I Swear, There Are No Cute Robot Dogs

Just a friendly Vodkasphere public service announcement here.

I mentioned a day or two ago that the new “Battlestar Galactica” series was my favorite TV show of 2004. That might have sounded a little odd for many reasons, but especially so considering the show doesn’t premiere in the US until tonight (January 14). But thanks to an oddball contractural agreement, it’s been playing in the UK since last fall, and the episodes aren’t terribly hard to find online (no, I’m not going to give you directions, so don’t ask).

Frankly, I didn’t expect to like this show at all. I’d watched the 1978 original avidly, and loved it–but what the hell, I was in the fourth grade back then. As one of Pixar’s execs noted recently, kids have no taste, and will watch pretty much anything (no link and no name, sorry; I think I read it in an airline magazine). The Sci-Fi Channel, which is responsible for the “BG” remake, runs the original shows all the time, and at 36, I can barely stand to watch them. Take away the neat-looking spaceships, and it’s just standard-issue 70’s television. In other words, crap (although I still think Lorne Greene was great as Adama–sue me).

Listen, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one, because I was thinking the same thing you were a few months ago: “‘Battlestar Galactica?’ C’mon, that’s a punch line. It’s the definition of suckage. What, are you going to tell me to watch ‘Buck Rodgers’ next?” Full disclosure: I have neither a Tron costume nor (ahem) a Lego Star Destroyer in my house. I’m not saying any of this out of loyalty to nerd-dom.

When the “miniseries” version of the new “BG” came out in late 2003, I tuned in mostly out of sick curiosity, i.e., “Let’s see how much this sucks.” I was pleasantly surprised to get adequate entertainment instead. It wasn’t great. At four hours minus many, many, many commercials, the thing dragged a lot. Some of the acting was good (Edward James Olmos as Adama, Mary McDonnell as a Secretary of Education suddenly elevated to the presidency), and some not so good (the new Apollo was almost as wooden as the original). But it wasn’t bad.

So I, ah, arranged to view the first couple of episodes when they showed up online in the fall… and I was astonished by how good they were. At forty-odd minutes a show, they had a speed and vitality that was missing from the miniseries, and the writing was so much better than the original show, there wasn’t any point in quibbling about Starbuck being a girl and Colonel Tigh becoming a bald white dude (okay, I’m still a little torqued about that one, but let it pass).

Anyway, I’ve gone on way too long here, but the bottom line is: Check it out. The premiere two episodes run back-to-back tonight on Sci-Fi, and they’re terrific, especially the first one, titled simply “33.”

I’ll guarantee you this much: it’s a hell of a lot better–and more grown-up–than any ‘reality’ crap you’ll find on the tube tonight…

UPDATE: As a reader points out, I completely goofed up the Pixar thing above; his name is Craig Good, and the interview was on NRO. I mixed it up with a Brad Bird interview I read on an airplane.

Also, Ain’t It Cool News collects a whole bunch of positive mainstream press reviews of the show here. Pretty strong endorsements, especially considering every non-geek critic over 30 had to have been pre-wired to hate this one.