Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just redo it?

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" is a new series by FOX being billed as a follow up to to the classic "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" from the 1980's which starred the late Carl Sagan.
Ann Druyan and Neil deGrasse Tyson
I'm not a fan of the idea.  I get that Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, is an executive producer on the show.  I don't have a problem with star Neil deGrasse Tyson. (At least, not outside of the "Pluto is not a planet" thing.)  And I'm not that worried about Seth "Peter Griffen" McFarlane also being an executive producer. (Though I am going to keep an ear out for Stewie's voice.)

But I do have a problem with remakes, reimaginings, and 'sequels' in name only.  I don't mean evolutions of a fandom into something that disappoints me. (*cough, cough* Stars Wars: The Phantom Menace *cough*) And it's not a HUGE problem.  I don't let it keep me from enjoying a good show.

But ultimately, I believe there are some shows/movies/books that have either a defining foundation of concepts or a style that is so emblematic of the author, creator, or actor/personality that you can't separate the two.

Prime example: Battlestar Galactica

Was the reimagined BSG a good show?  Yes, it was.  But was it Battlestar Galactica? 

The original was about a group of human war survivors voyaging across space in search their lost 'cousins' on Earth.  The series had a very positive tone.  Starting with the reason for the war: the cyborg/reptilian Cylons had attacked a neighboring species and the Twelve Colonies of Man came to their defense.

In the reimagining, humanity had created sentient machines and enslaved them.  The machines came for revenge.  And the people of 'Earth' had destroyed themselves.

Other than proper names (Cylons, Adama, Galactica) the two series are very different.  And in that light the Battlestar Galactica name strikes me as a merketing to ploy to sell a series the creators were afraid Hollywood wouldn't give a chance otherwise.

My concern for Cosmos is that in trying to replicate the 'Cosmos experience' (it's already been stated that the 'ship of the imagination' from the Sagan series will return) that Tyson will be asked to emulate Sagan's style.  Tyson is a very good teacher, but Sagan had a very artistic sense that Tyson just doesn't possess.

It wouldn't have been too difficult to sell a Cosmos like series designed around Tyson.  There was no need to invoke the name "Cosmos".  There are expectations that will come with that name; nd unlike BSG, which had a low bar in terms of story to leap in terms of comparisons to the original.

But the entertainment industry loves to hedge it's bets.  They recycle ideas, franchises, and plots to play it safe.  And that, children, is how we got "Prometheus".

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New dreams

National Signing Day is almost over.  Smiling young men locking in a college education and at the same time acquiring the opportunity to play college football.

Or so it would seem.

If you check the numbers, a lot of these schools have signed more players than they have scholarships available.  Some have even signed more than the 25 per year they are allowed by NCAA rules.  How?

First, teams are counting on players not being able to qualify academically.  Many of these kids will attend 'prep' schools with hopes of being eligible the next year.  Second, transfers of existing players will free up scholarships.  Finally, some of these recruits will be told to enroll at their own expense and walk on.

All these options are available, because the system is weighted against the players.  It starts with the National Letter of Intent.  This is not necessary to play college football.  But college football programs love them, because they bind the player to the school.  Once so bound, a player cannot leave a program without permission, unless they want to lose two years of eligibility.  They are stuck, coaching changes, mistreatment, or personal circumstances be damned.

The schools are not so bound.  Their only commitment is the scholarship agreement.  And those are one year agreements.  Many of the previously mentioned transfers are because the players were told there would not be a scholarship for them the next year.

In short, the players' options are taken away and schools' options are left wide open.

I love college football.  I'm not a big proponent of cash payments to players.  But giving all the power of these young men's futures to football coaches whose commitment to winning and climbing the coaching ladder, that's just wrong.  I don't doubt that at lower levels of college football the dangers of abuse of power are few.  But at the levels where the stakes are highest, the money greatest, and winning ever more important, I have no doubt abuses do occur regularly.

And that is why I can't celebrate Signing Day.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bad endings, New beginnings - The US Year in Sports

Well the Super Bowl is over and I'm having flashbacks to the 80s and 90s.  Most of the folks born into the Internet Age won't know this, but there was period of 15 years the where excitement of the Super Bowl was due to the commercials not the game.  In that time frame only 4 of the games had a margin of victory of 10 points or less.  And only two games were within one score.  Hopefully this year was an anomaly, because lately the commercials are getting lackluster too.  Several of the ones on Sunday we the same commercials companies had been running for weeks or longer.  (I'm looking at you Geico.)

I like her better in "Bones"

It's a shame really, because Super Bowl Sunday serves as the New Year's Eve party of the US sports year.  Football is the overwhelming definer of US sports culture.  There's an entire industry growing around the evaluation of the talent of preteens!  The NFL Draft will attract higher ratings than the major events of many other sports.  That's why the sports year ends with the Super Bowl and begins 3 days later with college football's "Signing Day!".  (Though this is somewhat of a misnomer, as it actually is the beginning of a long signing period.  But you gotta have an event for TV.)

So the redeeming factor of a BGB (Big Game Blowout) is that with old year gone, a fresh new year awaits.  Depending on your sports bent in addition to Signing Day you can look forward to the Winter Olympics,  March Madness, The Masters, the Daytona 500, and the NBA and NHL playoffs.

So remember fondly the Muppets, Doberhuahuas, the friendship between a puppy and a horse, and The 80s calling. 

Just don't go anywhere near ESPN for a few days.  Unless you're a Peyton Hater.  Because, ouch.