Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A sci-fi interlude throughout the Area

TNC prefers Firefly to Battlestar Galactica.

I think this is probably about right. I don't really have anything left to say about BSG, which had a generally brilliant two seasons before it started to believe the hype and went off on its own, uninteresting tangents. I'll easily stand up for the Pegasus episodes, which were the real climax of the show, and which acted as the fulfillment of the show's major ideas and themes and which convincingly drew out the logical conclusion of Cheneyism, and the show should have wrapped up the search for Earth after that and finished a tight, two-season run. Firefly never really got the time to get bloated and self-indulgent, and who knows how the show would have turned out had it gotten more than the one abbreviated season it got. It's historically regrettable that it didn't get more time, of course. I tend to think that the stuff in Serenity would have made for a better season of Firefly than the did as a movie.

But I'm not in agreement with Coates that Firefly doesn't try to do anything aside from entertain. It does that, but I think there are frequent parts that go deeper than mere entertainment, to pathos and occasionally profundity. With Mal in particular, you have a very complicated character whose religious faith is frustrated by injustice prevailing, but who maintains an essential decency that frequently conflicts with the adopted cynicism he has taken up to stay alive. That's about as interesting as anything you can get on BSG, but without the relentless gloom that Ron Moore felt the need to wallow in so often, especially in the series' back half. But I do think that BSG is one of the few television shows that tried to grasp with the complexity of difficult and real issues that argued from a specific point of view. That counts for a lot, for me.

All in all, I think that the emergence of television as a legitimate vehicle for art brings about the difficult question of how to evaluate it. Does Firefly's short run count against it? Is there a degree of difficulty handicap for shows that tackle difficult subject matter? How can one even evaluate a show like BSG, whose bifurcated run divided neatly in the middle between virtuosic television and weak religio-mythological metaphor? After all, most shows wear out their welcome because they are forced to keep going until the ratings peter out. It is all subjective, of course, but this is uncharted critical territory when compared to, say, evaluating a film. In the end, the question really is: what makes a television show good? I'm not really sure myself. I'm sure that the next few decades will see standards begin to develop for these things, as innovation has been pretty intense with respect to television in the past few years, and most people probably haven't readjusted their criteria for TV goodness just yet.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.