Cousin Oliver gets kicked to the curb; or, Galactica 1980 marathon, part 2

February 25, 2006

You’re still pondering that resurrection ship full of naked Lucy Lawless cylons, aren’t you? Time to snap out of your reverie, we have important ground to cover as we plow forward into day 2 of our Galactica 1980 marathon.

When last you visited, I was becoming a shell of my former self, voluntarily watching the 3-part pilot “Galactica Discovers Earth.”

Viewing tip: with just the right ratio of valium to vicodin to caffeine in your bloodstream, you can watch anything. And so I forge ahead in my quest to prove to Husband that I can watch all 10 episodes of this series without spontaneously combusting. Husband claims to have loved this show. Not as much as the original Battlestar Galactica, but he claims to have loved it all the same. He loved Buck Rogers more, but that’s just because it had Erin Gray in spandex.

Well pop some popcorn and make some tea, because it’s time for episode 4, the first in what will surely be an exciting two-parter titled “Super Scouts.”

First and foremost, it seems that Cousin Oliver was just as annoying in space as he was in the Brady household. Consequently, he’s been replaced by Patrick Suart. No, not that Patrick Stewart. Sorry.

As the episode opens, Lorne Green’s facial hair has just won the Westminster Dog Show.

I’d just like to point out that we’re only 3 minutes into “Super Scouts, part 1” and Husband just got up and ran out of the room shouting, “I have to go do something, but don’t worry about pausing it or anything.”

Husband is weak.

Wow. This is really Not A Good Program. Barry Van Dyke and his sidekick, Not-Starbuck, actually have anti-charisma. Husband objects to my reference to Captain Troy as the Not-Starbuck. He insists that Barry Van Dyke is supposed to represent the Starbuck archetype and this other guy is supposed to represent the Apollo archetype. I think Husband can blog about this himself if he cares that much. Personally, I just call him that because I can never remember his character’s name.

But back to the episode. It’s unclear what’s going on, but apparently in addition to being an ace viper pilot, Barry Van Dyke is also an elementary school teacher. Alas, Cylons attack the Battlestar right in the middle of Barry’s dumbass lecture on gravity and so all of the children have to be rescued and taken to Earth.

Children are never a good sign in sci-fi. Good sci-fi plots do not revolve around moppity children. Terminator 2 may, possibly, be an exception to this rule. I personally never thought Edward Furlong was especially moppity in that one, but many people seem to disagree. Whatever. T2 was a great movie, kids or no kids.

In a children-related tangent, there’s a page about Galactica 1980 on a website devoted to the original Battlestar Galactica character Sheba, played by Anne Lockhart. Toward the bottom of the page it has some amusing blurbs about the show that make it worth reading. Unfortunately, it also appears to have some highly inaccurate information:

To make matters worse, the writers were required to insert a certain amount of “educational dialogue” into each episode. The stories in many of the episodes continuously come to a grinding halt just so a character can say something educational. It really gets ludicrous. Even worse, there was an FCC ruling where the 7:00 time slot was given back to the networks if the programming were public affairs, news-related or children’s programming. So, by dictate from the FCC, any program going in there had to meet one of those criteria. In that slot, an action-adventure show had to be done with virtually no violence (which is, of course, ludicrous. Everyone knows that “action-adventure” is just a soft synonym for “violent.”)

Because of this, Glen Larson was faced with the dilemma of how to do an action-adventure science fiction show that fit within the boundaries of children’s programming. There had to be at least one educational message every act, or four times an hour. Every episode had to have a premise that could be exploited from an educational standpoint, which goes a long way towards explaining the ludicrous plots that appeared throughout the series.

The Family Viewing Hour ruling was actually repealed by the Courts in 1977. Galactica 1980, as the title suggests, aired in 1980. More information about this short-lived and poorly executed devil’s bargain the networks, the NAB and the FCC made can be found on the Museum of Television Family Viewing Hour history page. It’s much more interesting than Galactica 1980.

So no, we can’t blame the FCC or the National Association of Broadcasters for the badness of this program. I’m sure there was some sort of chilling effect that lasted into 1980, but alas, this seems to primarily be a product of good old-fashioned bad writing.

To evade discovery by the Earth authorities, Barry Van Dyke and Not-Starbuck disguise the children as scouts of some kind. If I’d been paying attention, I’d explain how this happened. But I wasn’t because I was sucked into the FCC website for a bit. Reading the arcana of federal rule-making was more interesting than whatever exactly was going on onscreen. (See also: banging your head against the wall just because it feels great when you stop).

It’s tivo’ed. I could run it back, but I just don’t care enough.

I do find it odd that they keep referring to the moppity space-children as boy scouts, which is confusing since most of them seem to be little girls. And I have no idea why the kids seem to be able to fly. Or maybe they can just jump really high. Either way, it’s silly and it makes no sense. Maybe it’s another function of the Casio Invisi-Watchs?

One of the kids just yelled, “Hurry Captain, everyone is getting sick!”

Did the kid read the script? Watch the dailies? Suddenly break through the 4th wall and have a moment of post-modern empathy for the viewer?

Nope. Ala, it seems to be a plot development. Now the kids are unconscious. You have to hand it to the producers – an episode where children are unconscious is cost-effective. It’s much cheaper than hiring kids who can act.

Apparently, a Big Bad Chemical Company has been poisoning the water and the Space Scouts are dropping like flies. For reasons that remain unclear, Barry Van Dyke and Not-Starbuck are now running from the police. They just hopped on their motorcycles and took off.

Into the air. Because suddenly their motorcycles can fly. Of course they can.

This was followed by a freeze-frame and a “to be continued” title. Husband has gone off to be Mr. Hip Adam’s Morgan Club DJ Guy so part 2 of “Space Scouts” will have to wait until tomorrow.

What will happen in part 2? Will Barry and Not-Starbuck evade the police, find a cure for the poisoned children, and save the Galactins from the cyclons?

I don’t know about you, but I’m rooting for the cylons.

…proceed to part 3

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