2006.10.18 Battlerats...er...star

Written by David Green.


I’m kind of digging the new “Battlestar Galactica” craze.

That’s right—it’s a confirmed craze. Last night, I asked my friend Amanda what she thought of the series and she said she was officially tired of people talking about it. She’s a student worker in a Western Michigan University computer lab, one of the campus’ social hubs, so when she says she’s tired of people talking about something, that means it’s popular.

Because I don’t have cable or an antenna (and don’t want them), I usually have to rely on my brother Jamie for news on which TV series are good and which aren’t. Jamie is one of the few people I can trust to sniff out good cinema, or at least cinema that I think is good.

But, as of last weekend, Jamie had yet to watch an episode of the series, but acknowledged that his friends wouldn’t shut up about it. So, on Sunday afternoon, I accompanied him to a nearby Best Buy where he purchased the first season DVD.

For some background, the “Battlestar Galactica” I’m talking about isn’t the 1978 TV series starring Lorne Greene and Richard Hatch, which some readers may remember.

In 2003, the Sci-Fi Channel, in conjunction with a British station, provided backing funds for a project aimed at “re-imagining” the original series, which was cancelled after one season despite much protest from viewers and the suicide of a 15-year-old boy who had become obsessed with the show.

One would think a show cancelled after a single season was a stinker, but according to Wikipedia, the series was actually quite profitable, although ratings did decline as the show progressed. Some speculate that ABC bumped “Battlestar” to give “Mork and Mindy” a more popular time slot. If that’s the case, it was a bad move. “Mork and Mindy” ratings plummeted following the move.

Anyway, the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactica” began as a three-installment mini-series which, after much critical acclaim, was parlayed into a regular serial drama. The premier, titled “33,” has since been regarded as the show that broke commercial television.

How so? While “33” aired in the UK in October 2004, producers postponed the American debut until January because it’s a slow TV month. The delay backfired—sort of.

“Battlestar Galactica” is one of those shows that dorks obsess over. Another thing dorks obsess over is computers. If you take one part British dork, one part American dork, one part “Battlestar Galactica” and one part computer, throw them in a bowl and mix them all up, what do you get? Multimedia piracy on a huge scale.

Tens of thousands of Americans had seen the first three months of the series by the time “33” aired stateside, but contrary to what you’d think, it did nothing but good for the show’s ratings. As it turns out “33” and the ensuing episodes were so gnarly that the pirate dorks talked them up to everybody they knew, even those who aren’t techno-savvy enough to download the files on their own.

As a result, the American premier of “Battlestar Galactica” was the single highest rated show ever to air on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Which brings us back to the checkout counter at Best Buy, where Jamie had snagged the last copy of the first season DVD, and where the cashier tried to con us into a “free” eight-week subscription to Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly. Jamie said he couldn’t read. I suggested Best Buy offer free subscriptions to—well, it’s better I don’t relay such a brazen proposal.

As for the series itself, I had only time enough to watch the first three episodes, but here’s a snippet of my notes on them:

“Planet. No wait, Universal logo. Edward James Olmos. Guy with a tie on. Some girl. Why do people wear pants in the future? I like the blonde in the red. She’s a bad guy. Death to her. That cocky English bloke is getting on my nerves. I want to punch him in the neck. Jamie says an English guy would beat me up. Edward James Olmos again. He hasn’t killed anyone yet, which is kind of irritating...oh wait, okay, he just killed some dude...”

Later  on, “My first child will be called Battlestar Galactica Pickell and he will be a giant spaceship and run on chocolate milk and I will drink the chocolate milk.”

 – Oct. 18, 2006


  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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