11/16/2007

Lessons from Sci-Fi Friday

Now, by now you likely know that I do enjoy my science fiction shows. And I'm not ashamed of this, either. I like to follow stories that inhabit intricate universes, where things may or may not be different. So, with that basic character trait, I've been watching the Sci-Fi channel on Friday nights in order to watch glimpses of an upcoming movie of which I've written about quite often in the past. They've been showing clips from Battlestar Galactica: Razor (debuts on November 24!) during commercials of Flash Gordon and Stargate Atlantis.

That has meant I've watched shows that inhabit very uninteresting universes. In my case, that means that it has incredible aliens, dumb accents, or just isn't very believable. Or, isn't very consistent. Or the acting was awful.

Just like the show I'm watching now. Stargate Atlantic doesn't seem to have anything to do with its predecessor. Somehow the idea of going through space via a gigantic portal controlled by hieroglyphics was a novel concept, and sustained the telling of interesting stories. This just seems to be people talking about weird things while walking through a forest. This must be a budget saving show. I'm not sure. But, it has my attention because I'm waiting for something I really want to see.

I don't want to see a crappy fight scene where one ninja lady takes on four big guys wearing Juggernaut-like masks, complete with absolute surprise from her female companion. By now I've tuned back to the keyboard, so I just hear the drums and the occasional rise of dramatic danger music.

I want to see stories about characters. Does that mean I enjoy Flash Gordon, which has been on the last six Friday nights I've sat here and watched for three minute clips of Bill Adama's past?

I prefer Flash Gordon, even though I would not ever watch it without something compelling me to do so. At least there, the ideas are interesting, and there's a story that's easy to grasp for the casual viewer. However, being easy to grasp doesn't translate into being worth watching out for.

Unlike Battlestar Galactica, which I think has been one of the best shows on television. I think it has lost some of its initial luster, but it more than made up for it in the last episode of Season 3, with the haunting appearance of a Bob Dylan tune serving as a key plot point.

But, at least Sci-Fi had a gimmick that worked. Here I am, sampling its shows, watching its commercials, learning about the upcoming remake of the Wizard of Oz called Tin Man.

Oh. Wait. They moved the flashback to 8:00. And, me, a loyal viewer, knew nothing about it. I've even signed up for their e-mail list, and they know who I am because I willingly gave them at information, but yet they couldn't send me a program note? That's fairly irritating.

I am at the point where I am about to give up on Comcast and simply watch television online. I've already transferred my watching of several shows to the computer monitor. I'm hoping eventually I can watch them over wireless on my iPod. Why do I need to be learning about sleep medication? I don't have a problem falling asleep. What does this advertisement have to do with me?

So, now I feel like I have no need to watch Stargate Atlantis, and I can go back to watching something I want to watch, as opposed to manipulating me.

I would like to see film and television productions begin to aim themselves at Internet distribution. What would it take to by-pass the idiots who so poorly run the networks? Going back to Battlestar Galactica, it boggles my mind that more people don't know about the show. And, I worry they won't, because it's on a network that's surrounded by schlock like Stargate Atlantis. I'm ashamed to talk about BSG with people, but so many people that initially balked have come around to it. It's a fantastic show about an incredible mystery that erupts from the end of human civilization. The acting, writing, special effects, cinematography, music, directing, podcasting (Ron Moore's podcast commentaries are brilliant and candid), and all-around feel of the show just has to be seen to be believed.

I would pay $5 an episode.

Eventually, the television industry will have to come around to people's shifting expectations. More and more people are going to question why they have to sit through ads. NBC may have been right to drop out of iTunes in order to sell more expensive downloads, but will you be able to download content for your iPod through Hulu?

I do worry about that answer selfishly, seeing as NBC owns Sci-Fi, and thus controls the rights to Battlestar Galactica. I would not be surprised if you see it making an appearance if the writer's strike goes on for a very long time.

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