Sunday, January 29, 2006

Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Galactica

It's not often that I find myself liking a TV episode more than its creator does. There are plenty of times where the opposite is true (see any episode of "7th Heaven"). But I was still surprised to hear Ronald Moore trashing Friday night's "Battlestar Galactica" in his podcast after I'd enjoyed it so much.

Basically, Moore spends the entire podcast rending his garments and throwing himself on the audience's mercy because he feels the episode doesn't do a very good job of establishing the questionable ethics of the fleet's black market, or of Apollo's relationship with his past and present women, and that pretty much every scene feels like something you've seen dozens of times before in other movies and TV shows.

And, in retrospect, I think he's right about a lot of the show's faults, but in the moment, I thought it worked much better than he did because of the performances of Jamie Bamber and guest star Bill Duke. I dismissed Bamber in the miniseries and early episodes as the token prettyboy that every sci-fi show, even the good ones, gets stuck with, but I've developed a real appreciation of him over time. This whole suicidal Apollo arc could feel out of left field, but he has me buying it.

Duke, meanwhile, is one of those guys for whom someone dreamed up that cliche aboutreading the phone book and making it interesting. I like Michael Clarke Duncan and all, but how much better would "Daredevil" have been with Duke as the Kingpin?

So while I think the overexposition by the hooker at the end was awful, and that the child prostitute thing was a cheat, I loved the two central performances, as well as a deeper look at the rest of the Rag Tag Fleet. Hey, they can't all be "Pegasus."

Meanwhile, I have this one reader who hated "The Office" on first sight, yet out of some masochistic or loyal notion, gives it another shot every time I write an article about it. So when he saw my profile of the supporting actors, he tried it yet again and hated it yet again -- with one exception. Even he had to admit that this exchange between Stanley and Michael was genius:
Stanley: "This wasn't a hate crime, Michael."
Michael: "Well, I hated it!"
This is the first time since the pilot that they've even come close to borrowing a British plotline, since the original had an episode where David gets all worked up because someone e-mailed around a photo of his head on a naked woman's body, only to cool it at the end when he discovers the prankster is his buddy Finchy. At this point, though, the American characters are all so well-defined that even when the plot is similar, the episode isn't. Loved Jim's increasing levels of annoyance with Kelly, Michael's creepy stalker look at Ryan the receptionist, Dwight trying to be caller 107, Ken Howard as the perfectly-named Ed Truck, and the two poignant moments: Pam's 7 voicemails to Jim, and Michael's realization (in the scene with Ed) that he has no friends or family outside the office. I know I've been tough on Carell at times in the past, but I think both he and the writers have finally gotten a handle on the irritation/pathos ratio with Michael.

(Interestingly, when the cast and crew were at press tour, Greg Daniels said that he and the other writers got a better idea of how to write Michael sympathetically after they saw "40-Year-Old Virgin.")

And, as promised 8,000 years ago, "Lost." After the great Mr. Eko episode a few weeks ago, we've had two stinkers in a row: first, the characters' chronic inability to ask follow-up questions reaches its ridiculous apex when Jack and company fail to come away from their parley with The Others with any new information; and this week, yet another attempt to apologize for Charlie's whiny uselessness by bringing up his family issues. Unless they involve a new character (say, Libby) or the writers think of something really new to say about an old one, the show just needs to abolish all the flashbacks. They're adding nothing except another excuse for the writers to delay answering anything.

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