Friday, March 20, 2009

Intergalatic pretension

In college I was a movie critic. Even so, my tastes in film (now video) have pretty simple: good guys, bad guys, plot, characters, meaning. My wife and I walked out of Oscar-nominated Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet because it was so dark and there was no one to believe in.

Two TV series that I’ve enjoyed watching were Stargate series, on the Sci-Fi Channel. (Through some fluke of technology or market segmentation, the Sci-Fi Channel is free on basic cable here.) However, both shows are now cancelled.

Tonight is the final episode of Battlestar Galacitca, a remake of the campy 1970s series. In the original series, the characters were anti-establishment rebels — space cowboys — that won the day in triumphing over evil.

In the re-imagined series, there are no good guys or bad guys, just shades of gray. Not only are evil human-killing robots spun as sympathetic figures, but the good guys are now a metaphor for immoral contemporary figures from Iraq or Guantanamo Bay. (Half the guys are now gals — hence a lot more sex — but that’s another story).

So between the over the top plot twists — worthy of Dallas, Dynasty or Desperate Housewives — and the general lack of central protagonists, I stopped watching the show a few years ago, despite the Stargate lead-in.

On Monday, the TV network ran one of those fawning self-indulgent “making of” shows that only Hollywood can muster. This one went on and on about how this was a great experience in their lives, the best work they’ve ever done.

At one point, an actor said the show is like Blade Runner — 25 years later, it will be recognized how great it is. I saw Blade Runner when it came out in 1982 and admired its craft back then. I also saw 2001, Star Wars, Terminator and several of the other best Sci-Fi movies when they came out.

I knew Blade Runner and Battlestar Galactica, you’re no Blade Runner. Blade Runner was exotic, imaginative and subtle. Battlestar Galatica was preachy, self-important and bombastic.

So when the Sci-Fi Channel tonight bids farewell to Battlestar Galactica, I say good riddance. I’ll continue to check out back episodes of Stargate (SG-1 or Atlantis) and Star Trek (Enterprise or Voyager) from the local library. On a Saturday night, I’ll dust off my DVDs of 2001 or the six Star Wars episodes and share them with my daughter. Someday, I’ll show her the Terminator series and its testament to heroic bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

Apparently the desire to move beyond sci-fi has possessed the Sci-Fi Channel to abandon the genre altogether: the channel is becoming “SyFy” in June. (Much of the week, the channel is already cluttered with made-for-TV horror movies and psuedo-scientific paranormal shows).

I don’t quite get how in a world of 500 cable channels, there weren’t enough Sci-Fi fans to justify a dedicated channel. I guess all I have to look forward is the re-imagined Star Trek movie, which unlike Battlestar, might actually be better than the original.

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