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I am – Hercules!!
If you’re a “Galactica” fan and can resist “Caprica,” the prequel co-created by “Galactica” mastermind Ronald D. Moore, you are a stronger individual than I. It’s set 58 years before Cylon War II (and, given that Bill Adama is 11 years old, less than a decade before Cylon War I). The compelling sci-fi drama deals with how the Cylons came to be, and how they came to get out of hand. The project is highly compelling, free of space battles but loaded with imaginative visual effects. While I judge it to be not as strong as the early episodes of BSG, it’s easy enough to imagine it evolving into a great series. Though she wasn’t involved with the pilot/movie, Jane Espenson – of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” and “Galactica” fame – ran the writers room creating this first handful of episodes. Like 2003 BSG, “Caprica” comes equipped with a cast that feels a little too strong for basic cable, and features standout performances by Esai Morales (who plays Lee Adama’s grandpappy Joseph), Eric Stoltz (who plays modern Prometheus Daniel Greystone), Polly Walker (who plays duplicitous headmistress Clarice Willow), and especially Alessandra Torresani (who plays Daniel’s supergenius daughter Zoe). Parts of the series reminds me of “Pet Sematary”; others bring to mind “The Fly” (and “The Fly II” too, since Eric Stoltz again portrays a genius dabbling in dark, cutting-edge superscience). There’s also quite a bit of “The Godfather” series in this project’s DNA, as we learn here that before Bill Adama’s pop became a civil right attorney he was a mob lawyer. If that’s not lure enough, “Caprica’s” first and not-very-basic-cable-like scene features a club full of young women naked from the waist up. There’s also bloody fistfighting, deadly gunplay and dancing. All in the first scene. Soon thereafter someone is told, “Go Frak yourself” and another says “So say we all.” A short time later we see books with their corners cut off, so we know haven’t accidentally tuned in to Showtime. Though “Caprica” is set 58 years before “Galactica” starts, it often feels perversely more futuristic than it progenitor, with sleek robo-butlers that remind of Eve from Wall-E and “Firefly”-ish levitating trains and electronic paper that looks like it was borrowed from the set of “Minority Report.” There are also popular “holobands,” visor-like virtual-reality devices that I never noticed Callie or Dualla or Gaius wearing when they were off duty. The teens dress like 2009 teens, the gangsters all have tattoos, and a lot of the grown-ups are still wandering around in fedoras. The grown-up gangsters sport tattoos and fedoras. Fun “Caprica” facts: * The 9/11 terrorist attacks, which inspired the Galactica’s memory wall, are evoked differently in “Caprica.” * There is not yet any centralized government for the 12 colonial planets, and no president overseeing such a federation. Caprica is ruled by its own prime minister. * English is not the first language on the planet Tauron. (They may, in fact, speak Ancient Greek there.) * Bill Adama’s paternal grandparents perished in a Tauron civil war. * We learn that the term “Cylon” comes from “Cybernetic Lifeform Node,” which I guess actually makes them CyLNs. If I understand correctly, they’re created in the pilot when supergenius Daniel Greystone sticks a “metacognitive processor” (or perhaps “megacognitive processor”?) inside a “cyber combat unit,” which looks a lot like an old-school centurion with the metal “skin” stripped off. (Think C3PO in “The Phantom Menace.”) The “MCPs” somehow make the Cylons smarter than the average robo-butler. The players, as revealed in this column some time ago: * DANIEL GRAYSTONE is literally the father of the Cylons, a fortysomething “spectacularly wealthy” computer designer. * ZOE GRAYSTONE, Daniel’s hot 16-year-old daughter, dies in a suicide bombing. Daniel learns that Zoe – like iconic “Twin Peaks” dead teenager Laura Palmer – had many secrets. For one thing she was a closeted monotheist! For another, she was even more of a technological genius than daddy Daniel, and succeeded in secretly uploading her personality and DNA into a holographic avatar. Daniel comes to combine the Zoe avatar with stolen technology to create the first Cylon, “a robotic version of his dead daughter.” * JOSEPH ADAMS, Bill Adama’s pop and Romo Lampkin’s future mentor, is a fortysomething Tauron native who long ago emigrated to Caprica and overcame anti-Tauron prejudice to become an influential defense attorney on the more affluent planet. Joseph’s wife and daughter (Bill’s mother and sister) die in the same blast that killed Zoe Graystone. Joseph Adams and Daniel Graystone, despite their very different backgrounds, are bonded by the tragedy. Adams, who still has “powerful ties to the Tauron crime underworld,” helps Greystone create the first Cylon by facilitating the theft of cutting-edge robotic technology from a Tauron computer developer. * TAMARA ADAMS, Joseph’s dead daughter, may also be resurrected, but Joseph – much like the dad in Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” – comes to regret his role in the Cylonic creations. * AMANDA GRAYSTONE, Daniel’s thirtysomething wife, is a successful surgeon devastated by the loss of her beloved daughter Zoe. * SISTER CLARICE WILLOW is another closeted monotheist and the headmistress of the Athena Academy, the polytheistic religious school Zoe attended. A product of colonial slums, the sister is presumably responsible for converting young Zoe into a monotheist. * BEN STARK is Zoe’s unbalanced monotheist-fanatic boyfriend, the suicide bomber who kills, among many others, Zoe, Tamara, Bill Adama’s mom and himself in a horrific train bombing. He too secretly uploaded himself into a holographic avatar. But his can only be contacted by headmistress Willow. * WILLIAM ADAMS, a dour 9-year-old introvert unaware of his Tauron heritage, is Joseph Adams’ sole surviving child. Like John Connor, he will prove humanity’s savior in a universe ruled by murderous robots. (One character cut out of the pilot was TOMAS VERGIS, Amanda Graystone’s Tauron ex-lover and one of her husband’s chief competitors. Following Zoe’s death, Amanda was to covertly return to Vergis’ bed to learn more of the tech that might be used to resurrect her daughter. Vergis arrives under different circumstances a few episodes later.) The Los Angeles Times says:
In the midst of all its programming woes, [Syfy overlord] NBC has managed to achieve something close to the impossible -- a prequel series that should not only please all comers but may expand the demographic of science fiction fans everywhere. …
The Washington Post says:
… not only differs from "Avatar" but improves on it. … There's enough going on in "Caprica" to keep a sci-fi fan, or anyone who likes to settle into a good story, satisfied and even beguiled -- and though it's shot too dark those watching on an upscale, big-screen TV will be treated to a visual spectacular. … Syfy is owned, as you probably know, by NBC Universal, so there's one added pleasure to be gleaned from "Caprica" -- the rare sight of NBC doing something right.
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… superb new series … Like "BSG," what makes "Caprica" so instantly compelling is that it succeeds with a strong story in a unique setting and isn't afraid to tackle big issues - religion and race being two of the largest. …
The Newark Star Ledger says:
… grapples with many of the contemporary dilemmas that "Galactica" handled -- religious strife, terrorism, overreliance on technology -- but, in placing them in a world that looks like the one outside our window, it can be blunter about it. The holo-band nightclub where Zoe and her friends meet in secret -- an online Sodom and Gomorrah, filled with (virtual) sex, drugs and even human sacrifice -- is like every parent's worst nightmare about what his kids are up to on Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the web. And by casting all of the prominent Tauran characters immigrants with Latin actors (and the Capricans with whites), it emphasizes the race and class distinctions in a way that "Galactica" couldn't with its use of Cylons as stand-ins for Muslim extremists. …
Variety says:
… through its first four hours (including a two-hour premiere), "Caprica" exhibits more than enough promise to justify the mission …
Entertainment Weekly gives it an “A-minus” and says:
… Less action-packed than BSG, but still awash in the familiar themes of life, loss, identity, and big frakkin' robots with guns. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… The two-hour pilot is quite compelling. Morales and Stoltz are well-matched in their subtle approaches to their characters, and the pilot asks the kinds of questions you'd expect from the creators of "Battlestar": When should we let go of what we've lost and how do we use technology to avoid painful truths? … If the show is guilty of anything in the first few episodes, it's of trying to do too much, which is preferable to a lack of ambition. …
USA Today says:
… Clarity was never a Battlestar strong point, but the writers now seem to have adopted incomprehensibility as a virtue. It isn't. Again, if you loved all things Battlestar beyond measure, Caprica may satisfy. For all others, this is a planet best left unvisited. …
The New York Times says:
… All this high-minded stage setting could produce an intriguing drama of ideas or a talky futuristic soap opera. The goal, presumably, is to achieve both — it’s the “Battlestar Galactica” combo — but it’s going to be harder to do now that the humans have left the spaceship. Back on the surface, without the ironclad premise and heightened atmosphere of “Galactica,” “Caprica” is, almost by default, a more ordinary show.
The Boston Globe says:
… While the technology is inventive, fear, frustration, and anguish still drive the plot. We’re back in “Battlestar’’ territory, and that feels good.
Extras include: * Both the rated (Syfy) and unrated (DVD) version of the pilot. * Deleted scenes. * Behind-the-scenes featurettes. * Video blogs. * Cast & crew commentary.
"Stargate Universe," Staring at "Stargate Universe," one senses the folks at Syfy approached the guys who made “Stargate Atlantis” with this pitch: “‘Battlestar Galactica’ is easily the least crappy thing on the channel, but Ron Moore is one pricey writer-producer. You think you could maybe make something like that ‘Galactica’ show? The critics sure do seem to like it a lot better than your Stargate series!” And so, I imagine, the “Stargate” guys came up with “SGU,” which (in its pilot at least) has “BSG”-like lighting and “BSG”-like music and "BSG"-like outer-space CGI camerawork and doesn’t seem to boast any actors with appliances slapped on their foreheads pretending to be extraterrestrials. Plus they got to hire Lou Diamond Phillips, a three-named actor who worked with Edward James Olmos on “Stand and Deliver.” The series follows a group of military, political and science types who find themselves forced to escape what looks like a Cylon sneak attack by jumping through a special stargate – a stargate that connects only to an ancient starship in another galaxy far far away. The Cylon-like attack wrecks the special stargate and everybody’s trapped on the highly dilapidated and impossibly old space vessel. Just as it took a little time to figure out that secretary of education Laura Roslin was now president of the BSG colonies, it takes some bickering to figure out who reports to whom when there’s military men and a senator and a high-ranking bureaucrat all tumbling though the one-way wormhole. There’s also a longhaired British superscientist played by Robert Carlyle who’s nowhere near as interesting or fun as Gaius Baltar. None of this, in fact, is terrifically compelling. While there’s promise in the premise, the “Stargate” writers don’t demonstrate any more faculty for crafting thought-provoking drama or complex characters than they did on their old “Stargate” shows. There’s a lot of schlocky shouting for the politicians and the soldiers and a lot of unfunny shtick for the chubby civilian genius who gets trapped with the more experienced gate-jumpers. Take away the Galactican pretensions and it all seems no better or worse than the “Stargate” shows Syfy cancelled to make room for this one. USA Today says:
… may not start fresh, but it does start over. … The cast (including Ming-Na, Louis Ferreira and Brian J. Smith) is good and the concept is a proven winner. And given how long these Stargates tend to stay open, the show certainly has time to improve. …
The New York Times says:
… People come hurtling toward us through a stargate in quick succession, crashing on top of one another in a bloody scrum. We don’t know where they’ve been or where they’re arriving. The answers follow in a series of flashbacks that sap most of the momentum of that nifty opening. … All this stress affords abundant opportunities for the overacting that characterizes “Universe,” as it does most large-cast cable dramas. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… I've now seen five hours of the show and still don't feel all that invested in the the fate of 1st Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith). Theoretically, I should -- he's one of the show's lead characters. Two characters do stand out … but the rest of "Universe" feels like an awkward mishmash of genres and tones. Though I had been cautiously looking forward to another iteration of the "Stargate" franchise, at this point I'm not sure its creators are taking Scott and his fellow survivors anywhere interesting.
The Washington Post says:
… Two things strike me, beyond "Stargate Universe's" stiffened pace: the predictability of the action and the characters, and the apparent tolerance for borrowing that the sci-fi genre treats as a matter of course. Plagiarism is the notable rhetoric, down to how things look in space and what people out there ever say to one another. What, exactly, gives "Stargate Universe" the right to beam its heroes from ship to surface the way "Star Trek" does? Why, except for budget and/or lack of imagination, do the interiors of the enormous starcruiser here bring to mind the dank hallways of "Alien" and the neo-brutalism of George Lucas's "Star Wars," with LED-bulb gizmo decor from "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica"? …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… begins with both promise and some hokey crutches. And then in next week's episode, the show gets lost in the desert -- literally.…
The Boston Globe says:
… quite a bit of this series feels like “Lost’’ in space, and it is - early “Lost,’’ before things got all Others-y and time-travel-bogged, when it was largely about unlocking characters’ mysteries and playing with grand themes. “Stargate Universe’’ isn’t quite so ambitious, but it’s intriguing in its way, down to the ship, bathed in blue light, that emerges as a character in its own right. The ship is more interesting thus far, alas, than any of the female characters, but perhaps that will change over time. As “Battlestar Galactica’’ proved not long ago, deep mythology is much more fun if it surrounds a lot of complicated people. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… The series is competently produced and has all the cinematic bells and whistles you would expect from a member of the "Stargate" family. But if it is to be more than that -- if it is to establish itself as an intelligent drama that, for example, explores the military-civilian dynamic -- it has light years to go. … True, "Stargate" fans likely will climb aboard this spaceship. But if this series is ever to really take off and become stellar, it will need more surprising stories and more intellectually challenging drama.
Variety says:
… a plodding two-hour opener that does little but explain the circumstances of the series, none of which are that complicated. The opener also introduces the cast, none of whom are that complicated, either. …

The third and fourth seasons arrive today, the first season to hit DVD since the release of season nine way back in 2006. As the series’ 21st season airs, these eight seasons are now available: 1: Borneo 2: Australia 3: Africa 4: Marquesas 7: Pearl Islands 8: All-Stars 9: Vanuatu 10: Palau

The fifth and final season of “Ally McBeal” is also worth owning for that scene in which Christina Ricci does half-naked gymnastics. And look how cute Calista Flockhart is.
Some have been waiting 32 years for this set. It may be hard to remember now, but the seventh and final season of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was greeted with the same kind of anticipation that attended the final season of “Lost.” The final season was nominated for 12 Emmys and won three, for writing, editing and Outstanding Comedy Series. Two of the episodes Emmy-nominated for writing this season, “Mary Midwife” and “The Last Show,” were written or co-written by the late great “Taxi”/“Cheers” writer David Lloyd.
Herc’s Popular Pricing Pantry

You don’t see a lot of movies available on Blu-ray for less than $6 (even used!), but that’s what the movies on this set work out to.
This series, created by David Mamet (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The Untouchables”) and overseen by Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), was $93.49 a week ago but it just fell to $69.99, which works out to less than $17.50 per season. Season four alone sells separately for $34.99.
Just before Ronald D. Moore went on to run “Battlestar Galactica,” he ran HBO’s “Carnivale,” another much-acclaimed series. If you’ve been holding off on buying, it just fell from $25.49 to $15.99 per season.
Every episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” can now be had on DVD for $143.49!! That works out to Less Than $28.70 Per Season!! These are lousy with extras and sold for more than $100 per season not too long ago.
“Columbo” season sets, $37.49 in February and $30.99 in July, are momentarily $15.99-$17.99 Each!! I think season one works out to $1.78 per movie.
Warner Bros. has loads of movies at $3 or less each.

TV-on-Disc Calendar

Last Week Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Collection 5 Part 1 Astonishing X-Men Battle 360 1.x (Blu-ray) The Cleveland Show 1.x CSI 10.x Designing Women Vol. 1 Ellery Queen: The Complete Series Family Guy: Partial Terms Of Endearment Hoarders 2.x Vol. 1 Land Girls Legend of the Seeker 2.x The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Vol. 2 Midsomer Murders Vol. 16 Paranormal State 4.x Party Down 2.x Patton 360 1.x (Blu-ray) Prehistoric Park: The Complete Series Rhoda Vol. 1 Rich Man, Poor Man: The Complete Collection Saturday Night Live: Best of Adam Sandler Saturday Night Live: Best of Eddie Murphy Scarf Jack: The Complete Series Scrubs 9.x Scrubs: The Complete Collection She-Ra: The Complete Series She-Ra 1.x Vol. 1 Son of the Beach: Back to the Beach South Park: Little Box Of Butters Swamp Thing: The Legend Continues Top Gear 13.x
This Week

All in the Family 7.x

Ally McBeal 3.x

Ally McBeal 4.x

Ally McBeal 5.x

Ancient Aliens 1.x (Blu-ray)

Baseball: The Complete Miniseries

Ben 10 Alien Force Vol. 9

Blue Mountain State 1.x

Blue Mountain State 1.x (Blu-ray)

Bones 5.x

Bones 5.x (Blu-ray)

Cake Boss 2.x
Caprica 1.1-1.10
Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Blu-ray)
Charlie & Lola 3.x
Doctor Who: Dreamland
Garfield: Pet Force 3D
Gunsmoke 4.x Vol. 1
Lock N Load
The Lost Kingdoms of Africa: The Complete Series
Mary Tyler Moore Show 7.x
Medium 6.x
Midsomer Murders Vol. 16
Monk: The Complete Series
Peanuts Holiday Collection (Blu-ray)
Penguins of Madagascar: I Was a Penguin Zombie
Phineas And Ferb: A Verry Perrry Christmas
The Queen: The Complete Miniseries
The Roman Invasion of Britain: The Complete Series
Stargate Universe 1.x

Survivor 3.x

Survivor 4.x

Stargate Universe 1.x (Blu-ray)
Ugly Americans 1.x Vol. 1
Next Week

Angel: The Complete Series ($101.99) The BBC High-Definition Natural History Collection 2 (Blu-ray)
Blossom: 10 Very Special Episodes The Commish: The Complete Series

Criminal Justice 2.x CSI Miami 8.x Dexter's Laboratory 1.x
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