Monday, May 9, 2011

Allow me to recommend: Battlestar Galactica

So pretty much every night for the last six weeks I've been watching Battlestar Galactica, and I finally finished it on Saturday. I never saw it when it was on TV because I didn't have cable. I was never really that interested in it anyway, but then one night I was probably bored and looking for things to watch on Netflix Instant. So I thought I would give it a shot. I was hooked right away. This is a show where you just want to hit the "play next episode" button every time. It takes discipline to watch only two or three episodes a day. I can't imagine what it would be like having to wait an entire week between each one. Anyway, along with Mad Men, this is one of the two best TV shows I've seen since Deadwood, Carnivale, and Six Feet Under. (Lost ended too disappointingly to recommend, though I enjoyed most of it.) Oh and I've been catching up on Big Love and Friday Night Lights, which are also great. Anyway, from 2007-09, when BSG and Mad Men were both on TV, I think it's safe to say they were the best two shows on TV at the time.

BSG is really one big epic movie. It was only on for four seasons, but the show wasn't "cancelled". Four seasons were what they needed to tell the story. And the quality stays consistent all the way through. It never goes off track or jumps the shark, unlike some shows (*cough* Lost *cough*).

I don't want to say anything about the plot, other than the basic premise, which is a pretty cool one. Of course it's based on the original show from the '70s, but I hadn't known anything about that either. Basically the premise is that humans originated on a planet called Kobol, which they then abandoned, founding colonies on twelve different planets (each with names like Caprica, Sagittaron, Tauron, Gemenon ... you get the idea). They create intelligent robots called Cylons, who eventually rebel and launch a war against the humans, managing to wipe out nearly all of them, except for the Battlestar Galactica and a fleet of civilian ships, about 50,000 people in all. Fleeing the Cylons, their only hope is to find the "mythical" thirteenth colony called ... Earth.

But like any great show, a main reason for watching is the cast. I always love it when an actor whose face or name we've always known but whom we've maybe never given their due as an actor is finally given a stand-out leading role that allows us to see him or her in a new way. On Lost it was Terry O'Quinn. On BSG it's Edward James Olmos, who is really amazing. I also love Mary McDonnell, who plays the President of the Twelve Colonies. Apparently the creator of the show wrote the part with her in mind, based on her performance in Donnie Darko (she was Donnie Darko's mom, you'll remember), then cast her afterwards.

And then there's my, and a lot of people's, favorite character, Starbuck, played by Katee Sackhoff. Starbuck was a man on the original show, but on the new one she isn't. I'm almost tempted to say she's the "soul" of the show, but I could say the same thing about Adama or Roslin or probably several other characters as well. All you need to know is that this is a large and strong cast all around. A "deep bench", you could say.

Anyway, I'm sure you had fun reading this informative blog post, but what you should do now is just go to Netflix (sign up if you have to) and watch the whole thing right now. Yes, it takes place in outer space, but if that kind of thing puts you off, please don't let it this time. There are no aliens on the show, if that makes you feel better. The show is all about great characters and all kinds of contemporary political and ethical issues, but in the end it's about nothing less than life, death, and the meaning of human existence. The final episodes make for one of the most satisfying and bittersweet conclusions to a story I've ever seen.

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