Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 3/9/09

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Admiral Adama faced an ugly truth: Both of his ladies were dying — President Laura Roslin and the Galactica herself. The Cylon bio-resin was not bonding with the aging battlestar’s alloys, and the ship was barely holding together. (She was projected to have maybe five FTL jumps left in her.) Lee explained to the fleet captains that the plan was to transfer the admiral’s flag to the rebel Cylon base star — the only means left to defend the fleet — but the captains were more interested in picking apart the corpse of the great lady (Galactica, not Roslin). Meanwhile, Ellen suggested that Boomer would take the kidnapped Hera to “the Colony,” where the Cylons went after the armistice. Ellen said the Five were trying to end the cycle of war between man and machine (all this has happened before, and will happen again), and Hera represents another chance at sexual reproduction (all this has happened before, and will happen again). Kara urged a rescue mission, but Bill shouted that he was finished with “destiny,” “prophecies,” “god” and “gods” because none of it had helped; every appeal to higher powers had led to this point: nowhere. And talk about a breakdown in discipline: Bill and Laura toked up right there in sick bay? Not far away in sick bay, an Eight lay dying, and before she passed she told her “father,” Saul, that there was “too much confusion” — a line from “All Along the Watchtower,” the song that carries so much significance for the skinjobs. (Will it turn out that Bob Dylan was a humanoid Cylon?)

While on the hijacked Raptor, Boomer was cruel to little Hera, who revealed that she was capable of Cylon projection. Meanwhile the parents she left behind, Helo and Athena, were at odds as she struggled to deal with the loss of her child and Karl accidentally having sex with her twin, Boomer. That “dream” of the Opera House she had with Roslin and Caprica sure smacked of projection, so could Athena use it to contact Hera? Kara tried to connect with Anders, who was placed in a Hybrid tank and began speaking/behaving like a Hybrid. He began babbling, including claiming, “All this has happened before and will happen again,” and, “You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace.” But Baltar thought she was more than a “mere” harbinger of death — she was Death (or at least dead). He declared to all and sundry that the blood on her dog tags was from “necrotic flesh,” and branded her “living proof” of life after death. He suggested she has “crossed over.” But that still doesn’t explain what she is — a ghost? A demon? Bill crossed over the line (again) when he flipped out with the paint, but instead of deciding to make as fortune as the Colonial Jackson Pollack, he decided to abandon ship and strip Galactica for parts. I guess March 20 really will be the end of the line…

As the second season of BREAKING BAD got under way, science teacher Walter White calculated that he needed to amass $737,000 dollars in order to leave his family a sufficient nest egg when he dies of inoperable lung cancer in a couple of months. That means he and partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) need to cook enough crystal meth for 11 more drug deals with the psychotically unstable Tuco (Raymond Cruz). But can they, when Tuco seems to be killing his own associates and Walt’s brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) the DEA agent is zeroing in on the mysterious new drug lord in town? The new season amplifies the paranoia that began to take hold in the second half of the freshman season. With Walt and Jesse spooked by every dark van on every corner, they resolve to kill Tuco before he can kill them first. But leave it to Walt to…er, cook up a plan to murder the drug lord with ricin by refining castor beans. Sure, it’s more untraceable than bullets, but yeesh, talk about a complicated plan! Still, that’s part and parcel of what makes BREAKING BAD so entertaining: seeing stuff you won’t find on law-and-order shows. Star Bryan Cranston took home last year’s Emmy for lead actor for playing Walt, it’s a damn shame more people aren’t tuning in to AMC at 10 o’clock on Sunday nights for this show. BAD is so good, you need to try it, and it needs every viewer it can get.

Contrast BREAKING BAD with another underperforming show: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I am fully aware that my dislike of FNL is mostly irrational — but I still really hate it. Part of the reason stems from my conviction that the vast majority of the show’s “fans” claim to like it because they’re supposed to like. FNL is one of what I call The Emperor’s New Shows. People fall all over themselves to proclaim their love for a show because they think it will make them look sophisticated. That must be the reason this dull-as-watching-grass-wither-and-die show boasts even the tiny audience it has. Because I cannot believe even the people who are on it would watch it on their own. And I love football, so it’s not the sports. It’s the plots that pass for “stories” I cannot get behind. This week, Tami (Connie Britton) wanted to buy a house they couldn’t afford, so we got to watch Eric (Kyle Chandler) stand stock-still in the foyer and fume that they couldn’t afford it, while she rhapsodized about the size of the backyard. Zzzzzzz. (I am leaving aside the fact that the episode was shot in early 2008, before the idea of taking out a mortgage you couldn’t afford became more anathema than joining a terrorist cell.) And, of course, the most viewer-unfriendly aspect of the show is the laughable camerawork. I used to think the camera operators were just clumsy and constantly dropping them to the ground, and the-powers-that-be decided to use the footage captured on the way down rather than pay to remount the scene. But now I realize it’s all just embarrassingly self-indulgent directors who are ignoring their responsibility to tell stories (not that I blame them, with these scripts!) in favor of flashy camera movements that distract the viewer’s eye. Instead of watching some parent complain because his son hasn’t been elected president — I mean, starting running back — I see the camera doing somersaults, as if to say “Hey! Look at me! Look at the way I’m moving the camera! Instead of focusing on the character doing the talking, I’m spinning around the actor’s left ear and then zooming in on the salt shaker in the kitchen in the background! Isn’t that, like, just so arty?”. Annoying is what it is.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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