Last Shuttle Now Departing

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was lamenting the end of Battlestar Galactica, and now I suddenly discover that the episode of Caprica I just watched is in fact the series finale. I had no idea that the show had been shot in the head, though I can say with conviction that it was a far better bow than Battlestar had.

Caprica has been a show that featured an incredibly talented crew of writers, actors and actor/directors — in particular Jorge Montesi, a fellow who’s responsible for a significant amount of very frustrating work I had to do on Andromeda and is also responsible for one of the finest quotable quotes I’ve come across, which was “I light my way by the bridges I burn!”

And if I’m going to single folks out, I have an obligation to reference Jane Espenson doing her usual brilliant stuff. So sorry that gig has come to an end, Jane. Hoping you’re part of the next incarnation in the Battlestar mythos.

Caprica had enormous promise. It started off with a literal bang and then spent lots of time and energy delving into a debate about the validity of religious beliefs. While I think this is admirable and awesome, I suspect it’s also why the show ended up being resoundly rejected by a vast majority of its potential audience. Lots of North American viewers were probably alienated by the discourse that was taking place – the idea that monotheism was aberrant probably scared a whole lot of folks away, and may equally have confused those who don’t ascribe to any theistic beliefs whatsoever.

Plenty of reviewers have complained that the episodes aired earlier in the season were “confused” or “lacked direction”, but I don’t think that’s the case. I never felt adrift in the story – what I saw were people being confronted by complex issues, each maneuvering through difficult waters in order to achieve a short-term goal that might (or might not) supply the reward they were eager to achieve. The characters had complicated responses to complicated problems. It was bloody smart writing and bloody excellent execution.

What’s more, and what saddens me the most, is that unlike Battlestar the producers and writers clearly had a vision and direction that they were pursuing. The tragically short montage at the end of the final show is far more coherent and encapsulating than the conclusion to Battlestar (even if you toss in “The Plan” DVD that attempted to wrap things up post series – not pointing fingers here, Jane, you did the best you could with the backstory you were working with). These folks knew where they were going, and there are hints at an astounding number of fabulous stories that will now only live as sketches.

This makes me sad.

I really wanted to watch these stories unfold over time, to see Eric Stoltz demonstrate his tremendous talent on a regular basis, and *feel* for these characters as they coped with their messy reality.

Sadly, the rest of the audience voted with their feet and tuned into the latest episodes of Survivor or Hell’s Kitchen or whatever. Well written, complex, challenging TV is yet again trounced by digital gruel.

The same fate is apparently on the horizon for “Stargate: Universe”, which similarly has not been able to capture a massive audience – another show that is smart, dark, and awesome, but has been abandoned by the “we want fuzzy bunnies” crowd and has remained off the radar of the “we like good shows” bunch. Dammit, people, I read endless laments about the lack of ‘good’ shows out there, and yet none of you are watching and/or supporting the handful of well written and dramatically intense programs that are being produced.

Wear the damn colors. Support the good stuff. Or else.

Otherwise, your entertainment is going to consist entirely of Dr. Phil re-runs and brand new episodes of “Survivor: Los Angeles”. You have a vote here, and that’s to decide to watch stuff that’s worth watching. If you decide that “Wet T-Shirt Extravaganza” is the height of creative entertainment then that’s what you’re gonna get. And nothing else. If you decide to spend an hour or two a week watching smart, difficult, and uncompromising storytelling then perhaps there’s hope for us yet.

But I don’t think you will.

You’ll probably spend you precious eyeball-hours on the lascivious crap that the bottom feeders are producing. You’ll decide that watching Helen throw Stacy under-the-bus is much more entertaining than the moral dilemma of deciding to kill a hated enemy vs. uncovering the information that would save thousands of virtual lives.

You’re not interested in stories. You’re obsessed with gossip.

You need to realize this, and think about it, and decide if that’s the person you really want to be. A person who respects a good story, or a person who thrives on bad things happening to others. I know where I stand in that debate.

UPDATE: And so “Stargate: Universe” has now been officially canceled. We’ll never get to find out where the writers might have taken us. We’ll never know how things might have developed in that story. And at this point, I’m not sure if it’s the fault of the viewers who didn’t tune-in, or the broadcaster who tried to be clever with their scheduling decisions. Either way I’m disappointed. Shame on all of you for not supporting an honest creative effort. Shame on all of you for participating in the death of a worthwhile endeavor. Enjoy your Dr. Phil and WWE reruns.

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