Saturday, January 10, 2009

Maybe more mediocre shows should get canceled prematurely...

As I huge fan of the Stargate television franchise, I've always loyally watched the Stargate SG-1 spin-off, Stargate Atlantis, but always acknowledged that it is very much a second (and less delicious) banana. But since the show got canned by the SciFi Channel at the top of its fifth season (for a Stargate series, this is extremely premature - SG-1 lasted 10 seasons), it has exhibited signs of, with nothing to lose, being liberated and, albeit for a limited time only, ready to break the bonds of mediocrity.

A recent episode titled "Vegas" prompted me to form this opinion. At first it seemed like the usual episode that does not follow the normal narrative arc of the season by a.) taking place on earth and b.) taking place in a parallel version of the universe we usually inhabit on a weekly basis. Our primary hero, Col. John Shepard, appears to us without explanation as a destitute detective in Las Vegas who has no knowledge of the Stargate program.

But then it became very clear, with highly stylized and extra sleek camera work, that this episode actually serves as a parody of procedural dramas such as CSI (actually, I would even go so far as to say that the show is specifically poking fun at CSI...they even managed to cast a minor character with an actor who looks just like the red-headed guy on CSI Miami). Random freeze frames, sudden shifts to black and white, and steely acting all point towards something distinctly other than Stargate. And there are desert action scenes that are simply striking (and therefore surprising - why am I always writing reviews in which I'm pleasantly surprised on this blog?). Oh, and there's good use of Johnny Cash in this episode as well. Can't say no to the Cash.

What other shows right now might benefit from news of premature cancellation? More cynical viewers of Lost may offer it up for the slaughter, but I personally am still holding on. I've also heard complaints about The Office starting to get into a rut or plateauing in its novelty.

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