Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'Battlestar Galactica,' king of the remakes

Today's column was originally planned as a review of the fourth season premiere of "Battlestar Galactica," but for reasons too complicated (and boring) to get into here, it morphed into a think piece about the difficulty of pulling off a remake. You can read it here.

I don't know if I'll write a proper review of the premiere before it airs -- the short version, as discussed previously, is that I was very happy with it, even though it doesn't majorly advance the plot -- but I'll definitely have something ready to post as soon as it ends on Friday night.

22 comments:

ScreenHeroes said...

Hi, Can you add my link to your links please, I have done the same for you.
http://www.screenheroes.blogspot.com/

max_headroom said...

Great piece, Alan! Just a small comment on the title that "The Office" could probably make a strong case in sharing the crown of "King of the Remakes" with "Battlestar Galactica" (and some might say "The Office" has a harder task, since the original UK version was so universally beloved).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Max, adaptations of shows from other countries is a whole other kettle of fish, and one I dealt with -- with The Office as the peg -- in a column a year or two ago. There was actually a reference to that in an earlier draft of this story -- specifically, when noting that Rob Thomas is also adapting that New Zealand show this year -- but it got cut for space.

Mrglass said...

I don't know if I'll write a proper review of the premiere before it airs -- the short version, as discussed previously, is that I was very happy with it, even though it doesn't majorly advance the plot

Damn that's too bad the review got cut, I can't wait for the premiere. It is surprising it doesn't advance the plot much, since the season 3 finale left so much in the air, and there are only 20 episodes to wrap up the whole thing.

jcpbmg said...

nice column...

Slowly you and everyone else have convinced me that BSG is worth giving a try, in the past I've had trouble getting into space/scifi franchises (other than star wars and xfiles, of course).

However I've just added S1 to my netflix queue and am looking forward to watching it once I get through my current viewing on NewsRadio (a really funny show by the way, it's almost like a dumbed down Sports Night)

Alanna said...

I always get a giddy little thrill in my fannish heart from reading glowing reviews of my favorite show. Thanks for that! I'm looking forward to your commentary on the premiere, if/when you're able to post it.

On the other hand, now I'll have the theme song for 9 to 5 going through my head all afternoon. Gee, thanks. (Though a remake really could be interesting. Hmm.)

Anonymous said...

Alan, the first sentence in your column filled me with joy ("Battlestar Galactica" is the best drama currently on television). I hope the new season lives up to the best of BSG.

Quick question though: Is your name pronounced seep-in-wall or sep-in-wall (as in September) or some other way? I always stumble when telling friends about your column.

chris w said...

I'm hurriedly pushing my way through season three of BSG and I'm loving every minute of it. When I first heard of the remake I was dubious in that I was too young to watch the original but am pop-culture soaked enough to know it's reputation as cheesy Star Wars rip-off. I finally committed to the show after starting Netflix and reading nothing but amazing press about it.

*spoilers herein*
My only complaint about the show is the occasional stand alone episodes. For example the one I just watched was "The Woman King" about the crazy religious tribe (Sagitarrons) and their refusal of medicine and the civilian doctor who's secretly killing them. It's a strong episode but it serves no major purpose other than to have Helo work through some of his guilt over killing the Cylons that could have been used as a biological weapon.

Also, the heavy religious mythology is sometimes hard to get my head around.

chris w said...

Quick question: Are the DVD screeners and review copies that you get as a critic good enough in packaging and design that you put them on a shelf and consider them part of your collection or do you still have to buy commercial DVDs to get the full effect?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Quick question though: Is your name pronounced seep-in-wall or sep-in-wall (as in September) or some other way?

Sep-in-wall. Myself and the other 11 people in the world with the name deal with the pronunciation issue (including various people deciding there's a t between the first two letters) every day.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My only complaint about the show is the occasional stand alone episodes. For example the one I just watched was "The Woman King"

Oh, you're far from the only one to complain about the standalones. Even Ron Moore, the show's head writer, would agree that only a handful of standalones in the series' run have been remotely as good as the arc episodes. With the show now in its final season, I imagine we're going to see few to no standalones between now and the end of the series.

A funny thing about "The Woman King," as we discussed when it aired, is that it was originally intended as part of a larger story arc about that ultra-religious colony, and when the arc got removed from the entire season, the episode lost its reason for being.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It is surprising it doesn't advance the plot much, since the season 3 finale left so much in the air, and there are only 20 episodes to wrap up the whole thing.

Try to think of it like the season four "Lost" premiere, in which very little happened that we didn't already know about in the previous finale, but where we went much deeper into the emotional ramifications of all those shocking revelations.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Quick question: Are the DVD screeners and review copies that you get as a critic good enough in packaging and design that you put them on a shelf and consider them part of your collection or do you still have to buy commercial DVDs to get the full effect?

Keep in mind that, as part of my job, I'm often (but not always) on the mailing list for TV-on-DVD boxed sets.

That said, it varies from screener to screener.

Some -- especially for FX-intensive shows like this and Buffy -- are often rough cuts, with stunts and effects shots missing, and it would be frustrating to sit down five years from now and, during "Exodus," see a blank screen with the words "Galactica jumps into the atmosphere and begins dropping like a rock" in place of the real thing.

Others are complete but have annoying piracy-protection tools in place. HBO brands every screener with a unique ID number, Fox and Warner Bros.-produced screeners frequently superimpose an anti-piracy warning in the middle of scenes, etc.

And some seem perfectly suited for collection, then turn out not to be. The Friday Night Lights season one finale screener, for instance, features several scenes that didn't make the final cut, as well as a completely different version of a key scene (Coach's locker room speech) than the one that aired.

R.A. Porter said...

Your comment that the original had "a lot of actors picking up a paycheck," made me think of Richard Hatch's fantastic performance as Tom Varek. With quality this high, everyone brings his A game.

Matt said...

Well, "9 to 5" the Broadway musical is supposed to arrive next season with Allison Janney in the Tomlin role, and well regarded theatrical folks in the other roles--does that suffice for that one?

Anonymous said...

Re: the suggestion of a new show set in the Newspaper world. Wasn't there a show a few years ago that failed after a handful of episodes with that very concept?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: the suggestion of a new show set in the Newspaper world. Wasn't there a show a few years ago that failed after a handful of episodes with that very concept?

Pretty much every newspaper series, with the exception of Lou Grant, has failed, and failed quickly. You may be thinking of Deadline (with Oliver Platt), which wasn't so much a show about newspapers as it was an attempt by Dick Wolf to do another Law & Order show and pretend like he wasn't.

Bruce Reid said...

Though it featured a strong ensemble cast, I think Lou Grant is ultimately as dependent upon its lead as Kojak or Kolchak and any direct remake would only force its star, however inspired a choice or fine an actor, to suffer in comparison to Asner. We are overdue for another newsroom drama, but just make up another fictional paper and start from scratch.

A Manimal played for laughs, though? Yeah, I'd hop right on board.

Battlestar Galactica is such a perfect aligning of factors to make a successful remake--an original, as you point out, with a great premise and instant name recognition that nevertheless came off mostly silly; a creative team on the new version that latched on to that fascinating central conceit and played it straight--that I'm doubtful its example can be improved. Other remakes can have their pleasures and noteworthy aspects (Ed O'Neill gave a fantastic performance in the otherwise old-hat Dragnet, for example) but Galactica is likely to remain the gold standard for some time.

jcpbmg said...

Components of a newspaper-related show- Workplace drama, quirky but lovable characters bursting with knowledge, topical storylines...

What are the odds Sorkin is in the process of pitching this to HBO (because you know that's where people go to find quality programming).

Alan, do you think Shonda's female journalist show will ever come to fruition.

Anonymous said...

The newspaper world, I felt, was appropriately tapped in The Wire this season, though I wouldn't mind seeing more of Gus.

I think we're ripe for a quality hour-long drama about the TV news business, more than just the silliness of Back to You. I've been in that world and there are some great stories, and they're also dealing with the less-is-more stuff.

Maybe I should write a pilot.

Nicole said...

I think Sorkin would be great for a newspaper show, because then he could have his characters talk about "important issues" and it would make sense. It did not make sense for a variety show, but a newspaper, definitely, because surely the fight against the shrinking readership and the growing MTVness of the world would constantly be there.

A female journalist show by Shonda would not interest me as much, because I have stopped watching Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, and an Ally McNewspaper is the last thing the tvscape needs. How about writing about women who aren't still acting like they are in high school?

Andy said...

I thought Lois and Clark was a pretty good newspaper series...