This was a good weekend for TV. It kicked-off Friday with a fantastic episode of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which has not only become one of the best dramas on the air, it has single-handedly reinvigorated the sci-fi genre on television. It used to be all the sci-fi space dramas took their cues from STAR TREK as if it was sacred text. Not any more. BSG showrunner Ron Moore has changed everything. He started by telling stories involving genuine characters instead of noble cardboard heroes who only do "the right thing" and never get laid. He’s subverted every other tired cliche along the way, too (but if you miss them, just tune into STARGATE or STARGATE ATLANTIS). You don’t have to like scifi shows to get hooked on BSG.
On Sunday, while my Tivo was capturing 24, I watched Tom Selleck in the TV movie JESSE STONE: NIGHT PASSAGE, based on Robert B. Parker’s book. Like last years STONE COLD, Selleck played an ex-LAPD cop who becomes police chief of a small, Massachusetts town. The movie was a welcome change from the plethora of procedural dramas on TV. It was full of atmosphere and character and punchy dialogue. There were no forensics, cool flashbacks, or autopsies, just a simple crime story well told. The mystery was weak, but the other pleasures more than made up for it.
What I don’t get is why they chose to shoot the last Jesse Stone book, STONE COLD, as the first movie, and then do the first book NIGHT PASSAGE (which begins with Stone’s arrival as police chief) as the second movie. It was especially awkward since a key character in NIGHT PASSAGE is killed in both the book and movie version of STONE COLD and presumably remains alive through the next few TV movies (the next one up is DEATH IN PARADISE, the third Stone book), further confusing things.
There’s a new, fifth STONE novel coming this year from Parker and I’m eager to read it — for some time now, the Stone books have been far better than the Spensers. One of the key differences between the TV movie adaptations and the books is the creative decision to relegate Stone’s ex-wife to just a voice on the phone. I think it was a brilliant idea and adds to Jesse’s isolation.
This weekend was also the premiere of the BBC series HUSTLE on AMC. I didn’t watch it, since I’ve got the series on DVD from England months ago. The show is fine, a nice diversion, but the cons get tiresome and the episodes begin to blur into sameness. Still, it’s nice to see Robert Vaughn back on TV again.