough) I admit I'm a bit bummed regarding what sort of affect this will have on people's opinions of her acting. I will continue to contend that it's excellent.

2007-01-19 14:37:44
8.   ToyCannon
After hearing so many good things about Galatica I've had the 1st season at the top of my Netflix queue for 5 months. I'm still waiting.

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