I think I’ve said before that, if you aren’t watching Battlestar Galactica, “you’re wasting your television”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/002169.html. I would like to revise that statement at this time; if you’re not watching Battlestar Galactica, you’re wasting the entire concept of visual entertainment. Buy it off iTunes. Find a torrent of it. Buy the British version on DVD, probably already out by now. Just see it. I mean, not only is it well-plotted, -written, -directed, and -shot, but now they’ve moved up to showing off — despite having telegraphed everything that was going to be in the season finale, every moment of it left you saying “oh shit!” That, folks, is skill. Don’t be a hata, watch BSG.
A few weeks ago, John Gruber and Tantek Celik wrote about ease-of-use in software programs and how the mental activity required to carry out a task on a computer is some multiple of the number of steps involved in that task. Tasks with more steps are more difficult, they assert, and more disruptive. I’m inclined to agree, which is why I use two Windows programs, Launchy and AutoHotKey to make some of my everyday activities take fewer steps and take me away from my work less.
Have you watched some of the new shows on TV this season? They’re very retro, which is an interesting response to the couple of years of confusing shows, after the pattern of Lost and Alias, that dominated schedules for a while.
The list starts with the bizarrely critically-acclaimed “The Winner”:http://fox.com/winner/, which suggests that Seth MacFarlane has reached the limit of the number of creative ideas he can have at once. Family Guy and American Dad are both amusingly old-school,but The Winner takes it too far. There are no jokes, just non sequiturs paired with a laugh track, and the plot seems to be limited to shocking — shocking — devices like “someone might be gay” and “the girl might like someone other than the guy.” The scenes and characters on this show would be too hackneyed to pass muster on CHiPs or the A-Team, to say nothing of TV these days. What’s going on here? Why is this totally unwatchable show on TV?
A better example of corny kitsch is “‘Til Death Do Us Part”:http://www.courttv.com/onair/shows/til_death_do_us_part/index.html, a wonderfully retro show by my former neighbor, John Waters. This show’s recreations of spousal murders are plotted straight out of the ’50s and are deeply melodramatic — just what you’d expect from Waters. They’re a great relief from, and complement to, edgy shows like Cops and Most Shocking. ‘Til Death Do Us Part definitely gets a season pass on my Tivo.
Somewhere in between is BBC America’s heavily-hyped “Robin Hood”:http://www.bbcamerica.com/content/195/index.jsp, which reminds me of nothing so much as Knight Rider. Violence is minimal — the occasional killing is always quite the shock, and never perpetrated by our heroes (Robin has foresworn killing altogether). Robin is supposed to be edgy and dangerous, like Michael Knight, but is just a guy with good hair and overblown lines — again, like Michael Knight. Maybe a better comparison is Magnum, PI — Robin’s effeminate, ineffective, loyal sidekick is exactly a Higgins. The show is moderately watchable but could probably be better.
The lesson is clear: corny is in. Old-school, retro, cheesy fare is back on TV. Fun for the whole family, huh? What do you like this season?