Monday, April 09, 2007

Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark

Warning: Recent posts have been a bit too heavy so I've decided to turn fanboy mode on. Major spoilers ahead.

An odd title, if there ever was one, but if you follow TV nowadays, you know what I mean. "Jumping the shark" is another way of saying "the show, once great, now sucks." And yes, you heard me right, "Battlestar Galactica" just sucks right now.

The first season of BSG didn't quite grab me the way it did my other friends, but I got hooked somewhere in the second season. Then I started looking forward to every new episode as it came out. Like many, I was blown away by the second-season cliffhanger.

And now the third season has just come to a close, I should be all amped up. Instead, I'm just bored. And that leads me to ask: when did BSG become so sucky?

By all rights, the third season ender revelations OUGHT to be exciting: Starbuck dying; Starbuck coming back from the dead; gasp! Starbuck a cylon?! Earth, their destination, finally within reach! The Final Five cylons revealed...and two of them are Tigh and Tirol!

Ho-hum.

If you're a die-hard BSG fan, I'm sorry. It's just the way I feel. Just because BSG started out as a great series doesn't mean I have to continue liking it. In fact, the reason I stuck with it for so long was because it had a great start. I felt obligated, dammit!

Then, somewhere in between episodes 15 and 17, I realized that BSG had jumped the shark.

So when did this happen? Was it the "The Woman King" episode, which dealt with the racist doctor murdering patients? Was it "Dirty Hands" which dealt with labor disputes within the fleet? These were pretty weak episodes. They did little for character development, they didn't really move the story arc forward.

In a pinch, I would say that my troubles with BSG started with "A Measure of Salvation," when Helo actively sabotages the plan to eliminate the Cylons. Like, huh? Dude, it's the future of the human race that's at stake! Why are you balking?!

But the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to say that the downward spiral began as far back as the "Occupation" arc. Oh, sure, Adama's daring rescue was so thrillingly kick-ass. But that was the high point, the exception in an otherwise dark and dismal story.

"Occupation" played out as an allegory of the present Iraqi situation. Suddenly our heroes were thrust into the roles of terrorists and suicide bombers. Shocking? Absolutely! And that was why it made for compelling viewing...at first.

Then, when the shock effect wore off, I realized that, well, I had been played. No one likes the feeling.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter where I stand on Iraq. The writers used their program as a vehicle for their political views. Fine, that's their prerogative. What matters is if they did it well. And in my opinion, they didn't.

At the end of the "Occupation" arc, we're essentially back to where we started: with the ragtag human fleet on the run from the Cylons. Oh, there were some small changes: the Pegasus disintegrated in a blaze of glory, Starbuck in shock, Tigh more ornery than ever, and kangaroo courts all around -- which is simply more fodder for liberal political theory. Did it move the story forward? Very little.

Just about the only interesting twist was the Cylons getting Baltar. That could have been done in any number of alternative ways. That at least led to the marginally promising "Eye of Jupiter" arc.

But even "Eye of Jupiter", which moved to the story forward, muddled things up again. We get caught up in Cylon theology, which is just about the most confusing incarnation of New Age mumbo jumbo in recent memory. So by the time we get to The Final Five, I'm already saying, "Big deal."

"They have a plan...." is BSG's ominous warning, referring to the Cylons. But just what IS the plan now? After three seasons, I still don't know and I'm even more confused. Do the Cylons even know what they're doing?

Really, the main driver in BSG's storyline is the Cylon plot. That's how we started the story. The plot should have been simple: annihilation of the human race. And in the face of overwhelming odds, the humans react desperately, always clinging to one more hope, whether through their prophecies or through military ingenuity.

It's when BSG follows this philosophy that it works; and when it deviates, it simply falls flat. And this third season, it really, really fell flat.

What a terrible waste!

9 comments:

  1. I quite agree that the Season 3 never attained the same quality of writing or story as the previous seasons but I really don't think BSG has jumped the shark at all.

    Sure, the whole season was a series of starts and stops but I quite liked the slow pieces which gave the actors at least a chance to flex some of their acting chops. Maybe the occupation drama was dealt with a bit heavy handed but it did set up some of the tension and interactions throughout the season.

    Unfortunately, the next season is almost a year away so it's going to be a Heroes for the rest of the year for us...

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  2. i thought it was getting sucky for a while. all those diversions into Starbuck and Lee's lovelife.

    But the season ender was a grabber. And...

    ...trying hard not to say it...

    ...really hard...

    ...oh, what the hell:

    "What the frak!!!??? The next season is in 2008???"

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  3. Hi, Chaz: a-ha! Just the person I was waiting to comment on this post. Alright, I'll admit it -- maybe I exaggerated a bit. But BSG just doesn't grab me like it used to. I'm just curious how the writers will extricate themselves from the mess they've made.

    Ummm...flying motorcycles.

    Hi, Urbano: oh, I know. I was even thinking of a new tagline. "In space, everyone can hear you whine." 2008, hmmm? Lots of room for speculation. I hope they use that time to fix up their storylines.

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  4. Well.. I have to admit I got bored after watching the last few episodes of season three. There were just too many Personal stories towards the end. Ick. WHERE the hell is the action?!? Kill the frakkin cylons already!

    Tsktsk.

    Then I heard that the next season would be on 2008... frak. I'm still hooked though. I just don't know if I'll still be hooked by the time season 4 airs.

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  5. I felt that BSG jumped the shark back in the Eye of Jupiter ep. Why would a temple built by the 13th tribe thousands of years ago have anthing to do with the final five cylons? I thought season 3 was quite a drop from season 2 - especially the final episode/cliffhanger. Lay Down Your Burdens pt 1 & 2 were terrific examples of writing. The two final eps of season 3 left much to be desired. Guess I'll give the writers/creators the benefit of a doubt and see what next season has to offer. Why such a long wait? The network ordered 22 eps of Painkiller Jane. Did we get 22 eps of BSG in season 3?

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  6. The Show BLOWS now that the writers' and producers' motives are so transparent.

    NBC is one of the most liberal/anti-American media outlets out there; I wonder if there was any overt cross-contamination?

    Actually, most likely, the writers/producers are just completely TONE-DEAF to what it is to be American at a time of war (that is now--today). They are just CLUELESS.

    I was really enjoying the second year of the show because the Humans were being forced to CHOOSE between several BAD choices (like real grown-ups in today's world) against a fanatical, totalitarian enemy.

    MAYBE THE NBC HONCHOES DIDN'T LIKE THE OBVIOUS RESULT OF SUCH AN ANALYSIS...Rooting out terrorist requires curbing civil liberties for other terrorist and their supporters; We need to remain true to the requirements of a democracy, even if it is messy; Executive power necessitates oversight of the military by the president (not representatives); etc

    But the Occupation series is just retarded, liberal/socialist/West Coast propaganda. DOWN goes another possibly great series to Political Correctness--if not active liberal sabatoge.

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  7. Let's face it, it jumped the shark.

    Like so many shows and moves, it started with great ideas and huge special effect budgets--but the writers let the series down.

    The notion of Starbuck pulling a gun on Rosalyn? And the series has all kinds of stuff like this--stuff that looks good on a commercial or sound bite, which makes absolutely no sense.

    At some point, the human cylons are acting so irrationally that the mechanical cylons ought to have lost their patience.

    Cylons have a Plan? Maybe they do but the BSG writers have no idea what it is.

    Weak, weak, weak. Form over substance, shock over plot, actions with no consequences.

    Who cares anymore? Unless BSG writers pull something really stupid and implausible out of their pockets, the human race is doomed.

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  8. Battlestar jumped the shark in 2.5 with it's departure from the strong characters and interesting mythos established in season 1. It has sucked ever since. Season 2.5 features unpithy domestic issues, half hearted social dissent, gratuitous melodrama, and a departure from everything that made the first season so great. Though I am left wondering what happened to this remarkable series, I understand that filler episodes are sometimes necessary on a tight budget and in creative lulls, but to ruin the story is unforgivable.

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  9. We just kept watching it hoping it would get better again---and it only got worse. I started rooting for someone to put the President out of her (and our )misery. Starbuck let us down by becoming alternately dazed and confused and drunk and angry. The Admiral totally lost his grip and was seen most of the time grimacing over something. Colonel Tigh should have been put out an airlock a long time ago. And watchs up with Ellen being a Cylon goddess thingy---did they make this plot up as they went along. Must have. The final episode where you just know you'll find out what the big frakking deal is with the child Hera is nadda el zippo--nothing - no reasons, no magic. Why are Balthar and Caprica angels--- and what's the whole deal with the angels? If we hadn't been able to record this and fast forward through the commercials and many boring parts I would have baled long ago. Jumped the shark after season One!!!! It used to kind of dark and mysterious and they had that great percussive intro music---all that went bye bye.

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