"One More Episode"

>> Sunday, February 19, 2012

Neither the ScatterKat nor I have cable. I think that's probably a good thing--you go without TV for a few years, only catching up on shows that seem really significant by way of DVD or the Internet, but every now and again it inevitably feels like you might be missing out on something. IFC's Portlandia, for instance.

Actually, it's kind of funny, but I actually had a bit of that with Battlestar Galactica. I watched the miniseries when it aired on SciFi, and then I watched most of the first season in real time, but it was at some point in the middle of the show's run that I moved and dropped cable in the process, and so I ultimately ended up waiting for seasons to arrive on DVD. Of course, all my friends were watching in real time, pretty much, so there would be lots of conversations I'd have to wander away from or try to ignore, because, dammit, people, I didn't see that, I'm waiting for the DVDs.

The other funny thing was, BSG, as many of you know, went off the rails in its last season-and-a-half (roughly). If there's a moment in the Portlandia clip above that doesn't ring true--and it's the only moment, frankly--it's the couple watching the last episode and going nuts for one more; most people, practically everybody, I think, watched the last episode and did some variation of "What the fuck?!" There are apologists who have made excuses for the finale--e.g. claiming that nerds don't like religion and philosophy in their science fiction, which is horseshit--but the sad fact is the finale was simply stupid and anticlimactic, not to mention the fact that the writers decided the series' major plot twist, revealed at the end of the finale, would be something that is considered one of the hoariest clichés in science fiction, stale back when pulps were published on papyrus; that's hyperbole, of course, but it's not hyperbole to point out, I kid you not, that BSG's big reveal is one with a long and ignoble history of being singled out in various present and past SF magazines' submissions for automatic, summary rejection no matter how well-written it is.

BSG spent a great deal of time towards its end running around in circles, backtracking on character development, introducing random-seeming twists that were clearly intended to resolve hanging plot threads (threads that in some cases should have never even started), and committing other sundry sins against the audience. Much of the show's eventual problem can actually be traced back, however, to an early bit of all-too-cleverness introduced early in the show, when the writers decided to add the tagline "And they have a plan" to the end of the pre-credits introduction, implying the antagonistic Cylons knew what they were doing when the show's writers clearly had no idea what that might be, exactly. Those five words probably ruined the show, since it led audiences (naturally) to pore over every scene and line of dialogue and mannerism for clues as to what the big plan might be (when, again, there actually wasn't one), which made the show addicting as hell but (since there wasn't actually a plan) meant there was no way the writers could ever deliver on the promise being made (the plan, when the writers finally got around to making one up to tie the billowing spidersilk strands of plot they'd loosed upon the breeze, turned out to be completely--and by that point, predictably--incoherent).

The obvious lesson for writers is: don't tell your audience that your characters are clever and conniving and know what they're doing when you have no idea what those people are doing; it's one thing to say "And they have a plan" when there really is a (hopefully clever as all get-out) plan, but suicide when you say you're building up to something when really you're just making it all up as you go along (gods help George R.R. Martin). A lesson for audiences is to be careful what you wish for: all the fans who rend their garments for the lost, never-to-be-seen later seasons of Joss Whedon's Firefly probably ought to brace themselves by soberly reminding themselves they could have ended up with the fourth season of Galactica, and find solace in never getting the chance to be really and truly disappointed like they might have been if Whedon had been allowed to make a mediocre and depressing movie to tie up some of his loose ends (fortunately this never happened, never).

The Portlandia clip is hysterical throughout, but the absolute best part for BSG fans starts around the six-minute mark. I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it yet--scroll up and watch the thing, dammit! It's a brilliant little coup for the show and some people are just too awesome for belief. I'd say more, but I shouldn't. Watch the damn clip.


Jeffrey Love Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 4:29:00 AM EST  

Portlandia showed exactly how Aya and I started to watching that show. We were hooked with each episode, but the ending was really not that impressive. I was disappointed with the deus ex machina ending; however, if you look at it, it sorted of fit with the show's theme of a higher power could be in control. But the ending felt like it was rushed and they wanted it to end before some executive would pull the plug on the show.

Don't get me wrong, BSG was a brilliant show, but towards the end it did get ridiculous. I enjoyed having a show that dealt with politics, religion and philosophy that doesn't feel like we were being talked down like children. The only other show I would say was really good at this was Babylon 5. I also agree with you on how some fans don’t like religion or philosophy in their Sci-fi. It is pure horse shit. I have a few friends that hated BSG for that and to them it felt like a soap opera, but they liked Bab5. (Go figure)

The idea of the Cylon's point of view was also cool. Their religion, philosophy, why they believed that committing genocide was a righteous idea. Having that each Cylon model was an archetype of humanity was also cool. One model was spirituality, while one was sex and sensuality, while another was scientific intellect. This made the wanting to be more then human, but it also made them as a pissed off Pinocchio (Which the number 1s were).

Not only was "They have a plan" an idea that came out of their asses, but so was the final five storyline. It was an intriguing idea that had a lot of promise, but it felt like they were grasping at straws. I do like the realizations of when the characters go, "Oh shit, we were the enemy all along. What do we do?" But instead of them being the Messiah figures from the Opera House and Jupiter Temple. You found out they were a bunch of scientists that have been played by their own creation.

But if anybody asking me about BSG, I would tell them it is an excellent show that they should watch, but you could be disappointed by the ending. The show has inspired my Pathfinder game. Instead of running just a hack and slash fantasy, instead what does it mean to really believe in something.

One more thing, James Callis is right, Doctor Who was a great idea and it does kick ass.

Nathan Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 11:37:00 AM EST  

1. That was absolutely brilliant...except for the fact that it only takes like a week to watch the entire series and maybe they'd lose their jobs but if they only had that much time to pay their electric bill, they were already in trouble...knowwhatimean?

2. One of the Executive Producers of Portlandia is this guy. Whispering with him anywhere near the camera during a take is just an invitation to get fired for laughing out loud during the scene and having to perform the walk-of-shame.

3. I have no idea whether or not I'll hate myself, but we started watching "Caprica" yesterday and finally made ourselves quit a little after 2:00a.m. Thank God tomorrow's a holiday.

4. I, too, have no cable. I dread the moment we start watching Portlandia. If Dan P. comes to NY and we plan to see each other, there's gonna be a serious marathon involved.

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