In February 2006 the SciFi channel aired a Galactica 1980 marathon. In a series of escalating dares, Husband goaded me into watching it. Perhaps it was the gray February weather, or maybe it was the drugs. Whatever the reason, I accepted.

Later, we needed to make room on the Tivo and I only saved one episode from this precious cache. I thought I could pick them up cheap somewhere for later, more leisurely viewing. This was a mistake, as I soon learned. For some reason (basic human decency?) the show wasn’t commercially available.

Until now.

Quite by chance, I just discovered that Netflix has every heart-wrenchingly bad episode available on demand. At long last, I can complete my journey through the darkness.

Here are the original posts from that first little (mis)adventure, to help newer readers understand why they shouldn’t try this at home. Not without first undertaking a rigorous training regimen. And possibly lobotomizing themselves with a number 2 pencil.

Remember people, I watch so you don’t have to. I am a trained media professional and this is the big time. You should not, I repeat, not, try this at home.

And if you do, I’m not responsible for the psychological carnage. Nor will I come to your home and scrape the fetid remnants of your anguished soul off of your rug.

galactica 1980 marathon, part I (caution: new series spoilers)

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

Mormons, or, Galactica 1980 marathon, part 3

Galactica 1980 marathon, part 4, wherein I talk about Knight Rider instead because I still haven’t been able to bring myself to finish watching episode 5

Galactica 1980 post part 5; I only wish the 6th episode starred Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce

And, if you got through all that, a bonus post, at no extra charge:
The Big Score, and a minor Battlestar Galactica (new series) spoiler

Now that I’ve reread them, I have to say that those were actually entertaining, if only because they brought back lovely memories of giant spaceships full of Lucy Lawless clones, getting in trouble for calling girl scouts “sugar whores”, the 1970s sci-fi show time travel Nazi-encounter plotline fad, and, a personal favorite of mine, our fearless leader freaking out over human-animal hybrids (Manimal?) in his State of the Union. Good times, indeed.

Obligatory Galactica 1980 content: Glen A. Larson was the executive Producer of Knight Rider, and even co-wrote the theme song.

This has been bothering me for a while. Since 1982, to be precise. Have you ever paid attention to the prologue for Knight Rider?

“Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law.”

What’s up with the loner schtick? It sounds romantic, I guess, but the plot revolves around the guy not being a loner. In fact, he runs with a whole pack. First of all, he’s supported by Knight Industries, presumably a big company. Knight Industries somehow operates the mercenary organization F.L.A.G. – the Foundation for Law and Government. F.L.A.G seems to be bound by neither the rules of law nor government, but we’re just going to let that go for now, because to think about it would just bring my headache back.

Even if you discount F.L.A.G., Michael Knight has also got a band of wacky sidekicks who ride around in an 18-wheeler and attend to his every need.

Probably most importantly, he has that deep homoerotic bond with his car, KITT.

What part of that spells loner? I mean, except in the whole existential “we’re all alone” sort of way, of course. If this guy is a loner, he’s a miserable failure at it.

Incidentally, William Daniels, the uncredited voice of KITT, was a guest star on Galactica 1980 in the 2 parter, “Night of the Cylons.” So there, more Galactica 1980 content. They were both Glen A. Larson shows, plus he’s pretty much guest starred on everything ever made, so it’s not really that interesting of a coincidence. Or, really, technically, a coincidence.

(proceed to part 5)

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

The SciFi Channel ran a Battlestar Galactica 1980 marathon a few days ago. Husband double-dog-dared me to watch the whole thing and post about it. Notice that Husband’s band had a gig and Husband has been conveniently out of the house a lot this week. Before this little experiment goes any further, I’d better check and make sure he hasn’t taken out a big life insurance policy on me or something ’cause I’ve gotta tell you, I’m only 10 minutes into the 1st episode and I’m already fearing spontaneous human combustion. My own.

If you aren’t a product of the 70s, or a big nerd, or possibly both, you may be confused about why there are so damned many shows with the name Battlestar Galactica. There are sites that go into excrutiating detail about the history of said programs. This isn’t one of them.

Essentially, Galactica 1980 was a bit of programming roadkill that aired between the original Battlestar Galactica (1978), wherein Baltar was an ugly little man with the sex appeal of an african wild dog and the groovy new version, wherein Baltar is pretty hot. Crazy as the day is long, but hot nonetheless.

Galactica 1980 seems to be a Baltar-free zone. It also seems to be a budget-free zone, a plot-free zone, and a talent-free zone. The “plot” involves the plucky survivors of a Cylon holocaust finally finding Earth after drifting around in space for a couple of decades. Their annoying pseudo-leader, Dr. Zee (a sort of psychic Cousin Oliver), is afraid that the Cylons may have followed them so that they can destroy Earth. He just thought of that now? They’ve been on the run from the Cylons for 30 years and it just now occurred to their genius leader that maybe the Cylons will follow them all the way to Earth? Whatever. Consequently, the plucky survivors must infiltrate Earth undetected and do something or another.

Galactica 1980 stars the incredibly talented Barry Van Dyke. OK. I can’t even type that sentence with a straight face. Galactica 1980 stars Barry Van Dyke. There. That’s easier.

The ingenious casting doesn’t stop there: Robert Reed (aka Mike Brady), sporting an excellent man-perm and huge black-framed nerd glasses so we know he’s smart, plays the most brilliant atomic scientist on Earth.

Lorne Greene, as one of the few returning cast members, continues to debase himself as Adama, although in Galactica 1980 he’s wearing a bichon frise on his face to ensure that the viewer understands that much story-time has passed since the original series. That’s in case the viewer misses this information in the ponderous narration or awkward dialogue.

Adama and some leftover costumes are just about all that remains of the original series. The creepy robot dog, Muffit, who I have mentioned here before is still around and, alarmingly, has found a way to breed. You’re probably thinking: robot dogs? they’d just build more. I don’t think so. I swear that one of the robot dogs turned and presented itself to the other for mounting. Let’s not think about that anymore.

To ensure that the viewer never, ever loses sight of the fact that this series seriously sucked, there are copious station breaks to plug the new series. Maybe they’re not actually inviting comparison to the current program, maybe they’re trying to appease fans of the new series who are disgruntled by recent plot twists. They should put subtitles on the ads for tonight’s episode: “See, you’re pissed that Billy is dead, but it could be worse. We could just give up and phone in crap like Galactica 1980. So you just accept Billy’s death and move on.”

While we’re on the subject of recent plot developments – can I just ask why it’s suddenly necessary for Apollo to have a death/near-death experience every blessed week? It’s like he’s their Kenny. Shoot him into space and suffocate him; revive him. Shoot him; revive him. I keep waiting for Starbuck to shout, “They killed Apollo! Those bastards!”

Back to Galactica 1980: Troy and Barry Van Dyke travelled to Earth with Casio Invisibility Watchs and really puffy jackets. They need to secretly get the people of Earth ready to battle the Cylons. A la the A Team, they’re wanted by the police so they team up with a hot-mama reporter who helps them surmount various obstacles as they do whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing in between wacky fish out of water experiences. She also may or may not be helping them avoid being shot by the LAPD. Or something. There was a wacky scene wherein Troy and Barry use their Casio-invisibility field watchs to break out of jail while the requisite drunk-tank denizen does a double-take and swears off alcohol. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Whoops! The “plot” just took a bizarre u-turn into time travel, that desperate plot-device of many a failed sci-fi show. Dude, we’re only 34 minutes into the second episode, it’s much too soon to play the time-travel card. We know they’re time travelling because there were some really cheap lighting effects and now there are Nazis.

Nazis? But of course.

The first rule of sci-fi program time travel is: if you’re going to mess with the space-time continuum you’re going to end up in Germany during World War II. It’s a very simple principle. Low budget programming + existing Hollywood Nazi costume surplus = gratuitous World War II time travel subplots.

The second rule is, of course, don’t interfere with the past or wackiness will ensue. Well, we’re kneedeep in wackiness. And bad fake German accents. And bad fake Germans. Who knew that blowdried, feathered hair was so popular in 1940s Germany?

Barry Van Dyke and his sidekick, Troy, make you long for what passed as sparkle and wit between the original dynamic duo of Apollo and Starbuck. We’re supposed to believe Troy is young Boxey, the annoying little shit with the robodog from the originial series. He’s now all growed up and trained to be a super-duper viper pilot. He’s less annoying now. Dressed as a Nazi…well, he looks like he’s auditioning for the original film version of the Producers. I keep expecting him to feed some pigeons and burst into a chorus of “Springtime for Hitler.” It’s really that bad.

Take heart. There’s a new ep of the new Battlestar Galactica on tonight and in the new Galactica Universe there are no robot dogs, it seems unlikely that the writers would be dumb enough to develop a time-travel fetish even if they do reach Earth, and, most importantly, I’m quite certain that somewhere in outer space there are resurrection ships full of thousands upon thousands of naked Lucy Lawless cylon clones.

…proceed to part 2