Battlestar Galactica Bows Out--Goodbye to the Best Show on TV

The best show on television bows out tonight.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The best television show you've never watched ends its run tonight. Farewell, Battlestar Galactica.

Actually, I'd argue that it's not only the best show you've never watched—it's the best show on television.

You might recall its short-lived, goofy, space-opera forebear of the same name, the Glen A. Larson Star Wars rip-off with the robot dog and John Colicos as the villain (you knew he was bad because he always had a light shining up from below his face).

The current iteration of BSG (current because yet another, big-screen, version is reportedly in the works) is anything but goofy. It's a distinctly post-9/11 show, with its thematic palette running the gamut from dark to foreboding to shocking. It takes the original premise of the original series—the remnants of humanity, under the protection of the aircraft carrier-like Galactica, flee a genocidal assault by killer robots—and treats it with deadly seriousness. The characters are complex and even the heroes have their detestable or disappointing moments—and they are killed off with a regularity usually reserved for BBC television shows.

And like the best science fiction, the show uses suspend-your-disbelief situations to drill down on issues that are relevant to real life (torture and other forms of prisoner abuse, what kind of behavior is permissible in an insurgency, democracy and civilian governance in times of war), are philosophically interesting (when do artificial life forms gain rights? should abortion be permissible if the population is reduced to an existential minimum?), or both.

The show, which debuted in 2004 after a 2003 mini-series, got rave reviews (Time listed it as one of the best 100 television shows ever, the Daily News rated it the second best sci-fi show ever, behind only The Twilight Zone). It won a Peabody and a few Emmys. It even drew the focus of the political blogosphere, with conservatives praising it until the good guys started committing suicide bombings. Even the United Nations got in on the Battlestar phenomenon, holding a retrospective symposium on the show this week. Seriously, the U.N.

Unfortunately, the show never gained a sizable viewership, and faced with that reality its creators made the smart decision to pull the plug before it had completely run out of story to tell (the first half of the current season made me, for one, wonder if it had not already reached that point—though the show got its groove back in the second half).

If you've never seen the show, add it to the top of your Netflix list. It's that good.

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