Bottomwriting, March 27, 2008

As we skate through the final week of March, many are looking forward to the strike-abbreviated TV season to kick back in to gear to give us all tastes of our favourite shows so cruelly halted when the writers wanted to get paid their dues. Now that they have, we should start seeing strange April premieres coming soon. The box sets that come out later in the year, collecting the recent season of *House* or *Grey’s Anatomy* will be truncated, which hopefully will reflect in a discounted price at the video rental or retail outlet. There’s your silver lining.

Me, I’ve busied myself with one of the CBC shows that came on in January, the Douglas Coupland-penned *jPod* which was broadcast on Monday, then moved to Friday, and finally cancelled two weeks ago. The wittiest comedy the Ceeb has produced since, geez, *Twitch City* maybe, and now it’s gone. Now we’ll never get to see Kaitlin and Ethan kiss or Cowboy deal with the memory of his parent’s murder/suicide or Alan Thicke’s Jim Jarlewski dance again with his buddy Kam Fong. The CBC has a rotten habit of cancelling its best shows. On the radio, too, the National Playlist, the best thing Jian Gomeshi has ever done on the Mothercorp, went away after too short a life.

Anyway, in the absence of fresh TV, I took it upon myself to try and catch up with *Battlestar Galactica*. I just finished season two a few weeks back. I’m a longtime scifi geek, and a guy with---some would say---juvenile interests, so as an audience member, I am right in the Viper gunsights for this show. And, yeah, I do find it pretty compulsive. The characters are well defined, the suspense well sustained and the effects are feature film-worthy. But reports of the show as some kind of *West Wing* in space are wildly over-estimated. First off, some of the acting is awful, which I’m sad to report especially since much of the cast is Canadian (the show is shot in Vancouver studios, and when the crew of the Galactica land on a new planet it always seems to look like British Columbia) and there are some pretty wild leaps of logic in the plotting that make me want to yell at the TV. I react to the show the way I do at Heroes---that stretch this past autumn with Hiro stuck in feudal Japan was so unbearably lame and every time they’d go there I’d reach for the frikkin’ remote. And yet I’d tune in every week, hoping for some superhero action, some surprise that I didn’t see coming. *Battlestar Galactica* is the same.

What’s especially annoying for me, as someone who has waited patiently for season three of the show to be released on DVD (it came out last week) is that now the Space Channel is starting to preview season four for weekly broadcast, and they’re doing it by showing a clip of four prominent characters who are all revealed to be Cylons. Well, thanks so much for that spoiler, you fuckers. I can’t go and scrub my brain and forget which of those human space refugees are, in fact, alien toasters. (Actually, now that I’ve seen the group of them, I’m not surprised at all.) But it means that whenever Season Three comes available at Video Difference---it’s been out every time I’ve gone by in the past week---I’m going to know the big end-of-season-cliffhanger in advance. Which, put plainly, sucks. As TV culture is more and more driven by box set rentals, these marketing people need to curb their urge to sell plot spoilers to get people to see the show.

So, with no Starbuck to keep me warm, I’ve gone back to the box set section in an effort to see other shows I’ve missed. Now deep into Season Two of *Deadwood,* I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that it is some of the best American TV that’s ever been made. It can join Season Three of *Buffy The Vampire Slayer,* Sorkin’s *West Wing, Six Feet Under,* and *The Sopranos* as some of the most complex and unrelentingly fascinating drama I’ve ever had the pleasure to take in. As an ensemble, there isn’t a single character that I’m not happy to revisit every evening. There’s a wonderful sense of authenticity in the sets and costumes, but what is really stunning is the wit and style in the dialogue. I’m certain gold prospectors in late 1800s South Dakota weren’t as eloquent nor as profane, but what creator David Milch has done is sculpt a dialect, a formal way of speaking, that your ears take awhile to grow accustomed to, but when they do, it makes you wish people spoke this way in real life: I’d be fine with both the formality and the swears. There are a couple of words I never misunderstand: “cocksucker” and “cunt,” the two descriptive terms being so prominently and frequently employed in *Deadwood*, with hardly an interval of an episode between them.

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