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BSG, "previously," and the iTunes Music Store


A couple of quick thoughts about BSG that don't involve spoilers (mostly discussion of the iTunes Music Store approach to watching TV):

After we finished watching the "season 2.0" DVDs, Kam and I didn't want to wait for the "season 2.5" DVDs to come out, so we downloaded the rest of the episodes from the iTunes Music Store.

My overall feeling about the experience was mixed.

On the one hand, it was great to be able to get the episodes before the DVD came out, and quickly and easily from the comfort of our own homes. At $2 per episode, it's about the same price as the DVDs, and if you buy the whole season (which we didn't), there's a significant discount (about $25 for 20 episodes). Each episode took about 10 minutes to download over a broadband connection; not quite instant gratification, but faster and easier than going to a video store. (Though I suppose going to the video store is faster than downloading five or ten episodes.)

On the other hand, the image quality for the iTMS episodes is relatively low. Certainly good enough for watching, and in fact better than the quality of some of the episodes we taped off the air last year before we gave up on that approach. But the flickery patches that indicate heavy compression or low encoding quality are distracting and annoying; definitely not DVD quality. Also, no DVD extras; especially no deleted scenes, some of which have been quite good in earlier seasons.

So I may end up buying the DVDs even though I now own most of the season 2.5 episodes in electronic-only format.

The other non-spoiler comment I wanted to make is entirely unrelated: I find it weird and confusing and distracting that the "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" segments regularly contain dialogue--and I think even visuals--that didn't happen in the show. The people who put the BSG "previously"s together are fairly good at summarizing a nigh-unsummarizable show (though not as good as the Alias previously-makers, who imo are the best in the business), but I'm not sure why they're showing us scenes that appear to have come from alternate histories of the show.


I was disoriented by the "previously-but-not-really" stuff at first, but now I like it. (Kind of like the camera angles in some of the space battle scenes.) It's not alternate history, it's just stuff that happened off camera. And really, isn't it just a narrative convention that every important event has to have already appeared on screen?

Whenever I see people talk about the "fake" flashbacks, they talk about them as "deleted scenes", and maybe that's what they actually are; but really, if they're not already filming them specifically for the episodes they introduce, they should start. It'd give the writers a hell of a lot more flexibility.

Speaking of scenes that the audience hasn't seen [yet], it still startles me when the brief montage of scenes from the upcoming episode flashes, before the Galactica emblem at the end of the opening credits. Suspense is not necessary to my enjoyment of a tv show (e.g., I'm already spoiled about the ending of the BSG second season, even though I'm currently in the middle of the first season, temporarily stalled because I'm not too fond of the characters yet), but it seems odd to have an idea of the trajectory of the episode before it really starts.

Maybe they're taking cues from the fake "next time on Arrested Development" clips? (or not)

As for the quick clips of the upcoming episode, I think of them as the overture: they don't quite lay out for me what to expect, but they give it a familiar ring when it comes.

David: I think maybe if they called it something like "background relevant to this episode," I would be happier with it. But to me, "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" is short for "Things you've previously seen on the show" rather than "Things that previously happened in this universe." I'm willing to accept that BSG is choosing an unusual approach to the previouslys, and yeah, I can see that it's kind of neat. But I'm still getting used to it.

And yeah, I'm assuming that they're deleted scenes; I think filming new scenes for flashback would start getting expensive and confusing. But I could be wrong.

...I think part of why I find it disorienting is that I expect previouslys to be there to remind us of what's gone before (and to fill in viewers who've missed an episode or two), so if they present new material there, I'd just as soon see that new material integrated into the story, as flashback. But I guess that depends on what you see the purpose of the previouslys to be.

Joanna: I hate those upcoming-scenes things. Kam and I cover our eyes during them, or if we're watching on DVD we hit the Next-Chapter button to jump past them. They feel spoilery to me--but I admit I'm more rabidly anti-spoiler than many people. I really don't want to know anything about what's going into the episode before it actually happens. I was pleased when they stopped doing this for a while, and annoyed when they brought it back.

Dan P: Very interesting idea of those clips as an overture; I like that, and if I trusted the creators more not to give me anything I think of as a spoiler, I might be more willing to watch those clips. But fwiw, I think that if musical overtures contained plot spoilers (instead of just previews of musical themes), I'd be more annoyed by them. (Then, too, I'm fairly unlikely to go into a show that has an overture without knowing something about the plot ahead of time.)

...Many shows have done "Next time on [show name]" at the end (going back to radio days, I think); but I don't really like those, either.

When did "spoilers" stop having to actually spoil one's enjoyment to be spoilers? Was it Harry Potter? Or just the Internet in general?

I just read the long and marvelous post on spoilers, and I wouldn't want to argue with anything there -- I'll just say that in my particular experience, the brief flashes of the upcoming episode are short enough (and my memory is poor enough) that I rarely feel like I already know what's going to happen in the episode, and if I do, I largely forget it in the immediacy of the story by the time it rolls around again. To me, they fall on the foreshadowing = good side of the giving-it-away = bad line, but I can see how tastes would differ.

The other thing that I like about them is that they let some of the moving pictures be filmic art first before they're contextualized as plot service. There's some of these (f'rex, a character wearing a bright orange outfit in a green forest is shouting out some strong reaction) that stick with me as emblems of the feelings of that episode and which, being supporting images to a crucial plot point just before or after, I wouldn't have remembered if they weren't highlighted this way.

Not that I expect anyone to agree, just commenting (and then Previewing, then Posting).

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