Tag Archives: Battlestar Galactica

My Favorite Guest Actors – Issue 2

I’m pulling this feature out of the deep recesses of early Melted Brain because, well, writing reviews takes thinking and that’s hard so I don’t want to but I do want to post something so this is the best I could come up with. These men (yes, all men this time – I don’t know why, but I have a hard time remembering or getting really attached to female guest actors) are some of my very very favorite guest actors. They’ve all appeared on several of my favorite shows and, I’ll be honest, they all have that capacity to be excellently creepy. I am nothing if not consistent in my tastes. Here we go!

Arnold Vosloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He tends to be cast as “The Middle Eastern Guy” and it is in that capacity that he has appeared on several of my favorite shows. Most notably, he played the slipperiest, trickiest, most difficult-to-find-nevermind-kill main 24 villain, Habib Marwan, on Day 4. He has also appeared on Chuck and NCIS and, most recently, on Bones (and that role is being reprised soon as the touted “sniper arc” moves forward). Generally, it is versatility that impresses me in an actor. But that isn’t really what gives Arnold Vosloo his appeal. Instead, what most impresses me about his various performances is the consistent steadiness in his carriage. No matter what he is doing or saying, there is always a certain element of…class, I guess you could call it. Nervousness and wavering are just not in his vocabulary and, really, it’s that steadiness that makes him so appealing and intimidating as a villain. And there is nothing better than an effortlessly intimidating villain. Except for maybe an effortlessly intimidating might-not-actually-be-a-villain, which is also an archetype he plays.

Mark Pellegrino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This actor has a peculiar talent for portraying both innocuous benevolence and brute violence…often in the same character. The two best examples of this disparity are Jacob of Lost and Paul of Dexter. He is totally believable as a loving father/guardian type, as well as an abusive power-hungry sonofoabitch, and somehow he even carries off the transition between those two elements. It is thoroughly amazing. But, it is a little sad that he is being more and more typecast in that sort of role – other recent examples include appearances on Supernatural and Being Human. Though losing the opportunity to seem him anywhere at anytime would be sad, I would love to see Mark Pellegrino get his own show – preferably something that gives him a chance to show off a bit more versatility.

Titus Welliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving right along to Mark Pellegrino’s opposite number from Lost, The Man In Black. Fittingly enough, he is somewhat the opposite as an actor. Titus Welliver shares the talent for straddling two seemingly incompatible personality traits within the same character. For him, the combination seems to be enigmatic menace and almost sissyish emotionality. My favorite role of his is Kyle Hollis from Life, a murderer-for-hire turned evangelist. It was the brief clip of that character’s preaching hellfire and damnation that really sold me on this man’s talent. That talent is yet another point chalked up on the board for “Reasons Why I Should Start Watching The Good Wife.” Also, he gets major bonus points in my affections for having one of the coolest names ever.

Tony Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Todd is a bamf, straight up. The man is basically built to play menacing characters. He’s also got one of those excellent, excellent voices. He has played characters on both sides of the moral spectrum, but I definitely prefer his villains. He played General Juma on Day 7 of 24 and was pretty much solely responsible for what I consider to be the best (and by “best” I mean “most terrifying and exhilarating and adrenaline-rushy”) fifteen minutes of the season, possibly of the series. I’ll be totally honest and admit that he’s not my favorite because of his range, or even because of his talent. It’s pretty much just because he plays awesome villains and/or intimidating authority figures and any appearance he makes is sure to be good times.

Callum Keith Rennie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m being totally honest, I should probably start off this paragraph by being straightforward and admitting that, yes, part of the reason I enjoy Callum Keith Rennie so much is because he is attractive. But seriously, mostly I love him because he plays excellent creepers. My favorite role of his so far is probably Leoben of Battlestar Galactica because, thanks to the chance to bounce of the sheer brilliance of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, he got to dig his heels way deep in and explore that delicious moral gray area. His character from 24 (yes, 24 again), Vladimir Laitanan is a close second, but that’s probably because not only do I love charming-but-terrifying, I really love Russians. I was going to say “He’s another who I’d love to see have his own show.” But then I went to imdb and found out that he DOES – he plays the lead role, a detective with multiple personality disorder, in a Canadian show called Shattered. Guess what just jumped to the top five in my Need To Watch list.

Hindsight: Battlestar Galactica


Original Air Dates:
2003-2009* on SyFy**
Creator: Glen A. Larson
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackoff, Jamie Bamber, Michael Hogan, Tahmoh Penikett, Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, James Callis, Alessandro Juliani, Aaron Douglas, Kandyse McClure, Michael Trucco, Nicki Clyne, Paul Campbell

There are two things that I really, really love: sweeping, brilliant, epic narratives and hell-in-handbasket shoot-em-up action sequences. Battlestar Galactica provides both in spades, not to mention enough emotional strife for a Russian novel and a half. Add in the incredible production quality and you have one of the last decade’s most deserving hit series. It revitalized science fiction television – classic sci-fi, not that obscure semi-paranormal Lost-variety stuff. It was a cult hit and a big hit, bringing together some of the greatest production-side minds in television and a phenomenal cast. As an accomplishment, it is spectacular (especially since it’s a SyFy original series). As a television series, it is even more so. If you don’t like science fiction, you won’t like it. But if you are at least grudgingly willing to give it a shot, well, DO.

STRENGTHS

  • Soundtrack
    Bear McCreary‘s score for BSG is absolutely phenomenal. I don’t know all that much about music, so I can’t speak with any authority on the technical prowess (or lack thereof) that the soundtrack shows. What I can definitely speak to is how the music enhances the on-screen action and the tone of the show, and how it is also moving and fascinating all on it’s own. The score is at its boldest in the mini-series, which is my favorite part to listen to, but there is much more finesse demonstrated in the later, less obvious moments.
  • Production Quality
    The fact that this show was a SyFy show is mindblowing, because every aspect of the production went so far beyond the network’s standards when BSG broke out. The environment of the show – sets, props, costumes, special effects – is incredibly detailed and of immense quality. Cylon Centurions don’t show any of the typical flaws in SyFy digital rendering – hell, the production team won Emmys for them they were so well-done. The spacescapes, fleet shots, and battle scenes are magnificently done and, as production elements, second only to the exquisitely crafted properties.
  • Universe Creation
    BSG takes place in the paragon of parallel universes. It is not explicitly the future of the world we live in. Nor the past, nor the present. But it could potentially be any one of them. This is difficult to explain without giving anything away (and that is definitely not my interest), but let me at least instill the idea that the world of BSG is science fiction brilliance. It is different enough to satisfy sci-fi fans who like that sort of escapism, but (other than some major unnecessary weirdnesses like the octagonal paper) it is impressively subtle about it.
  • Lee/Kara Relationship
    You know how shows always have that one couple? The one that spends the entire series in the land of back-and-forth-are-they-or-aren’t-they-so-much-chemistry-but-doing-nothing-about-it-except-when-they-do? The one with the ability to make fangirl shippers both squeal and rip their hair out with equal ferocity? Well, this one is about the best-handled one of Those Couples ever. It is certainly angsty and ridiculous enough to satisfy that love of frustrating drama I like to pretend I don’t have. And it is also just satisfying enough that I never got tired of it. Can’t go into much detail without giving anything away. But seriously, it is masterful and amazing (and not just because the two characters involved are unfairly sexy).
  • Characters
    Speaking of characters, BSG has great ones. There are clear archetypes – the power-hungry creeper, the military asshole, the badgirl pariah/genius, and so on. But, hey, archetypes are fine as long as they grow into real people at some point. And oh boy do they. Any and every character on this show with enough screen time is absolutely human (even the robots!). Human in the sense that these individuals grow and change over the course of the show, have real relationships with real complications, and are always just that right combination of believability and unpredictability that can be expected from folks who aren’t scripted. Plus, they are all well-acted. All of them.

WEAKNESSES

  • Soap Opera Tendencies
    …I have a confession to make: I almost didn’t make it past Season One Part One. Why? Because all the crazy interpersonal drama started in before I actually got attached to the characters. There were a few episodes early on where it was way too prominent given the fact that these people should have been focusing a little more on the fact that, you know, the human race had just been obliterated down to fifty thousand people and there was a 90% chance that the rest of them were going to die in the next five minutes. Plus, some of the interpersonal strife over the course of the series just got absurd – I Fell In Love With My Cousin But Had An Affair With My Boss Instead level of absurd (Please note: that did not actually happen to anyone).
  • Pacing
    One inescapable challenge of the ensemble-cast epic is that forty-five minute episodes just aren’t enough time to do everything that a person might want done. The fact is, it is impossible to track multiple storylines, introduce and develop six or ten major characters, do an in-depth exploration of themes, and keep track of everything that is going on. As a result, it is easy to get lost along the way. It takes a lot of time for anything to get done. And when there are multiple episode gaps between the intermediary stages, the loss of flow is unavoidable. BSG‘s writing team did its best, absolutely, but [insert metaphor about building Rome or conquering the Great Wall here].
  • Real-World Relevancy
    As you are all undoubtedly aware by now, I do not particularly care that my television shows touch on issues that are directly applicable to real life. I watch things because of the escapism and the narrative. I’m an oddball that way. Obviously, because fiction is art and art is always a reflection of reality, some relevancy is inescapable (and even enjoyable). That said, BSG has some specific We Are Obviously Discussing “Important Issues” Under The Weak Facade Of Fiction storylines that just made my skin crawl a bit. Racism? Prison riots? Rights of religious minorities? Healthcare?! Jesus. (<- and yeah, that gets explored a lot too)
  • Good Humor
    …or, rather, the lack thereof. The whole show is just so dead serious. There are some smiles and the occasional punctuating chuckle, mostly provided by individual characters such as Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and Doc Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes). But even those points of comedy usually lean more ironic than truly light-hearted. Overall, there are precious few moments of genuine cheer to counteract the dark intensity of this series.
  • Finale
    The two-part finale of BSG isn’t a total disaster. The first half is actually pretty good. The very, very end is just painful. Obviously there is monumental difficulty in ending any show that reaches this level of epic. Obviously the pressure to conclude in a way that leaves the audience mostly happy is near-insurmountable. But seriously, BSG kinda really fucked up. The last five minutes, where everything really comes to a close and is wrapped up in philosophical conclusion, were painful for me. Painful as in I started banging my forehead on the table. Alas.

MY FAVORITE EPISODES

  • “You Can’t Go Home Again” (Season 1 Episode 5)
    This is actually the very first episode of BSG I ever saw, waaay back when the series first aired on SyFy. For that reason alone, it has fond memories. More importantly, its the first showcase of just how good Katee Sackhoff is in her role as Starbuck. It’s intense, emotional, occasionally genuinely comedic, and – my very favorite – gross.
  • “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2” (Episode 1 Season 13)
    So much happens at once at the end of Season 1, it’s hard to keep track. This an incredibly intense season finale. I got so wrapped up in what was going on moment to moment that I didn’t even realize it was the end of the episode until the credits started rolling, leaving several of the craziest cliffhangers of all time.
  • “Final Cut” (Season 2 Episode 8)
    The Big Reveal at the end of the episode probably has the most series-wide pertinence, but the part I enjoyed most was the interview-style character development of Gaeta, Dee, and other characters who hadn’t really been expanded on yet. Also, this episode includes a spectacular moment for anyone delighted by the male physique.
  • “Razor”
    As a supplemental side-movie, “Razor” is not necessary to the overall plot – it is excellent, though. It actually has some of the most horrific, intense, serious scenes out of the whole series. Sometimes to the point where it is a little hard to watch. But it is worth watching, if you can stomach it, because it explores much deeper into darkness than the regular episodes could and features some fantastic performances by guest stars Michelle Forbes and Stephanie Jacobsen.
  • “Unfinished Business” (Season 3 Episode 9)
    This episode is included in my favorites for no better reason than that it is pretty much the episode for the Lee/Kara relationship, which I am an unfailing sucker for. I won’t say anything specific because that would ruin the whole thing for everybody. But oh man – the love quadrangle involved really get put through their paces.
  • “Crossroads, Parts 1 & 2” (Season 3 Episodes 19 & 20)
    This two-part season ender is second only two the first season finale in terms of jawdropping. The court battle that takes up most of the episode is incredible to the point where I was too busy biting my nails to remember that Mark Sheppard was guest-starring in what is possibly my favorite of his roles. And everything else that happens is just as, if not more, stressful and adrenaline-rushy. “Crossroads” sets the standard for unrelenting intensity.
  • All of Season 4.5 (except the finale)
    The final season is just so good. It is beautifully executed. New, seasonal themes are introduced, but most of the mastery is in the way that all the stories from the series as a whole wrap up. The loose ends (well, most of them) are taken care of and the quality and genius of the narrative as a whole is marvelously clear when everything comes to a close. Plus, the build toward the two-part finale is an excellent study in adrenaline.

When BSG started, pretty much the whole cast was composed of talented total unknowns. Nowadays, they are pretty much everywhere. Tahmoh Penikett went to Dollhouse, followed by guest star Jamie Bamber. Michael Trucco’s been guest-starring, most recently on Castle. Katee Sackhoff has been all over the place, from Bionic Woman to The Big Bang Theory to 24‘s final season. Composer Bear McCreary moved over to Human Target and (at last count) four BSG cast members followed him into guest roles. McCreary is also working on Eureka, which this season added James Callis to its lead cast. Kandyse McClure is kicking ass and taking names in summer series Persons Unknown. Alessandro Juliani spent his summer doing Shakespeare up in Vancouver. And then there is BSG‘s biggest breakout star, Tricia Helfer, who hasn’t been out of work since the series ended. She started with Burn Notice, made a few guesting stops at Chuck, Human Target, and Two-and-a-Half Men, and now she’s joining the cast of TNT’s Dark Blue for its second season.

Battlestar Galactica has undeniably left its mark on the world of television, and not just because its cast continues to rule the airwaves. There are some science fiction shows that, despite their best efforts, cannot help but become the butt of jokes. This is not one of them. It demands to be taken seriously, and not just by Spock-eared twenty-somes who’ve never had a girlfriend. The reason is, BSG is not your typical science fiction. Sure, it does take place in space and there are sentient robots out for blood and the technology is far ahead of our modern day. But these things are largely peripheral. BSG isn’t about the science; it’s about the people. The focus of the show rests unerringly on the narrative and the themes of philosophy, theology, and social commentary. And those pack a serious punch. What Battlestar Galactica is at its core is an epic-scaled examination of the human condition (in space).

Sadly, you’ll have to put a little effort in to watch this show. It isn’t airing on any networks in the US and it isn’t (legally) available online. But DVDs are not difficult to come by these days. (You could also just watch spin-off/prequel Caprica, although it is not as good and definitely not as exciting. Or the original Battlestar Galactica, which is available on Hulu. Or wait for one of the other spin-offs that are supposedly on their way.) But really, this show is definitely worth your time.When I first started watching, I didn’t think it would be, but Battlestar Galactica ended up being one of my top five favorite series – it is slick, creative, emotional, and just generally all sorts of awesome.

imdbSideReelWikipediaSyFy

* I’m counting the 2003 mini-series as part of the whole for the purposes of this piece.

** The network was still called Sci-Fi at the time; also, the show aired pretty much simultaneously on various networks in multiple countries.

This Week 1/11 to 1/17

I WAS SO CLOSE TO POSTING THIS ON TIME. BUT I WAS RE-CHECKING TIMES/DATES AND CHUCK STARTED AND I HAD TO RELEGATE FINISHING THE SCHEDULE TO COMMERCIAL BREAKS.

Tonight:
9pm – Chuck (Two-hour season 3 premiere!) on NBC
9pm – Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on SyFy

GodDAMN don’t I wish I could watch both.

MONDAY:
8pm – House on FOX
8pm – Chuck (Timeslot premiere!) on NBC
9pm – Fringe on FOX
9pm – Heroes on NBC
10pm – Castle on ABC

I do not know why Fringe is in this timeslot.

TUESDAY:
8pm – NCIS on CBS
9pm – NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS
10pm – Southland (Network premiere!) on TNT

WEDNESDAY:
10pm – CSI: NY on CBS
10pm – Leverage (Midseason return!) on TNT

THURSDAY:
8pm – Bones on FOX
9pm – Fringe on FOX
10pm – Project Runway (Season 7 premiere!) on Lifetime

So Fringe is ALSO today. This week’s Bones is called “The X in the File,” which is awesome. And Project Runway returns to New York. Hopefully that is just the first of many ways the show is going to bring itself back from the disaster that was Season 6.

FRIDAY:
10pm – Dollhouse on FOX

Well then. I guess FOX changed its mind on the whole two-episodes-a-week thing. That’s okay, because that’ll stretch it just a liiiittle longer. Which is totally cool.

SATURDAY:
11:30pm РSaturday Night Live (Sigourney  Weaver and the Ting Tings) on NBC

NEXT SUNDAY:
8pm – Human Target (Series pilot!) on FOX
9pm – 24 (Two-hour Season 8 premiere!) on FOX

Remember, this is the first of two two-hour season premiere events for 24. The second two-hour night is Monday January 18th.

Caprica: First Glance

First and foremost, CAPRICA IS NOT BSG.

I realize that’s a bit of a “duh” statement. But seriously. They are not the same show. At all. Stylistically, narratively, thematically, they are not even all that similar.

Caprica is being advertised as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, but that’s only a marginal function. While there are obvious links to the original series (including a heavy emphasis on the Adama family roots which may or may not have been strictly necessary and which may or may not work well), this new show will follow a distinct and separate narrative path. It’s not a “how we got here” story, it’s a “here’s another story that happened before that one” story. Which is nice, and will hopefully give the series enough room to grow.

The series takes place fifty-eight years before The Fall and tracks the actions of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas (actually, the Adamas start out as the Adamses in the pilot and then Grandpa Adams/Adama gets a rush of Tauron pride – or guilt? – and de-Capricanizes the name to feel closer to his ethnic roots, a “proud family of Tauron peasants.” Yeah. I know.). Dr. Graystone is a mild-looking scientist with somewhat terrifying manic tendencies and Mr. Adama (this is Bill’s father, the oft-mentioned Joseph Adama) is a lawyer with sinister mob ties and, as I mentioned, some serious child-of-two-worlds ethnic guilt. These two men meet due to tragedy and the series will track their relationship to each other and the world(s) around them.

Caprica‘s pilot does start the show off with explaining the origins of AI/Cylon technology, so the development of that will be an element of the show. But Caprica will NOT be about is the conflict of man vs. machine. The technology is an intrinsic part of this series’ narrative but, unlike BSG, that isn’t really what it’s about.

What Caprica IS about is fleshing out the world of the BSG universe before it was torn apart and showing how crushing The Fall eventually was. Creator Ronald D. Moore describes it as a family drama that just happens to take place in a science fiction setting. And it will also just happen to better explain the things that BSG never got around to fleshing out, i.e. the whole Twelve Colonies arrangement/government/whatever and the religion. So the major issues we can expect Caprica to address will be along the theological ponderance, social prejudice, we’re-all-just-folk-or-are-we lines.

What I gleaned from the pilot about the nature and style of the show is that Caprica will very likely be of the same incredible quality that Battlestar Galactica was. It clearly incorporates many of the aspects of BSG that made it such a strong show. In brief,

  • A score by Bear McCreary. I liked the BSG music better because it was bolder and that appeals more to my sound-aesthetic (real word for that?), but there is a soft elegance to the music in Caprica, and an easily recognizeable brilliance.
  • Painstaking aesthetic sensibility. Caprica is much more vibrant than post-apocalyptic BSG, but there is the same careful and extensive detail to the look of the environment, costumes, and cinematography.
  • The like-us-but-not-us balancing act of world-creation. One of my absolute favorite parts of BSG was the way that it was not exactly our universe, but it was close. Caprica actually takes this notion a bit further, because the world of the Twelve Colonies at this point in time is a peculiar blend of what would be considered modern and retro in our world. Their technology is more advanced, because it is a futuristic-type society. But there are also allusions to dial telephones and 1940s and ’50s culture and fashion. Plus the mob-ties Adama subplot that reads more 1930s Chicago than anything else.
  • A cast chosen for talent rather than name/fame/notoriety. Maybe you’ll vaguely recognize some of the stars, maybe not. Whether or not you’ve ever seen Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Alessandra Torresani, or anyone else is irrelevant in light of their ability. (A quick note on those three: Eric Stoltz is fantastic in the pilot, Esai Morales is only slightly less amazing, and while I don’t understand why Alessandra Torresani is playing the daughter of a redhead and a blonde but dyed her naturally blonde hair dark for the role, I can get over it because she’s an excellent performer.) Also part of the cast: John Pyper-Ferguson. Anyone familiar with my Favorite Guest Actors list will understand my excitement about this.
  • Freaky rules. Admit it, there are times when BSG was just plain scary and out there (hybrids, anyone?). That carries over to Caprica, as evidenced by the human sacrifice scene at the beginning of the show. No, I’m not kidding.

I am not entirely sold on the show after seeing the pilot. But since that was my reaction to the BSG pilot and since BSG is now one of my favorite television series of all time, I am more than willing to give it at least a few episodes before coming to a real verdict.

There are some definite potential weaknesses. I’m finding the timeline a little ridiculous (it’s 18 years before the Cylon war, and yet Dr. Graystone develops an apparently fully functional soldier Cylon in the pilot episode). The religious aspect of this ‘verse is even more front-and-center than it was on BSG which worries me. And then there’s just the little things that will probably never stop bugging me, like the fact that there’s a locale called The V Club (I am SO sick of that letter this year; it’s to television what the number nine has been to movies for the past year), or that the paper is octagonal even though that makes absolutely no sense in terms of mass production, or how the fighting Cylons still bear excessive and unfortunate resemblance to the Lego Bionicle toys of ten-ish years ago.

But these are just pet peeves. If you are a Battlestar Galactica fan, I definitely recommend you keep up with Caprica. If you are not (because you just aren’t familiar, or possibly even if you didn’t like BSG), I still suggest you check it out if you feel you might be even a little bit interested.

The pilot airs on SyFy on January 22nd at 9pm. BUT! it is also already available on Hulu, along with a couple videos of Ronald D. Moore explaining the artistic and conceptual background to the series (I def suggest you watch What the Frak is Caprica?; The Challenge of Caprica is also pretty enlightening.)

There is once again something to really look forward to in terms of sci-fi television. So say we all!

This Week 1/4 to 1/10

Well, Happy New Year folks!

I’m making a change to This Week. From now on, schedule posts will start on the Monday and run through the next Sunday. This is because, a) apparently I’m just not very good at getting my shit together on Sundays, and b) there are a lot of premieres coming up on Sundays and I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t give fair warning (read: I won’t remember to watch things unless I put them on this schedule). Another change: no more Melted Brain to-do lists. This may or may not be a good decision on my part.

MONDAY:
8pm – Heroes on NBC (Two-hour Mid-season Premiere!)

Of course, I probably won’t be able to watch this because I forgot how soon its return was and haven’t caught up yet. Whoops. Maybe I have time?

TUESDAY:
8pm – NCIS on CBS
9pm – NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS

I guess these don’t really count as returns or mid-season premieres because it’s only been, like, two weeks. (Also, this is my half-birthday! Hooray!)

WEDNESDAY:
8pm & 9pm – Reruns of Glee, “Mash-up” and “Wheels” on FOX
9pm – People’s Choice Awards on CBS

Does anyone actually watch/care about the People’s Choice Awards? I mean really. You hear more about the Teen Choice Awards.

THURSDAY:
9pm – Dr. Strangelove on ABC

WATCH THIS MOVIE. It is so excellent and ridiculous and it has Peter Sellers (and also a crazily young James Earl Jones).

FRIDAY:
9pm – Dollhouse on FOX

No, no I do not know why FOX is airing only one new episode this week. But, uh, this week’s sounds pretty exciting? (No, seriously: apparently we finally meet the elusive and sinister head of the Rossum Corporation. I do not know who it is, actor or character. I could probably find out, but I have this thing against spoilers. If you know things, bully for you, DO. NOT. TELL ME.)

SATURDAY:
9pm – Rerun of Castle on ABC
11:30pm – Saturday Night Live (Charles Barkley and Alicia Keys) on NBC

Next Sunday:
6:30pm – Serenity on SyFy
9pm – CHUCK! (TWO-HOUR SEASON PREMIERE!) on NBC
9pm – Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on SyFy

I was conflicted about watching The Plan because, while I’m curious and still missing BSG quite a bit, I’ve heard some pretty negative things about it. THANKFULLY, crisis averted. Because there is NO WAY IN HELL I am missing out on Chuck

Don’t ask me why (It’s probably because I’ve been more or less neglecting Melted Brain for a month, shhh!) but I didn’t realize mid-season premieres/returns were coming up so quickly (i.e. this week). BUT. HEY. IT’S ALL GOOD. Well, except for me not being ready to watch Heroes. If I didn’t have to be places and ready to make a good impression at 8am tomorrow, I would totes stay up. And I might anyway(?). IN ANY CASE. Exciting stuff. Chuck! Yes!

Have  a lovely week.

My Favorite Guest Actors

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, patricians and plebeians, animals, minerals, and vegetables, I proudly present to you the first Actual New Feature on Melted Brain – a rundown of some of my very favorite guest/character actors working the small screen these days, complete with the reasons why I enjoy them so very much.

Since the realization of this segment was inspired by Garret Dillahunt’s appearance on tonight’s Lie to Me, and since I’ve been talking him up all week without really saying anything, I think it would only be right to start with him:

Garret Dillahunt

He’s been on my radar for the past two or three years, but his career extends much further back than that. Focusing in on just his television credits, he’s played such diverse roles as a Terminator, a Russian crime lord, and Jesus. What makes Garret Dillahunt so fascinating to me is an actor is not just his talent, but the flexibility of his talent. He really occupies all of his various roles. And he has that mysterious and wonderful ability to completely alter his aspect. The physical changes are minimal, but he has a way to mold his whole presence to a role, appearing smarter or dumber, handsomer or plainer, guileless or crueler depending on what is required. My favorite role I’ve seen him in so far was his turn as Roman Novikov in Life.

Upcoming appearances: Tonight’s Lie to Me and episode five of White Collar.

Mark Sheppard

I love Mark Sheppard. I love every single thing he has done that I have seen. The roles are arguably not incredibly diverse. But they are all done phenomenally. He has a charisma and a way with words that seeps into every role he takes. And an excellent, excellent voice. He has appeared in just about every single one of my favorite shows, and been a highlight in those episodes. This man has slimy down pat – and also gruff, cynical, narcissistic, and crafty. I don’t know that I could choose my favorite of his roles, although I did really enjoy his time on Battlestar Galactica as Romo Lampkin. I’d say give this man his own show already, but I really enjoy having him in everything.

Upcoming appearances: Some episodes of White Collar, and a (supposedly) pivotal role on Supernatural.

Zeljko Ivanek

He’s been in everything. Seriously. He’s been completely fantastic – and he has an Emmy for his work on Damages to show for it. A lot of the time he plays a creepy Eastern European. Because, you know, that’s what you do as a fairly peculiar looking Slovenian actor. But, he’s also played several creepy Americans, a few professionals, and, in a few cases, somewhat pathetic Americans. It takes real talent to be both pathetic and creepy – even more for creepy. I’m most familiar with his Heroes role, Emile Danko, but I’m very intrigued by his work on Damages as Ray Fiske and intend to get my hands on some episodes as soon as possible.

John Pyper-Ferguson

I don’t know what it is about this guy, but I’ve been keeping my eye out for him constantly ever since I first saw him in an episode of The X-Files way back when (he actually had two different roles on that show, it turns out). He’s maybe not the strongest actor of all time, but he’s great in character parts, switching from hardass Viper jockey to blind astrophysicist to cult leader/prophet with astounding ease. More than any of his one roles, it’s just fascinating to see where and how he’ll turn up next.

Upcoming appearances: Looks like he’s gonna be in some movies…

Gina Torres

To be completely honest, I liked Gina Torres best in her starring role in Firefly. But, she’s also been a guest staple in so many other shows, I can’t complain much. A lot of the time she’s “the wife” – like she is in FlashForward, these days. But she’s also played a genuinely terrifying Cuban KGB officer in Alias and, my favorite of her roles, Jasmine, the goddess/pestilence from the fourth season of Angel. She is incredibly talented. And also very, very attractive. My gay friend and I agree, we may not swing that way most of the time, but we would definitely sleep with Gina Torres.

Upcoming appearances: Presumably some more episodes of FlashForward, tonight’s Gossip Girl, and she’s the voice of Superwoman in an upcoming animated movie.

Jude Ciccolella

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0161980/

As with Gina Torres, I prefer this actor in one of his recurring roles – Mike Novick of 24. However, since he ended his run on that show he’s shown himself to be a very diverse character actor. He left the loyal-but-uptight politician persona behind and has made appearances in all sorts of different roles on Prison Break, NCIS, Life, and Everybody Hates Chris. Many different roles, all performed with equal actorly dexterity.

Stephen Tobolowsky

A well-recognized face on both the big and small screen, Stephen Tobolowsky is kind of like the king of character actors. He’s played lawyers, doctors, greedy fathers, victims of short term memory loss, and, most recently, Sandy Ryerson, Glee‘s answer to “What do choir boys have nightmares about?” It’s astonishing to me that a man who looks so completely innocuous can go to the extreme edges of hilarity, humanity, and terror with brilliance and ease – and then come back and do the whole thing over again.

Upcoming appearances: Sandy is gone from Glee, for better or for worse, and it looks like he’s putting his focus back on movies for awhile.

These are all actors I am always excited to see in anything. Because I fully trust that they will deliver and that I will thoroughly enjoy the end result. I think the only thing I have left to address is, Why are there not more women on this list? The answer is…I can’t really say. I’m not sure. I just don’t notice actresses as much, maybe. Or, when I do, they’re in recurring roles. This is perhaps something I should work on in the future.

PS – The pictures are links to their imdb profiles. I’m crafty like that.

Week of 10/4 to 10/10

This coming week I am going to make a concerted effort not to slack off as ridiculously as I did this past week. (I still have a half-finished FlashForward review; Dollhouse is just not going to happen at this point). Hopefully now that real life has normalized somewhat that won’t be too difficult. It also helps that there’s nothing SUPREMELY exciting coming up.

Tonight:
Three Rivers premiered on CBS at 9. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m going to give it a try.

MONDAY:
8pm – House on FOX
8pm – Heroes on NBC
9pm – Lie to Me on FOX
9pm – Trauma on NBC
10pm – Castle on ABC

I’m sticking to my NBC guns and I’m not going to stop until I have no other choice (read: Heroes inevitably gets cancelled because ratings are still dropping in inverse proportion to the quality of the show).

TUESDAY:
8pm – NCIS on CBS
9pm – NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS

WEDNESDAY:
9pm – Glee on FOX
10pm – CSI: NY on CBS

THURSDAY:
8pm – Bones on FOX
8pm – FlashForward on ABC
9pm – Fringe on FOX
10pm – Project Runway on Lifetime

FRIDAY:
9pm – Dollhouse on FOX

SATURDAY:
11:30 pm – Saturday Night Live (Drew Barrymore & Regina Spektor!) on NBC

Definitely making a point of watching SNL this week. Because Drew Barrymore is actually a good host. And I love me some Regina Spektor.

In other television-related news, I have one episode of Battlestar Galactica left before I finish the entire series. I reeeeeally don’t want to be done with it, but once I get it over with there will be a thorough (and possibly slightly tearful) overview/pitch for the entire series. In more cheerful news, I’ve got the first season of Six Feet Under and the first season of Mad Men in my possession now, so good times should ensue in short order. And, I think I’ve been coerced into trying to give Lost another shot. So there are quite a few things in the works, which I’m hoping will make for a more interesting and less procrastinitized week.

WATCH DOLLHOUSE! DO IT! (Please)

Joss Whedon is my hero. Because, in addition to being brilliant, multi-talented, and hilarious, he is insansely fearless. He will write things into a script that I don’t think anyone else writing for television right now would dare to – assuming they could think of them.

Consider the Season 2 premiere of Dollhouse. It’s been hours since I watched and I think my eyes are still bulging a little bit. Because that was freaking ridiculous.

I will be the first person to admit that the first season of this show was far from stellar. It was clever, and the story was highly intriguing, but the sad fact of it is that the show just didn’t get exciting until the last few episodes. There’s only so much patience for “Now Echo’s a sexy librarian. Now Echo’s a blind prophet. Now Echo’s a dominatrix. Now Echo’s a master thief. Now Echo’s somebody’s dead wife.” The doll schtick over-stayed its welcome as the central issue. The Paul Ballard angle of the story was far more fascinating, but it was sidelined for the majority of the season and, if you ask me, that was not the strongest choice that could have been made. Another thing that the first half of Dollhouse suffered from more often than not was a shortage of that quirky, reliable Whedon humor. The argument could be made that it doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the show. I would counter that argument with every other Joss Whedon show. Things get very dark, but there’s always a moment for a good wisecrack.

It’s a bit depressing to think back about that. And I sort of feel like I’m betraying my religiuos faith or something. Thankfully, there is an enormous BUT at the end of that whole argument. There were some things wrong with a lot of the first season BUT

The final five episodes or so of Dollhouse really helped the show come into its own (brilliant guest work from Alan Tudyk helped, obviously). But most of the improvement came from faster-moving action, more attention to the longer term plotlines, and a good dose of peculiarity. Dollhouse finally showed what it was really about in those episodes, and even more in the thirteenth unaired episode. (If you haven’t seen that, I recommend you do so. It is masterful.) And now we have the Season 2 premiere, and the Dollhouse team really delivered.

Because I am a mad fangirl for this corner of the media universe, and also for Battlestar Galactica, I enjoyed the premiere probably more than the average individual. (Jamie Bamber and Alexis Denisof guest starring plus what looks like a temporary break from Amy Acker coming up? Yessssss!) But there were some other things that made this episode really solid that don’t come from the chickbatty part of my brain.

Season 2 is already an improvement on Season 1 because Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) and the Dollhouse are no longer separated. The cloak-and-dagger relationship has been replaced with a direct confrontation of values manifested in dialogue between Ballard and Adele DeWitt (Olivia Williams). They are both phenomenal actors, btw (incase you hadn’t noticed). Another improvement: There is actually a reason to care about Echo besides the fact that Paul Ballard has a stalkercrush on her and the fact that Eliza Dushku is hot (…and talented). She actually is special. These two paradigm shifts in the universe of Dollhouse will, I believe, make for more compelling viewing even during those filler episodes where no real plot progress is made.

Some other things for the plus column include the lack of Mellie/November. I was delighted to see someone Miracle Laurie‘s shape on television, but her character, though ultimately revealed as tragic, was really pretty boring when you get right down to it. Not boring but never really developed into a person until recently, Topher. I’ve been a fan of the character since the beginning of the show, mostly because he provided some comic relief and a gray-area point of view. But he was pretty two-dimensional for a long time, so it’s good to see Fran Kranz do something other than wear layered shirts and spew semi-psychotic, self-aggrandizing monologues.

In some ways, a season premiere is not the best measure of a show, because the writing team will pull out all the stops to reattract excitement after a break. And this premiere was no exception. It was definitely above and beyond the call of duty for a standard Dollhouse episode, and it threw a lot of new story eggs into an already full basket. So it will probably take a more lowkey episode like what I anticipate in the coming weeks to really pin down how this season will go, but there were roots of good things in Dollhouse’s season premiere and it would be a shame if this show was cancelled before even airing the only thirteen episodes it has been cleared for so far. Not just because I don’t want Dollhouse to become the sad sequel to Firefly, but because I really do believe it is just going to keep getting better all the way through its planned five season run.

FOX has a major new success this season in Glee. They can totally afford to keep Dollhouse. I hope.