If you’ve never seen Battlestar Gallactica, or LOST, and you someday plan to, well, then you might want to stop reading this now.
Actually, they’re both very good — go watch, and come back.
I’ll preface this with stating up front: I’ve only seen Seasons 4 and 5 of BSG. I caught on late, and have the first three in my netflix queue, and eventually I’ll backfill it all. So what I’ll say here goes strictly for s4 and s5, though my guess is it will apply to the earlier seasons as well.
The thing is, while I really like BSG, there’s still something off — I find it to compelling, yet still very conventional TV. Likely because, for me, the highwater mark of television is LOST.
By conventional, I mean there’s generally happy endings, that while things are suspenseful, things never go that awry. (Granted, there’s that whole genocide of the human race thing, but, other than that…) Seriously, whenever they’re in a jam, Adama figures it out. He’s captured, but he escapes. They try and execute him, someone steps in and saves him.
It’s fairly conventional, cliffhanger, great-plot-driven television.
Contrast that with LOST. This show, to me, is much more audacious — they go out on a limb not only plot-wise, weaving in sci-fi with supernatural with action with drama, but also in terms of the narrative structure, with the flashbacks and flashforwards.
More significantly, they have the temerity to kill off main characters, such as Charlie, or, to a lesser extent, Ana Lucia and Libby.
Now, again, maybe in the first few seasons of BSG there was more of this risk-taking kind of writing, but, so far, I haven’t seen it.
BSG makes for compelling but conventional TV; LOST makes for compelling TV because it’s so unconventional.
[Update] As Andy points out, yes, last week they killed off a couple of main characters on BSG. Still, I think that’s much different, compared to, let’s say, the death of Charlie. I think especially from the perspective of the audience, the executions on BSG were essentially “the bad guys getting it.” We (the audience) are on the side of Adama, and we were happy to see that happen.
Charlie, on the other hand, was really a shock, and there is no way you could assert the audience wanted that to happen. Charlie was a good guy, and they killed him off.
I think that’s the difference, looking through a frame of “conventionality.” (Is that a word?)
[Update 2] Andy makes some further good points, both in the comment below, and in a conversation on twitter. I may have misjudged this one…I’ll have to come back to it after I finally see the whole series.