Saturday, August 1, 2009

Caprica: Film, TV, or Teaser?

I was never a big fan of TV prior to the shift from episodic sitcoms to narrative driven series' with broader story arcs that span multiple episodes/seasons. Battlestar Galactica is a good example of the latter. I am a big fan of Battlestar Galactica - both because I'm a fan of sci-fi, but also because it makes such good use of the broader story arcs it is based on. It is also just a damn fine show (how's that for critical attention?).

I've started to become addicted to shows that operate in this fashion. Fringe, Lost, and True Blood for example. This narrative structure has caused some pretty intense complications in regards to the funding and continuation of these shows, however, because writers are forced to plan the story according to potential cancellations, etc. A good example is season 3 of lost, where writers advanced towards a possible 'end of the series' since it was still up in the air as to whether the show would continue or not, with Locke meeting Jacob and potentially coming close to unravelling the island's mysteries - the show was then OK'd for four more seasons, and the next two episodes quickly dovetailed away from Jacob to focus on preparing for the next season, complete with the unexpected flashforward rather than the usual flashback.

Because of monetary issues, sometimes shows end up in much more awkward positions though. Take Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for example. I really enjoyed this show, and would argue that it was the best product of the 'Terminator' franchise - much to my dismay, it was far better than Terminator 4. The show was cancelled after only two seasons, however, and refused the 'potential wrap-up' of the show by tying up the current story arc with a season-3-generating cliffhanger. This leaves the fans with all the excitement of a new season, but without any of the fulfillment of the season's arrival. Awkward.

Perhaps the ratings weren't doing so hot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but the shows cancellation spurred fans into action - check out I want to say Warner Bros and C2 Pictures are fools for for not continuing the show, but perhaps from their, economic, standpoint they made the correct choice. And this turbulence between fandom and and private profit has initiated a number of strange media-formations recently.

Caprica is an excellent case study. The 'pilot' was released as a straight-to-DVD 2-hour movie a year before the show is slated to begin. Caprica was marketed as a standalone film, but after watching it, it is definitely not a standalone film. The show beautifully anticipates a number of the themes that arise during Battlestar Galactica, even while being a much different experience from its predecessor (although, contrary to many critics writing about the show, I still feel like it operates in the same vein of Battlestar Galactica with relationships and drama at the core of the show). It also offers no real conclusion to the events that happen in the film and leaves the ending wide open for the first season like a pilot normally would. The only real conclusionCaprica arrives at is an almost mythological origin of the Cylons (with their creator terming them 'Cybernetic Lifeform Nodes' - Cylons).

I believe it is safe to say that Caprica is not a film, but this makes the decision to release it a year before the show is set to begin a bold choice. It seems like the folks that decided this are banking on fandom fueling hype throughout the year-long hiatus. It also makes Caprica seem like more of a teaser, a 2-hour long trailer, rather than a pilot - though my opinion might differ onces the show actually starts! Regardless, this puts Caprica in a bizarre position. If you look at the film's(?) website (, it seems to carefully step around naming its place in the new Caprica series cannon.

I'm intrigued by the proliferation of these forms of media, because they are different and they are risky. It will be interesting to see how producers capitalize on this in the future (Battlestar Galactica has already produced 'webisodes' that follow alternative storylines). It will also be very interesting to see which ventures succeed, and which fail. As for the Caprica series, I hope it finds success!!

EDIT: I forgot the most obvious example of strange media emergences - Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Creator Joss Whedon even intended this to be an example of how capital-centric issues might be circumvented when creating media.


  1. I think that it's precisely because of the larger narrative arcs that it's more difficult for these shows to find an audience and attract new viewers throughout the season. Think about trying to start watching "Lost" at any point last season without having seen a single previous would be tough to sort out. So, not only do writers have to balance the possibilities of cancellation, but those with smaller audiences (like "Fringe" or "SCC," they also need to balance stand alone elements that can draw in new viewers with enough backstory to keep the fans satisfied. For a non-TV attempt at this, I'm thinking of the last X-Files movie; which, I'm not sure was totally successful on either account.

  2. Ah, the new(est) X-Files movie is a great example! For the reasons we're discussing here, I think that movie was plain bizarre when you try to contextualize it.