2005-10-05 : Various Media Comments

I've started This Kind of War by T. R. Fehrenbach. I've only read the first couple-and-a-half chapters, but I've already learned some pretty useful advice: if you get the chance, don't be occupied by Imperial Japan.

I bought Battlestar Galactica. It's fun. I like its treatment of the original show. It's like, none of the events of the original show happened, 40 years ago. It doesn't make any gamer-type setting-fetishist sense, but it acknowleges my affection for the original show without being bound by it.

The pilot (at least, maybe the whole series, I dunno yet) uses danger to children manipulatively. I don't really care about that, it just makes me roll my eyes, but boy can Meg not stand it. That's why I'm not recommending that she watch with me.

I'm watching Lost, season 1. It's good. I'm watching it a little bit with my eyes narrowed, though. If you know me, you know that I don't demand that the writers already have it all figured out. But I do demand that the writers be willing and able to resolve things in good time. The X-Files is a great example of a show that didn't live up - whether Lost will, we'll see.

Oh and Serenity was really good.

If anybody writes spoilers in the comments, say which show you're spoiling and please enclose your spoilers in <font color="#ffffff">...</font>. Thanks!

1. On 2005-10-05, Jonas Karlsson said:

I'm half-way through season one of Battlestar Galactica, watching three episodes a day or so, and I like it. A friend recommended it by saying "interesting characters, tough decisions and an exciting story," so of course I had to check it out. I haven't seen the original series, so I can't compare them.

I won't spoil any specific things in this post, but since I'll talk about the series I'll spoil what it's generally about, just so people know.

Even though I like it I'm totally watching it with my PTA goggles on, almost a little distant. It's really hard to not get "character issue" or "setup for a tough decision in the next scene" in my head as I watch it. I think that's a good thing though, both for PTA and BG.

I like the focus on hard decisions. It has kind of a Star Trek or DitV feel to it, the feeling that they sometimes have to go beyond what they've learned and beyond the rules of a normal society. Still they struggle with keeping a semblance of the society they left behind, and some of that is interesting stuff.

Some of the things, though, feel very heavy-handed and obvious. Using children to get the viewer to feel more for what's going on is rather cheap, and there's a lot of stuff going on that makes you draw too obvious parallels to where society might be heading today, complete with moral speeches. When I watch those scenes I can't help but think "Hey, I could've set that up better in an RPG session!"


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JonasK go "By the way, Vincent"*
XP go "Hard Choices"*

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2. On 2005-10-05, Ninja Monkey J said:

The "danger to children" thing gets deliberately pointed in one other episode. It's powerful because the endangerment is on the side of the good guys.

Most of the time, that's not where things are happening. It's just one arrow in a substantial quiver.


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MB go "Kids as gimicks=bad"*
NinJ go "OK, you asked for it. Spoilers follow."*

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3. On 2005-10-05, Per said:

I saw Serenity without knowing Firefly and was hugely entertained. Then I borrowed the Firefly DVDs, and , wow, what a kick. That my kind of (light-hearted without being shallow) show.

Lost, nah. My daughter loves it (she's 16), but I only dug one of the early episodes, can't say which. Everything was so...laid out, constructed, that I just got bored guessing the secrets of the different characters - and guessing right. I want to be surprised!

Of course I am watching Lost every Wednesday. It's not THAT bad.

Per (waiting for B Galactica DVDs)


4. On 2005-10-05, John Laviolette said:

I don't know if you would consider this a spoiler for BSG or not, but the show doesn't so much discount the events of the original series so much as it retells them, sometimes drastically rewriting them. it's sort of like re-telling "Romeo and Juliet" or "Cinderella" or any other story deeply embedded in our cultural heritage.

I like that approach. I would like to see more remakes of older shows that are personal retellings, infused with someone else's personal point of view. just as long as that point of view isn't "the same as the original, but with hip-hop" (or skateboards, or something else that's mere color.) you can't just strip and repaint and expect people to think it's good.


5. On 2005-10-05, Blankshield said:

The danger to kids thing goes away.  The next bits are a little spoiler-ish, so I'll font them out.

The little baby at the beginning of the pilot, I flip-flop on.  There's some compelling arguements that the scene isn't about "evil cylon babykillers, oooh, scary" but is actually showing #6 displaying a twisted kind of compassion by killing the baby quickly, in it's sleep instead of letting it die from the nukes.  The little girl on the greenhouse ship was plain 'ol in-your-face TV manipulation and made me roll my eyes.  They generally are pretty good about not using/abusing that kind of blatent pathos, though.  I was happy to see the ship used; nice nod to Silent Running.


BSG is just about my favorite show right now, although I'll confess that part of that is fanboyish squeeling glee.  I am the guy who built (most of) a 6-foot long model of the original Galactica out of Lego, after all. (beyond those pictures it got a skin, but never quite finished before it had to give way to other projects.)



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BS-jam go "Forgot, this is spoilerific for the BSG pilot only."

6. On 2005-10-05, ScottM said:

I still haven't watched the pilot, but I did watch every other episode to date.  I haven't noticed a "threaten children" thing, so I guess they got it largely out of their system in the pilot.

I'm not much of a TV watcher, but Battlestar has me hooked. Sure they missstep, but rarely repeatedly.  I never saw Firefly, but I'm told I'll be seeing Serenity—so thanks Per for reassuring me that it's pretty good even without the background.


7. On 2005-10-05, Ben Lehman said:

if you get the chance, don't be occupied by Imperial Japan.

Having listened to the stories of the occupation from old Korean men in the parks of Seoul, and from my own aunt who lived in the Phillipines during WW2, I heartily second this.

Poor Koreans.  They're like the Jews of Asia.



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SJF go "Irony..."*

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8. On 2005-10-05, xenopulse said:

BSG is great. As people said, lots of tough choice moments. During a commercial break of the recent "finale" (it's really just a break in the second season), I turned to Lisa and said, "Ahh, hard moral choices, the hallmark of good character drama." Of course, your article on thematic setup helped me see that more clearly.

Lost is an absolute PtA show. I like it a lot, actually. We're almost done with season 1 now. The show is totally structured in the "spotlight episode" way, with flashbacks and all. I tend to guess the twists as well, but it's still entertaining. And yeah, I hope they can tie everything together. It seems to me that it will require a lot of supernatural elements to actually be present.


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AN go "Not tied together so well..."*
Per go "Lost is definitely PtA"

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9. On 2005-10-05, La Ludisto / Josh BishopRoby said:

While I have never actually read or played PTA (I know, I'm a bad person), from what I've heard of the game, it seems like Battlestar Galactica is just the television-serialized version of somebody's PTA game.  Much like the Stargate shows that directly precede BSG are running straight out of d20 supplements.

I actually haven't seen the BSG pilot, but I'm a raving fanboy of the two seasons so far, and I don't recall any children at all, so I'll concur with Scott and Blankshield that that element goes away.  Meg, watch the rest of the show!


10. On 2005-10-05, Matt Wilson said:

BSG really finds its footing a couple eps into the actual season, IIRC. The miniseries I thought was okay, but it gets GOOD (like seriously all-caps good) later on. And man, it just keeps getting better as it goes. I'd think, hey, this is getting good, and then the next ep I'd like even more. All the issues that are only little sprouts in the miniseries start to blossom like mad, and baby they just run with them.


11. On 2005-10-06, TonyPace said:

There was crying on the streets of Korea and Taiwan on V-J Day. Their motherland had been defeated.

And much of what happened in places like Nanjing was abetted by ... those erstwhile trooops from the co-prosperity sphere. And indeed today, they are prosperous. Is is blood money?

Nanjing 1937 is a worthy movie to see to get a feeling for the complexity of all this.


12. On 2005-10-06, Michael Goins said:

Mm, mm, Serenity. Saw it twice; Friday a little after noon, and again on Saturday eve with my sibling.

The first showing left me feeling pretty freakin' meh on the whole thing. Part of this, I think, was the dead-quiet theatre the whole way through. Was maybe half-full even, and there were some easily spottable stereotypical geeks around, but.. just.. quiet.

Second viewing was much better.. theatre had more people in, jokes were laughed at, gasps in the appropriate places, et cetera. Sibling hasn't seen any Firefly but thought the movie was pretty darn cool.

Also, after watching it first time, I sort of let it sit and brine for awhile. Figured out that it's really, really good for Firefly fans if you go in and see it as a season finale.  It's pretty cruddy if we're expecting some kind of Star Trek-like movie treatment. (not a comment on the merits of ST movies inasmuch as how they're setup vs the television episodes.. well, for the even-numbered, anyway). But apparently it works cold if you haven't seen Firefly, so that's good. Maybe it'll (eventually?) do well enough to get us another.


Wash dying was just.. freakin' retarded. I don't care what kind of "good storytelling drama" crap is floated, it sucks rocks. >_< Wash is me fave, dammit.


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MVG go "Oh yeah, BSG:"*
SLB go "Wash (spoiler)"*

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13. On 2005-10-06, timfire said:

"Lost is an absolute PtA show. I like it a lot, actually. We're almost done with season 1 now. The show is totally structured in the "spotlight episode" way, with flashbacks and all."

While Lost very obviously has a "spotlight espisode" -mechanism, I've done a little thinking and actually think that Lost would make an excellent alternative "setting" for The Mountain Witch. Both Lost and tMW are really about the interpersonal conflict, with the supernatural elements really just being McGuffins. The rules might need to be tweaked slightly, but I think tMW and Lost would pair together really well. Endgame might be a little tricky, though...


14. On 2005-10-06, GamerChick said:

I think it's a movie that is better on the second viewing.  I saw one of the rough-cut previews and was deeply disappointed in some parts—though I liked others a great deal.

The second (and subsequent) viewing(s)—I loved it.  I'm a rabid fan, true, but am up to six viewings with more planned this weekend.  I feel like I take in more each time I see it, and there are enough background details to keep it fresh each time.

A Firefly-resistant friend who saw it with me has now *asked* for the DVDs (which she'd returned earlier with only a partial viewing of the pilot).  "If the movie is this good, I have to see the series!"


15. On 2005-10-06, Vincent said:

My friends who I've hooked on Firefly - including Meg come to think of it - I've had to tell them to give the pilot at least half an hour. I know I turned it off after ten minutes the first time I watched it. "You'll be like, 'eh,'" I say, "and then this thing happens and you'll be like 'I love this show forever! LOVE FOREVER!'"

It's the thing where

Mal tells Simon that Kaylee's died

, of course.


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MVG go "Bad pilot? Wha?"*
MDS go "I agree Vinny"*

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16. On 2005-10-06, Emily said:

V: I just watched that part with my housemates (Serena & Wheeler) and they were both there, looking at me going: "Is it true?" And I just looked back at them like, "What do you think? Would they do that to us?"  Ya can't take that experience away from somebody.  Would be cruel.


17. On 2005-10-07, Majcher said:

Serenity:  I was fortunate enough to see a preview on a giant inflatable screen out in the middle of nowhere, Texas, in the ruins of the western town sets they used for the Alamo movie.  In attendance were the fine ladies who play Kaylee and River, and several hundred fanatical Browncoats.  It was awesome.  It was a warm, clear night, so during the space scenes, it was just Serenity cruising along on a starfield, surrounded by a wide open sky full of real stars.  The sound of grown men weeping in the audience was impossible to ignore.

Lost:  More like a game of PSA than you'd imagine.  A friend of mine who just moved to town from teevee-land knows some of the writers and producers of the show.  They were originally under the impression that the show was only going to be aired for three episodes and then get yanked, so they just made up a whole bunch of craziness and threw it out there.  They were pretty surprised when they found out that they'd actually have to keep writing, and keep the nonsense that they started out with going.  (I've only seen the first two or three episodes, and, meh.  Didn't grab me.)

Battlestar Galactica:  Unquestionably the best thing on television today, hands down.


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18. On 2005-10-11, Drew_rrr said:

What with all the discussion of how Dogs is THE system to do Firefly: The RPG I thought this bit was rather cool:

When Mal is about to jump down to the back-up transmitter and the Operative appears behind him.  They exchange some words and the Operative basically asks "Are you willing to die for this cause?" and of course Mal says "I am.." or whatever.  And I thought, Jeez that's like the whole premise of DitV or something!  Every damn conflict you enter you have to answer that question.  It was awesome.


19. On 2005-10-11, Drew_rrr said:

Sorry I should have said the above comment refers to Serenity...!


20. On 2005-10-11, Michael S. Miller said:

About the BSG miniseries little girl scene, you do realize that that's an allusion to the 1964 Johnson campaign ad, right? Throughout the miniseries are repeated allusions/homages/whatever to classic nuclear apocalypse films. In the series, they move on to other events in recent American history. The BSG creators know their media and use that knowledge to remind us again and again that this is a show about US right now.


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JH go "Yes yes yes"

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21. On 2005-10-12, Kirk said:

Serenity was fucking awesome. I come from a background of classic sci-fi, so, y'know, original Star Treck, Babylon 5 and all that. Firefly, to me, is an entirely new way of approaching science fiction. Ok, not entirely new but its still pretty cool. My only complaint would have to be that it seemed to take a bit too long to get into the story arc, getting a bit too distracted by their little escapades early on, rather than using them to break things up once and a while. Oh yeah, and then the series got cancelled.


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VB go "Babylon 5...?"*
CG go "In Internet time."
KM go "Problem?"*

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22. On 2005-10-14, Chris said:

So I saw Serenity without having seen Firefly...  The movie was, ok, exciting and such, but only ok to me.  I really got the same vibe I got from Transformers the Movie, as a movie that holds buckets of meaning if you've been following the series, but just is kinda "ok", if you haven't.  It also had the same "Go-go-go!" action vibe to it, just with more character development going on.

So I finally broke down and got the Firefly DVD set- and still not sold on the show yet.  Not that it's a bad show, it just hasn't hooked me yet.  Though, I'm only one disc in.  I'll update after I get deeper into it.


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Chris go "Getting better now"*

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23. On 2005-10-24, sammy baby said:

I quite liked Serenity. So does, apparently, everyone whose opinion matters, even people I dislike whose opinion matters. (Witness, Orson Scott Card writing that Serenity is the best science fiction movie ever made, and that he doesn't want there to be an Ender's Game film unless it can be made to be as good as Serenity.)

I also quite like the new BSG. As I put it to someone else, I'm old enough to remember the old BSG, and young enough to remember it fondly. However, I need to warn you: if the miniseries used danger to children manipulatively, the second season uses misogyny and violence towards women manipulatively. Doubly so in the last couple of episodes. The children thing didn't bother me so much, but I found the Season 2 closer to be extremely uncomfortable - only instead of feeling challenged by the discomfort, I was just pissed.


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