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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Several people wrote to say how much they enjoyed my previous column, but I also got a couple of e-mails from people who scolded me for mentioning politics. In their opinion, I, a mere TV reviewer, should keep my political thoughts to myself. One person suggested that, if I plan to mention politics, I should insert a warning, like a spoiler warning, so people could stop reading before they accidentally heard something they did not want to hear.

Ok, here goes. Warning I may write about politics, sex, drugs, and religion. If ideas upset you, don't read what I write. My jumping off point for this column will always be SF on TV, but knowing how way leads on to way, who knows if we'll ever come back. In fact, friend, if reading about politics upsets you, I suggest you don't read anything written by science fiction fans. We're an opinionated and outspoken crew.

But that wasn't what I wanted to tell you about.

I really wanted to tell you they've moved the premiere of Smallville up to Wednesday, September 22.

My previous column wasn't about politics at all. It was about incompetence. And have I ever had to put up with some incompetence from Showtime. I subscribed to Showtime solely so I could watch the second half of the second season of Jeremiah. Showtime was picture perfect until Jeremiah came on. J. Michael Straczinski put in a lot of hours to provide a competent script. The cast and crew put in a lot of hours to do their jobs professionally. And then some dickhead in production screwed up not one but both Jeremiah episodes. Both episodes of Jeremiah broke up into pixels every few minutes and the sound stuttered. I don't know if this was local or if the rest of the country had this problem, but after waiting a year to see these shows, I was royally pissed. Listen, jerk! With great power comes great responsibility. Don't screw up the transmission. Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry.

Jeremiah Jeremiah, "Crossing Jordan" (***) by J. Michael Straczinski
The story is enjoyable, the ending powerful. Somebody dies, and Jeremiah is off on a new direction for the rest of the season. But I have serious problems with the strategy the good guys adopt. They urge towns to join their loose confederation, which is opposed by Daniel, a ruthless and powerful enemy. Wouldn't they at the very least establish a defensive perimeter, and have people with walkie-talkies report all vehicles on the roads moving into or out of their area?

Jeremiah Jeremiah, "Running on Empty" (***) by J. Michael Straczinski
Jeremiah is unaccountably joined by Markus in his quest for revenge. There is a good speech by the villain, Sims, which establishes his character. And we continue to have questions about the mysterious Mr. Smith. I hope Straczinski stayed with the series long enough to provide answers.

Jeremiah Jeremiah, "The Question" (***) by J. Michael Straczinski
God has offered Smith, Jeremiah, Kurdy, and Markus one miracle of their choice. So Smith says. While we are waiting to see if the miracles will come to pass, Kurdy trains an army to fight Daniel's troops. The plot is contrived. In the Oscar-winning film The Deer Hunter, there are several games of Russian roulette. If any one of those games had a different outcome, the entire plot would fall apart. Here, if any one of the people offered a miracle had made a different decision, the plot would have fallen apart. Even so, there are a number of interesting scenes -- the people on the road, Kurdy practicing in front of a mirror. And, contrived or not, the ending is moving.

Jeremiah Jeremiah, "The Past is Prologue" (**) by J. Michael Straczinski
Two stories, one about a town that has suffered the worst effects of the aftermath of The Big Death, the other about a town that tries to relive the past. The Kurdy story works fairly well, but the Jeremiah story is too much like certain Twilight Zone episodes.

Rejoice, Dear Hearts Rejoice, Dear Hearts (****) by Brother Dave Gardner
The 60s comedy albums of Brother Dave Gardner are now out on CD. The fifties and sixties were the golden age of the comedy record album, with artists like Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and Mort Sahl working in that now almost forgotten medium. Brother Dave was one of the best. If the idea of astronauts taking along dehydrated water strikes you as funny, listen to Brother Dave and Rejoice!

Copyright © 2004 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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