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Paul Nicholson
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Saturday, June 16, 2007

self-awareness

I love any sort of entertainment that is self-aware. That's most of why i am a Robbie Williams fan. He is an over the top cheesy pop star - and he knows it. His lyrics are all about that he is a hunk of meat up for sale and how he knows the fickle public will leave him once they find out that he's just a looser.

Anyway. That's also one of the things i love about Stargate. It is painfully aware of itself and its audience, and frequently the writers/actors put in jokes in the show for the audience that say "yes, we know we are a silly sci-fi show that's a little weird and we are part of pop-culture". Not so much as to break the fourth wall, but enough that the fans get a good chuckle and it keeps the show honest about itself.

Background: for those that don't know, Stargate SG-1 is the longest running sci-fi show ever at 10 seasons. The show actually started on Showtime, then moved to the Sci-Fi Channel after Showtime canceled it. Since that first season, the writers have never known until the last second if they were writing season finales or series finales. Often the cast was also up for a contract extension year after year as a result. However, this year, they actually had a long term plan in place, and multi-year contracts in place for all the actors - and what does the Sci-Fi Channel do? Cancel them.

This is the show that basically made the Sci-Fi Channel popular, brought them the highest ratings they had ever seen at the time, and then gave them the spin-off (Stargate Atlantis) that itself was the most popular show they had for a while. But SG-1's ratings are not what they once were, and a new show called Eureka has grown in popularity over the passed years and was the number one show on the network for 2006. Stargate is still very popular, but it was canceled anyway. Then the network started messing with when SG-1 aired, waiting weeks longer than usual before airing the start of season 10, and waiting far longer than normal to start the second half of the season. Much confusion for us poor fans. Oh, and of course their budget has been shrunk back a good bit over the last couple of seasons compared to what they once had.


Back to the good part...

Never have i seen a better example of the show's self-awareness than the episode "Family Ties" that aired a few weeks ago. The show started with Cameron Mitchell walking down the hallway with Sgt Siler (played by the shows stunt coordinator, something of a mascot on the show). You hear the end of their conversation as Mitchell says:

"...they canceled it, really? I didn't even know the new season had started."
Funny in its own right, but nothing compared to what happened later.
The episode featured a guest coming to the Earth (for reasons i won't go in to) that had never been here before, but knew of the reputation the SGC (Stargate Command) had around the galaxy and all they have done for fighting the bad guys. Here's an exchange that this character had with SG-1 team member Samantha Carter:
Guest: How are the readings coming along
Sam: Slowly
Guest: It's no wonder. Look, I don't mind telling you, I'm a little disappointed in this facility. I was expecting more.
Sam: Well, at times so do we. But the truth is the Stargate program just doesn't get the support it used to from the people in charge.
Guest: Why not?
Scientist in the room: Eureka! 1 down, 12 to go.
Guest: That's too bad. 'Cause after all this Stargate program has done for this network of planets I would think that the decision makers would show it the respect it deserves.
Sam: Yeah...

Listen to the exchanges here.
Absolute genius.

The moment stuck out as a bit odd at first, not really relating to much of the rest of the story, though the exchange was very much in character for Sam and the guest, and the scientist was hard at work on a project - and i almost missed the meaning. But they only very rarely refer to the set of planets connected by the stargates as a "network". Probably only been called that a few times in 10 years. I didn't even realize the connection to Eureka, since i never watch that show, but my wife reminded me of it and found out it was Sci-Fi's number one show last year.

Just brilliant.

(For the record: i actually bought the episode online for $2 to record the audio and take the screen shot, making this the first blog post i've actually paid money to write)

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Ha Ha! I missed the Eureka jab too. Awesome.