Saturday, March 04, 2006

Muir in The Philadelphia Inquirer!

Hey folks, I was interviewed in an article about the new Battlestar Galactica by journalist David Hiltbrand last week. The piece ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday (March 2, 2006), and it concerns the on-going divisions between old school BSG'ers and the new show.

Here's a clip from "A Whole New Dimension for Battlestar Galactica," Mr. Hiltbrand's article:

"They pull a lot from contemporary politics," agrees John Kenneth Muir, author of An Analytical Guide to Television's Battlestar Galactica. "It's ripped from the headlines. There was an Abu Ghraib torture episode. It's pretty clear these are post-9/11 Americans in space."

The show's unconventional strategy seems to be paying off. As it approaches the final episode of its second season on March 10, BSG is averaging 2.3 million viewers a week. "It's our highest-rated original series ever," says Dave Howe, executive vice president of Sci Fi. "It's also our youngest skewing series, and it's unbelievably successful internationally as well."

It's no surprise that some of the people who enjoyed the original series find the wholesale changes irksome. "It's like they're trying to poke us in the eye with every episode," says Muir, who numbers himself among the "crusty old fans." "The original show was very family-based. There were jokes about it being Bonanza in Space. It was like Lassie or Little House [on the Prairie]. It was about how families take care of each other in times of crisis."

While the characters in the '70s show were cut from a heroic mold, the new crew has issues. "What I've heard fans of the original say is that there's nobody to really like," Muir says. "People who were formerly honorable have been saddled with these soap-opera syndromes, like drinking or rage."


  1. Anonymous9:38 PM

    Not to start any flame wars, but IMO, it seems very reasonable that people facing the very real threat of genocide would probably exhibit syndromes like drinking and/or rage...

    It's easy to be heroic when your enemy are extremely bad shots and don't seem to learn from mistakes - and when you crib plotlines from better films and shows.

    There is heroism is the 'new' BSG, but it's hard won and rarely rewarded... which, in the cases when there is a tiny moment of joy, makes it that much sweeter and meaningful.

    The old BSG was hard for me to take seriously in any way... the new incarnation engages me thoroughly, and it's an interesting journey that they're taking us on - maybe not a joyful one or a pretty one, but this incarnation of the show is a high mark in SF television and dramatic TV.

    I couldn't say the same of the Larson incarnation in any way, shape or form.

    Robert H.

  2. Hey Robert -

    To each his own. Glad you enjoy the new BSG. You're certainly not alone there.

    And don't feel that my response here is an attack or anything. We can present our points of view reasonably, and I enjoy reading contrasting opinions. So please don't be offended by anything I write here, either. (After all, we're not making personal attacks, just describing our feelings...)

    I've posted about it here before, but my problem with the new show usually starts and ends with the fact that they called it Battlestar Galactica (primarily to exploit a franchise name...) and then made a series that is tremendously un-Battlestar Galactica-like. Hence the "poke in the eye" comment.

    Starbuck a man? Now he's a woman! Caine a man? Now he's a woman too! Tigh a loyal black officer, now a white drunk! Cylons evil machines, now Terminator lite! Every decision seems designed purely and simply to shock and offend the old school fan. If you're not one of those fans - naturally - you won't be offended by it.

    And I hasten to point out, Tigh was depicted as an alcoholic BEFORE the destruction of the Colonies. Ditto with Starbuck's rage-a-holism. Go back to the mini-series...before the attack came these characters ALREADY had these soap opera foibles, so it's not like the war turned them to drink and such. Important distinction there. These qualities were built into the characters BEFORE the crisis that precipiated fleeing the Colonies.

    Also, The producers could have made the same show that's on the air now, and called it anything else besides Battlestar Galactica, without alienating tons of fans. Instead, - and with hubris, I feel - they appropriated the name and then just did their own thing without regard for the series' history.

    Now, don't ge me wrong: the new show is good in many ways. I enjoy the writing, the performances, the 24-like feeling of tension, but - on the other hand - I feel this incarnation of Galactica is far inferior regarding production values. Why do aliens from another galaxy who don't even know if Earth exists speak in Hollywood colloquialisms (like "I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed")? Why do they were 20th century business suits, ties and reading glasses?

    For me, there's just no sense of verismilitude here; no sense that this show occurs anywhere other than now in post-9/11 America, and that makes all the potentially valuable social commentary... obvious; too on the nose.

    That's my opinion, but I do enjoy reading yours too. Stick to your guns! Like what you like and passionately defend it, and I'll do the same!

    And thank you for writing. I always enjoy your comments on the blog, and hope you'll continue to leave 'em.