Thursday, April 23, 2015

Shelving "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica"

I had today's post all planned out.  I was going to write an aspirational list of some of the modern television classics I hadn't watched yet and was hoping to, like "The West Wing" and ""Curb Your Enthusiasm."  As I was putting together the list of titles, I came to "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica," two obvious contenders that I have to admit that I've been quietly avoiding for years.  And I felt strongly enough about it that I though I'd put in a quick paragraph explaining why.  Of course, that paragraph turned into an entire post on the subject.
"Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" are probably the two most influential, popular, and highly lauded genre series of the 2000s.  When they were still on the air, it was nice to often run across regular, non-geeky folks that were fans.  I loved that they got awards attention and their finales were big media events.  But frankly, I didn't keep up with either of the shows ten years ago and have no particular interest in doing so now.  I actually have seen a handful of "Lost" episodes and one or two of "Battlestar Galactica."  Neither really appealed to me, and whatever curiosity I had about them lessened after they were over.  
Initially it was just a matter of bad first impressions.  "Lost" looked way too much like "Survivor" for my tastes and having a stereotypically exoticized, non-English speaking Korean couple as supporting characters was a big mark against it.  I'm Asian-American and perhaps a little oversensitive about such things.  Then all the theories about what the island was, and rumors of the creators supposedly having this grand master plan started circulating.  Okay, so "Lost" was a mystery show.  That was fine, but I've learned to be wary of mystery and conspiracy shows because they so rarely add up to anything satisfying.  See the "mythology" arcs on "The X-files," for instance.  And after "Lost" ended a few years, later, the consensus seems to be that I was right to be wary.  Loads of little mysteries were left unexplained, the writers never accounted for many dropped subplots and characters, and the ending was a famous bust.  At least with "X-files" the monsters-of-the-week were a lot of fun.  "Lost" apparently offered some good character drama and adventure thrills here and there, but that wasn't enough to pique my interest.
My experience with the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot was much the same story.  "Dark and gritty" were never descriptors I thought of as positive, and I'd seen too many similar reboots fall flat.  I avoid shows with a heavy military component like "Stargate SG-1," and its various spinoffs, which the Syfy Channel heavily promoted at the time.  "Battlestar" gave me much of the same vibe, though considerably grimmer.  It didn't help that the marketing put an awful lot of emphasis on sexy actresses and guessing who the evil Cylon infiltrators among the good guys were.  "Battlestar" felt more like "Alien" or "Terminator" than "Star Trek," franchises I respect but only enjoy in small doses.  The aggressively action-oriented Heinlein stuff was never my favorite kind of sci-fi.  Still, I'm more receptive to picking up "Battlestar Galactica" than "Lost" at some point, since its fans seem to be happier with it overall.
You can trace a lot of trends in current genre television back to "Lost and "Battlestar": the heavy serialization, mainstream-friendly character dynamics, and the push for more action.  I know we wouldn't have some of my favorites like "Game of Thrones" and "Person of Interest" without them.  Still, I also blame them for the blander, gloomier direction these shows have taken over the last decade too.  We're running a terrible deficit of spaceship shows while the zombies are still running amok.  What I find odd though is that the fandoms for "Lost" and "Battlestar" haven't stuck around the way that the fans of other genre shows have.  Oh sure, there are a few Cylon cosplayers on the convention circuit, and occasional references to Hurley and Mr. Eko in pop culture, but neither series seems to have inspired the kind of geeky devotion that "Doctor Who" or "Firefly" or the Marvel films have.  I was pretty active in media fandom back when both shows were at their height, and neither had a major presence even then.
Honestly, I think the biggest reason why I never got into either "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" was because they didn't seem like shows that were much fun to be a fan of.  And after they both left a spotlight, I forgot about them very quickly. 

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