'Battlestar Galactica' Franchise Steams Ahead

'Battlestar Galactica' Franchise Steams Ahead
The cast of TV's 'Battlestar Galactica' on the SciFi Channel. (Image credit: SciFi Channel.)

NEW YORK (AP) — Need proofthe television ratings system is dead, a victim of the TiVo, the ubiquitoussatellite dish and schizophrenic viewing habits? Take a look at what'shappening with "Battlestar Galactica."

If the traditional ratingssystem is used to measure its success, well, the series is scraping bottom likea viper throwing sparks on a hot landing.

Yet the show'sproducers are moving forward with two post-"Galactica" projectsthat would never have seen the light of a cathode tube had ratings been theonly factor in the decisions.

Jamie Bamber, the Britishactor who plays Lee "Apollo" Adama in theseries, has a much better way to gauge ratings. Turns out, as the ratingsplummet, the show's popularity continues to skyrocket as it reaches the end of itsfive-year run early in 2009.

"When the numbers werehigh I would get stopped in the street maybe once a week," Bamber said."Now that the viewing figures are lower on the TV, everywhere I go someonewill come up to me and say what a huge fan they are. That just tells me thatpeople watch the show in a more modern way and that it has reached its sort ofcritical mass."

"Galactica"wrapped shooting in July and the final 10 episodes will begin airing inJanuary. But the franchise won't stop there.

Producers recentlyannounced end-of-the-summer production of a two-hour standalone"Galactica" prequel that will air in 2009 after the series finale.And they've also shot a pilot for a new series called "Caprica,"which has yet to be picked up by the network but seems destined to air.

These things never used tohappen. There never would've been a "Rhoda" had "The Mary TylerMoore Show" tanked. "Fish" would've been fried had it not beenfor the popularity of "Barney Miller."

"Galactica's"numbers — to put it politely — have begun to stink. The latest Nielsen ratingsseem to indicate the show's viewers are as hard to find as the fleet's mythicaldestination of Earth. The series averaged 2.8 million viewers an episode duringSeason 1. During the most recent run of 10 episodes, the show averaged 2.2million viewers, a slight dip overall but up from Seasons 2 and 3. The serieslost some of that steam by the midseason finale, falling to just 1.8 millionviewers.

Co-executive producerMichael Angeli thinks the numbers are irrelevant, however. He believes most"Galactica" fans have atypical viewing habits and take advantage ofnew technology to watch the show whenever they want.

"I think we were oneof the first ones," Angeli said. "TiVo had just sort of taken off.This was four or five seasons ago, and because we were on Friday nights mostpeople, most fans don't watch it (on first run). They TiVo it and watch it azillion times."

Others rent or buy the DVDsafter the season is over and watch in long marathons. To take advantage of thisgroup, producers will be releasing the two-hour movie on DVD shortly after itappears on SciFi.

The movie is a prequel thatgives some insight into the machinations of the cylons before they unleashedthe nuclear holocaust that wiped out all but 50,000 human inhabitants of the 12colonies. "Galactica" star Edward James Olmos will direct and DeanStockwell (Cylon No. 1), Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) and Michael Trucco (SamAnders) — all "skinjobs," cylons who appear to be human — willparticipate.

While the movie is a lockto air, the fate of "Caprica" remains to be decided. The pilot hasbeen shot and screened, and there's a trailer up on YouTube. Angeli is helpingwith early scripts in case the series is picked up and said the show is analmost complete departure from "Galactica."

"In fact, I don'tthink we ever go into space," he said.

"Caprica" takesplace 51 years before the events of "Galactica." It stars EsaiMorales and Eric Stoltz as the heads of rival families who clash over thecreation of artificial intelligence, which will eventually lead to the cylons.

Besides the robots and thelocation, the only real connection between "Galactica" and"Caprica" will be Joseph Adama, the character played by Morales.While Joseph Adama — father and grandfather to the characters played by Olmosand Bamber — never appears in "Galactica," his work as a lawyerprovides a moral compass in a significant storyline and his name is oftenevoked.

Like "Galactica,"which took on war, terrorism, torture, religion and questions of morality, thestoryline in "Caprica" will have many things to say about oursociety.

"It's really about bigbusiness, the machinations and the subterfuge that go on inside of it when youhave something that is groundbreaking and could change the nature of life andthe future," Angeli said. "In this case, they're developingartificial intelligence."

Executive producer RonaldD. Moore described the show to reporters at the Television Critics Associationmeeting in Beverly Hills. While he was talking about the fictional colonyCaprica, he could just as easily have been talking about today's America.

"It's about a vibrantsociety. It's really at the height of its power and the height of its decadenceat the same time," Moore said. "So it's really a thriving, vibrantculture that's going to come apart as we watch, but it's sort of the rollercoaster. It's thrilling at the top when you see how far down you've got to go."

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