I know you are asking "So, which show is that exactly Margot?" I’ll get to that, but I really want you to stick with me on this one & not rush to judgment, so let me state my case first.
What has been lacking on TV for quite some time? A few more sexy male bum shots ala Ricky Schroder on NYPD Blue (NOT Dennis Franz though, that doesn’t count)? Certainly, but really not what I was getting at. What we have been lamenting about for months/years is a lack of quality shows with quality writing. This has certainly been exacerbated by the writer’s strike, but even before that the pickens were pretty slim. What if I told you there was a show with clever & original writing that addressed current topics without coming across as preachy, a fabulous cast of flawed, multi-layered characters, a plot that is driving towards an eventual end/goal, & a smattering of sex (or at least sexual tension) just to keep everyone interested? Sound interesting? Now what if I told you it was on Sci-Fi Network (Space Network in Canada)? I hope that sound wasn’t people collectively hitting their "Back" buttons on their browsers.
The show I, of course, refer to is Battlestar Galactica.
And yes, it is sci-fi. But not in the sense of sci-fi being a genre. I read somewhere that Brad Bird (creator of Disney’s mega-hit The Incredibles) hated when people called animation a genre, because that implied that there had to be singing animals & a princess in every animated movie. He believes that animation is just the vehicle or medium to tell a story (whether it be G rated or R rated). Battlestar Galactica does the same thing for sci-fi. The sci-fi part is just the vehicle to tell the story. Indeed, it is set in space. There are spaceships, planets, the occasional spaceship fight, but that is not what this show is really about. It is about politics, faith, religion, questioning authority, questioning one’s beliefs, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, right, wrong, shades of gray, & throwing us viewers big old curveballs just when we think we might have it all figured out. And what makes it all work is a fan-frakking-tastic cast who you care about, even the "bad-guys." (Oh ya, & the fact that they use the word "frak" as a substitute for our most colourful of swear-words & can get away with it. It may be geeky, but it is also just fun to say.)
The show is a "re-imagining" of the ever-so cheesy 1978 original by the same name. I can never remember if that was the one with the little robot that went "deeby-deeby-deeby" or the one with the strange, furry robot-dog. Suffice it to say that this Battlestar Galactica has nothing to do with either of those things. Basic premise is that humans created Cylons as machines to do our work. Unfortunately the Cylons rebelled, evolved & basically waged an all-out nuclear attack on humankind. One military ship & a small group of civilian ships survived the attack & are basically on the run from the Cylons trying to find the mythical planet Earth. I know, wait ’til they see what we’ve done with it. It won’t seem so mythical.
Now, I know that my little synopsis did nothing to do away with the sci-fi image, but again, it’s not about the running or really even finding Earth, it’s about what the running & quest for Earth does to these characters & how they react to this stressful existence. One of my fav episodes was from the second season & it dealt with the President of the "12 colonies" having to make a decision as to whether or not to outlaw abortion. When less than 50,000 people are all that exist of the human race do you put aside your personal beliefs to ensure the future of humanity, or are you losing your humanity in the process? It was some pretty heady stuff, but it presented both sides as convincing arguments.
Oh ya, & did I mention that the women rock on this show. The President is a woman. Women are fighter pilots, mechanics, admirals, judges, mothers, lovers, & just about everything else. And there is no "ma’am." Women are called "sir." I love that.
This incarnation of Battlestar has been a critics darling (the show won the prestigious Peabody award for excellence in radio & TV programming) from the get go & originally started out with some of the highest ratings in Sci-Fi channel (as well as all of cable network) history. It has since settled down into a small, yet respectable, ratings draw for Sci-Fi. Hence why I figure you just aren’t watching it. The good thing is it isn’t too late. Seasons 1-3 are all available on DVD & are sooooo enjoyable that it is the rare TV show that is actually re-watchable. But if you don’t really feel like investing that much time before you check out this Friday’s new episode (what, you don’t have almost 50 hrs to spare over the next 4 days?!?) you can get caught up by this great 8-minute video called "What the Frak is Going on" or on Entertainment Weekly’s website with the Battlestar Galactica Cheat Sheet.
Battlestar just started up its 4th & final (sniffle) season last Friday. Do yourself a favour & check your preconceived notions about all things sci-fi at the door & just sit down & enjoy some of the best writing, acting, directing, editing, etc. on TV. It airs Fridays on Space (Canada) & Sci-Fi (US) at 10pm ET/7pm PT.