More TV: "Bionic Woman" and "Life"

One word impressions:

Bionic Woman:  Ooooh!

Life:  Hmmm.

More beneath the fold.

But first, a digression.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that Flash Gordon sucks.  The guys over at Slice of Sci Fi have made that show into a running gag, and even the Sci Fi Channel seems to have admitted it with the news that the show will be canceled after the run of its first season.

But the question is, "Why does Flash Gordon suck?"  I was surprised to find that the show has its defenders; they lurk on the Sci Fi Channel forums where they maintain that the show is, according to some definition which I have yet to divine, "good".  The most common defense from such folks is, "You just hate the show because it isn’t just like the Flash Gordon serials from the 30’s!"  I suppose there’s an element of truth in that; certainly when I wrote my review of the show, that was one element I picked on.  So I decided to take another look at the show and see if it was any good without my hope that it would actually be something like the original.

Surprise.  It still sucked.

"Reimagination" is a dirty word.  Although some reimaginations can be successful — notably Battlestar Galactica — the word still brings to mind Tim Burton’s disastrous Planet of the Apes.  It was nothing like the original film, of course; but, more importantly, it was nothing like a good film.  Flash Gordon is like that; reimagination or not, it still sucks.  But a reimagination can still be done successfully.  I’ve already mentioned Battlestar Galactica which took the premise of the original series, tweaked it around a bit, and made it into arguably the best show on television, far superior to the original.

Bionic Woman is another successful reimagination.  They kept very little of the original concept: Jamie Sommers is the name of the bionic woman, and she has bionic limbs; but that’s about all they kept.  There is no OSI, there is no Oscar Goldman, there is no possibility of a crossover storyline involving Steve Austin.  Everything has changed.  And yet, the show worked; or, at least, the pilot episode worked.  I was pleased with the direction and the acting and the concepts; instead of an Office of Strategic Intelligence, there’s a shadowy government agency involved in secret experiments to breed super soldiers.  Jamie Sommers is pulled into the program against her will by a boyfriend who seems to have her best interests at heart, but didn’t quite think things through.

The fight scenes were good, reminiscent of the best fight scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The writing was decent, though it suffered from the sort of problems that most pilots have: trying to cram too much information about the characters and the series into a single hour, which makes the show feel rushed and a little underdone.  But it was fun seeing Aaron Douglas in a little cameo role, and Katee Sackhoff as a psychotic villain was brilliant.  I’d always thought Katee would make a good villain (though that presupposes that Starbuck is a heroic character of some sort).

And yes, I know, if I were a true nerd, I would have watched Bionic Woman on the Internet two weeks ago.

NBC’s other premiere tonight was Life, a strange little show about a cop who, after twelve years in Pelican Bay for a crime he didn’t commit, gets a huge settlement and goes back to the force, somewhat… damaged by his experiences and a little enhanced by his studies of Zen while he was locked up.  There are hints that there’s a greater mystery or a conspiracy for the characters to get engaged in.  The show’s a little quirky, and a little schizophrenic; will it be a comedy, a mockumentary (it’s got little side interviews, sort of like The Office, but with the questioners’ questions audible and the characters identified by subtitles), a cop show, a drama, or what?  It’s too early to tell.  I’m intrigued by this show, though; enough to catch the next episode, at least.

I think that’s pretty much it for new shows this week.  So far this season has been friendly to nerds, with some ups and downs.  In January we’ll get more Lost; the American version of The IT Crowd will show up as a midseason replacement for something; and, of course, Doctor Who returns to the BBC next spring.

Keep the faith, and geek ok.

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