Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Miracle of Bittorrent

Thanks to bittorrent, I've managed to catch up with all of Battlestar Galactica in a matter of days.

I'm definitely going to be buying the series on DVD - or letting family buy it for me with my upcoming birthday. But I'll just say this for now - it's a really astonishing show, just for what they manage to get on the air. Surprisingly complex plots and above-par acting, combined with excellent CGI effects.

The moment that really stood out for me came in a recent episode, but I'll try to avoid spoilers so I'll just say I was impressed at how the show managed to get across the whole range of emotions that are associated with direct, nasty violence - not just fear and panic, but a real ugliness behind it. I really don't remember getting the full spectrum from television before.

I'll try not to bore the rest of you too much. If you'd like to read some really good posts about BSG, read these at Lawyers, Guns and Money: 1, 2, 3, 4. (with a nod to Angelica at Battlepanda for the tip.) They're relatively spoiler-free (though not completely) and an interesting exploration of some of the issues the series raises. But I'd just like to add my voice to this sentiment:
On the question of whether television has improved over the past ten years or so, you can put me squarely in the camp of Steven Johnson. Dana Stevens is right that comparing The Sopranos and Starsky and Hutch is inappropriate, but this doesn't get us very far. There simply is no analogue for The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Buffy, or a handful of other late 1990s and early 2000s television programs in the 1960s and the 1970s. ... Nor are the reasons for this improvement very hard to find. HBO alone has made a huge difference in allowing television writers and producers to explore new areas and more complex story lines.... Moreover, I’m convinced that the improvement isn't just in the upper echelon of shows. Say what you want about ER, but it is much better acted, written, and produced than you would expect from a similar program twenty-five years ago. This isn't to say that older television doesn’t have something to offer, but I do think that we’re still in the midst of a golden age of TV.
We're in a moment where it looks like TV is an ascendant medium, while film is fighting to stay relevant. We've been here before, though - the 1960s were devastating to the film industry. Film found a way to revive itself and thrive. It will again. By the 1980s, the ascent of cable television was undermining all the previous structures in television, and people were worried how TV would survive. We see that TV, like film before it, found a way to survive too. Media are in constant competition, and we use them for different experiences. The process of redefinition and rebuilding that each medium goes through is fascinating to watch and learn about.

I'm looking forward to it.

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