Friday, 27 March 2009

All Bad Things Come to an End

Late last week the new Battlestar Galactica TV series had come to an end. An event of such likes is fairly uncommon and therefore merits a mention: A TV series at the height of its popularity comes to a conclusive, designed and crafted end. Sure enough, this ending leaves ample opportunities for sequels to come if someone's wallet feels a bit too empty; but the point is that they left things off with a relatively satisfying solution.
I say relatively because, in general, I think this Battlestar Galactica series is a good example of a TV series with a promising agenda that nurtured high hopes and which slowly but surely went to the dogs. All the soap opera bullshit developing as the series was stretched with mysticism and the idea there are greater forces at work than rationalism can explain have made me puke. Even as the ending left way too many questions unanswered and provided such feeble explanations to others, I was glad I'm over this frucking TV series.
Yet Galactica is just a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The real problem is that TV in general is not an entertainment media but a cash making media, and a TV series is viewed as a tool to make people stay and watch the commercials. In order to ensure people do stay we are swamped with material that is not meant to be particularly good or enlightening, just material that is addictive enough for us to come back again next week.

I was thinking of the above in relation to an ongoing dispute raging over the Green Guide's letters pages. For the record, The Green Guide is The Age's weekly TV guide; and for the record, The Age is the second most popular newspaper in Melbourne and probably the only Melbourne based daily newspaper that won't insult your intelligence [much].
The debate at hand is whether the ABC, the Australian Government run TV channel, should stick to its policy of airing British material almost exclusively to partner its Australian made productions or whether the channel should open itself to foreign material sourced elsewhere; say, the USA, a country that has been known to generate TV material here and there.
On one extreme there are the protectors of anything British, who probably still have a portrait of the queen hung up their living room walls, who say that the ABC should continue with what it has been doing and that all American TV stuff is crap. They are aided, of course, by such phenomena as the one exemplified through Battlestar Galactica above. I can sort of understand where they're coming from: once the dam breaks, who knows where the flood will take us; however, there is also the hidden assumption there than anything British is good, which is obviously not the case (just watch some ABC for proof).
On the other hand there are those who claim there is some good coming out of USA, commercialism or not, and that even the commercially oriented stuff is there because the people want it; if they want it, they should get it. This extreme tends to be populated by free market advocates, who probably wouldn't mind seeing the ABC go off the taxpayer's books.
My view? My view is that it is very stupid to say all American stuff is crap; like everything else, the quality of American TV moves along some sort of a continuum. Granted, this continuum's average is pretty low and most of its output is unsuitable for a non-commercial station that actually prides itself of its quality (and with some good reasons too). But by disqualifying it altogether one also eliminates the chances of material such as Ken Burns' The War, a very high quality documentary about World War II, from being offered to Australians. Then there's Seinfeld, if you were after lighter material. Worse, by disqualifying American TV you would also deprive Australia from watching the PBS production that is still very much the winner of my vote for best TV ever, Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
The point I'm trying to make is simple. We shouldn't let the likes of Galactica ruin it for us; someone at the ABC should have the skills to tell good stuff from crap so that we can enjoy good quality foreign stuff on ABC, be it British, American or Swedish.

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