Meanwhile, on other Television Shows


My apologies for the light blogging. We’re still functioning on not much sleep, and a book deadline is coming up this Friday.

Doctor Who was on hiatus this past week, and is beginning a two-parter right now, so no review until next weekend, I think. In the meantime, I’d like to talk about the two other shows we’ve been paying attention to this past season: Battlestar Galactica and House.

I find that Battlestar Galactica is a hard show to review, and I think it’s because that, unlike Doctor Who, it’s one basic story line plodding towards the finish. It matches Doctor Who in just about every respect — the quality of the acting and the directing, and the strong characters and scripts — and in some respects it does better (plot contrivances remain at a minimum). But because Doctor Who can jump genres as well as settings week to week, there’s always something fresh to talk about. With Battlestar Galactica, each week the show relentlessly pushes its fine actors and crew one more step towards Earth. You end up repeating yourself.

So, these past few episodes, Battlestar Galactica has been pushing itself relentlessly towards Earth one step at a time. The story that has occasionally found itself in a rut, or floundered a bit, has fixed upon a destination and is moving forward with the pace and the tenacity of a turtle. Though this is incredibly frustrating, it is as it should be. The various elements are slowly building up, Kara’s search for Earth, Baltar’s rising Messianic status, and the battle of visions between Baltar, Kara and Roslyn. Spiced up as it is with the Cylon civil war, we’re forced to be content with various characters’ descent into madness. And while we gnaw our ankles off waiting for the resolution, when payoff comes, as it did when Leoben finally shows up and offers a truce, it comes with all the more force for the patience we’ve had to show in getting here.

Don’t believe me? Compare Dan’s review of The Road Less Travelled wherein for him the slow pace of set-up goes on for one episode too long. He was still happy with the resolution offered by Faith. And yet, all that Faith gives us is more questions, very few answers. What is Kara’s destiny? How is she the harbinger of death? But we have been pointed towards another clear patch of path, with the Cylon’s offer to help the humans destroy the resurrection hub, and Roslyn taking Baltar with her to see the prophesying hybrid for a vision-off.

It’s all good. Ron Moore and his writing staff are at the top of their game, and everybody is keeping up. My only complaint is that Adama hasn’t had much to do of late, but I’m sure that will be fixed sometime soon.

So, is it going to be another hard slog for poor Dan? For me, I’m waiting on tenterhooks to see if we’ll see the final eight episodes of this season sooner rather than later. If after the end of June, we have to wait until January for the real resolution of this series to be seen, I will not be a happy camper.

House MD Season 4 Promo Photograph

In the meantime, House came back after an uneven third season to air a refreshed style and some of the most fun episodes of the show through the fourth season. I really have to take my hats off to the writers who came up with the perfect gimmick to shake things up and reinvigorate interest. Firing the three ducklings and using a reality-show spoof as House tries to whittle forty replacement candidates down to three became nine episodes that we immediately copied onto a DVD-R and watched again and again. The new characters were interesting, if a little stock. I love Kutner and Taub has interesting possibilities. Thirteen wasn’t as interesting as Amber, but fortunately, they weren’t done with Amber after the reality-show spoof came to a close.

My question is, why are the actors playing Foreman, Cameron and Chase still on the credits, while the new ducklings are rendered as guest stars? It hardly seems fair, and the actors are practically twiddling their thumbs from episode to episode. Must be a contractual thing.

The fourth season of House was only sixteen episodes long due to the writers’ strike, but the structure of the season seemed to make the most of the disruption. The first nine episodes, covering the reality-show gimmick in its entirety, became a mini-season in its own right, with a seven-episode appendage at the end. The appendage was a little uneven. I loved the episode in set partially in Antarctica, but not much was done with the new ducklings, although Amber hooking up with Wilson was an interesting diversion.

The final two episodes, however, House’s Head and Wilson’s Heart, were remarkable. The set-up of the mystery as House tries to work through his amnesia to remember a critical symptom he’d witnessed, to the effect the revelation has on Wilson, was fascinating and heart rending. These two episodes, along with the otherwise uneven Living the Dream, brought the show back to the two key relationships that are at the heart of the program here: House and Cuddy, and House and Wilson. Both relationships are pushed to their limits here, and in a simple offer/request and decision (House’s offer to allow Cuddy to call security to let her off the hook, and Cuddy’s allowing House to proceed with his questionable medical procedure; Wilson’s request that House threaten his already-damaged brain on what could be a wild-goose chase, and House agreeing to do that) are expertly summarized and reaffirmed. The show knows what’s at the heart of its main characters, and a show that knows that has total control over where those characters will go.

Erin believes that Wilson’s Heart could have functioned as an excellent series finale rather than a season finale, as House acknowledges to Amber that his life is full of pain and he doesn’t want to live his life in pain any longer. But, as Amber says, touching all the way back to the pilot, “you can’t always get what you want.” That’s a resolution, and a perfect place to end the story.

Although as the show will proceed into a fifth season, the show doesn’t end there. But I have some hope that House will develop. The show was getting tired by the end of the third season, and the producers revived it with a neat gimmick and new ducklings for House, but that only goes so far. If this is to be a developing story, then House has to change. And at the end of Wilson’s Heart, he seemed to indicate that he wanted to change. Let’s hope they make something of this. I’ll keep my fingers crossed until August.

As an aside, I’ve just seen Stephen Moffat’s latest Doctor Who episode, Silence in the Library. My quick, spoiler-free review of this episode is simply this: it’s fracking BRILLIANT! I bow at the altar of Stephen Moffat.

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