Tonight marks the return of TV's best-written series (IMHO) when "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.) marks the end of a nearly interminable wait by airing the first of the final 10 episodes.
This is about as bittersweet a time for me personally as I can imagine, akin to when the final season of "The Shield" began a few months ago; on the one hand, some of the very best that TV has to offer is returning. On the flip side, the end is finally near.
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When we last left the "BSG" crew, they had finally reached Earth with a faction of Cylons who decided to ally themselves with humanity. In one of the most stunning season finales ever done on TV, the twist came that Earth itself had been annihilated by a nuclear war, leaving the humans and Cylons to ponder what comes next with there being no hope left.
(Contrary to popular belief, the Earth will not be nuked by "BSG" fans who can't live without this series, no matter how plausible this theory might seem).
I'd love to be able to tell you what to expect on tonight's premiere, but Sci Fi never sent me the screener. I can tell you that in a conference call with showrunners Ron Moore and David Eick, they said all of the mysteries (such as the identity of the final Cylon sleeper agent) will be revealed, and we won't have to wait until the final to do it. Questions will be answered throughout a series of revelations every week until the ending.
Of course, "BSG" fans will soon be able to fill the emptiness with "Caprica," a prequel tracing the history of the creation of the Cylons set 50 years before. No word on when the series will debut, but Moore, who worked on the various "Star Trek" spinoffs, said it would be as different from "BSG" as "Deep Space 9" was from "The Next Generation."
What made "BSG" so good was that Moore and Eick took an interesting little sci-fi series made a quarter century earlier and recreated it with a modernist take forged out of a post-9/11 psyche. They kept things low-tech and didn't choose to stick a whole lot of science fiction in their sci-fi, leaving out things like aliens and lasers.
Rather, they chose to tell their story as a commentary on the human condition and how mankind might conduct itself when hope is all but lost and our species dying off. Topics as varied as terrorism, abortion and labor rights were brought up for debate, but no easy or cheap answer was ever given.
The producers were smart enough two fine actors, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, who gave the TV miniseries instant credibility, and surrounded them with a largely unknown but terrifically gifted cast that made you care deeply about these characters.
As much as I'm on pins and needles to see how the final 10 episodes play out, I don't look forward to the hole that will be left upon the television landscape. We the viewers have been darn lucky to be a part of this voyage.
As a reminder, Sci Fi is airing a marathon of the fourth season all day to lead up to the finale, which runs over an hour for those setting their recording devices. Also, you can catch 10-part webisode series that bridges the gap to this season still on Scifi.com. Sci Fi is also running a half-hour special at 6:30 p.m. designed to catch people up.
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Man, oh man, so many good things on this weekend, each of which could have easily gotten the above space today were it not the beginning of "BSG."
First and foremost is the return of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) to network TV after airing its third season on DirecTV. As we catch up with the gang, both Coach Taylor and Matt Saracen are challenged with a new quarterback and his pushy dad show up in Dillon, while "Mrs. Coach" takes over as Dillon's principal. In other storylines, Smash has to rehab from a knee injury that could derail his college career, while Tyra tries to apply for colleges. "FNL" is one of TV's most captivating dramas and a welcome sight to see. It follows a new "Howie Do It."
CBS has an all-new group of episodes with "Ghost Whisperer," "Flashpoint" and "Numb3rs." The CW offers new episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game."
On cable, both "Monk" and "Psych" are new, beginning at 9 p.m. on USA.
On Saturday, there's a new "Crusoe" (NBC, 8 p.m.)
On Sunday, the much-anticipated "United States of Tara" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) makes its debut from the pen of Oscar winner Diablo Cody ("Juno") and producer Steven Spielberg. It stars Toni Colette as a woman with four distinct personalities and John Corbett as her long-suffering husband. It follows the final season premiere of "The L Word" at 9 p.m. and leads into the second season premiere of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" at 10:30 p.m.
On rival HBO, the season premiere of "Big Love" airs at 9 p.m., ironically following a showing of "Juno." It's followed by the second season premiere of "Flight of the Conchords."
On the networks, the 100th episode of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is shown, followed by a new "Brothers & Sisters." CBS follows the AFC championship game with a special airing of a new "Mentalist" at 10 p.m.
Finally, "Masterpiece" airs a new version of "Wuthering Heights" (PBS, 9 p.m.), with Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley as Heathcliff and Cathy.