Sunday, March 22, 2009

Top TV Pilots of All-Time, #9

The countdown to #1 resumes with a pilot that is somewhat of a cheat---a cheat in that it was really a 3-hr miniseries, albeit one clearly created as the de facto pilot for the show. I speak, of course, of the recently concluded Battlestar Galactica---the Sci-Fi network remake of the 1978 cult classic.

#9 Battlestar Galactica (2003)

While the show itself, which ran for four seasons and aired its final episode this Friday, was a mixed bag that ranged from thrilling to dull, from insightful to pretentious, the pilot miniseries did something that was largely unthinkable. It managed to placate fans of the original series not by pandering to their message-board insistence that the show perfectly mimic the one they'd fallen in love with, but rather by re-imagining the show in such a way that made the original seem juvenile and simplistic.

One such change was making the character of Starbuck, a cocky fighter pilot previously played by Dirk Benedict (a man), into a brash, cocky and sexy woman. That major change proved to be a stroke of controversial genius which resulted in the creation of one of television's most memorable characters. But beyond that and other casting changes, the pilot managed to combine all the elements that make for great television---complex characters, exciting visuals, multiple storylines, and dark overtones which posed complicated questions about the very essence of humanity...questions that made the viewer anxious to dive into the show for answers. With humanity's population whittled down to about 50,000, the pilot succeeded in making the viewer feel as though they were one of the "rag-tag" survivors---heavily invested.

For all it's high-tech shenanigans, Battlestar Galactica was mostly about the low-tech institutions of our day-to-day lives---survival, duty, and the search for meaning in a world gone mad. I've forced more than a few people to watch the miniseries-pilot, and not one person has disagreed yet. Here's two videos---the first is the opening scene for the entire show which is pitch-perfect. The second is a general promo for the pilot.


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