This Little Piggy Stayed Home

Well, folks, I'm sorry about the slowdown of posts here lately, but I was unexpectedly struck down by what I think is that dreaded H1N1 (a.k.a. "swine") flu several days ago. I'm feeling much better now, though I understandably haven't had a lot of energy to dream up a new topic lately, so here I go with my promise (or would that be threat?) that I was going to re-create an entry every now and then from the previous incarnation of this blog. I hope it entertains you....

This story is a study in contrasts, in just about every possible way, except when it comes to the nature of the subjects themselves: a pair of sci-fi movies and their television offspring. One of them I fell in love with as a kid, and the other I didn't happen upon until much later; I watched the movie version of one of them first, and the TV version of the other was the one I first found. And then there's the much more significant contrast, which I'll get to in due course. Just to make it fun, I'll address them in reverse chronological order.

A few years back, I had a pretty significant coupon (40 or 50 percent off, as I recall) for a nearby store, and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted that was in stock, so I decided to take the plunge on something I had been curious about for awhile: the DVD set of "Alien Nation: The Complete Series". I hadn't yet seen the movie, but I had seen bits and pieces of TV episodes, plus the show's premise -- half sci-fi, half cop show -- interested me. I ended up not regretting the purchase, as it took just a couple of months to work my way through all 22 episodes. It was a lot of fun to watch: a great cast, as well as entertaining and thought-provoking stories that have aged well. Although I wasn't quite eager enough to see the resolution to the freeze-frame cliffhanger final episode to convince me to buy the TV-movies box set, I did eventually pick up the original movie, starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin, which inspired the series. I enjoyed it as well; I could definitely agree with whoever believed there was TV-series potential in the concept ... and the fact that I've always enjoyed Patinkin didn't hurt either. Despite the fact that the series lasted only one season, it was one of the better movie-to-TV adaptations I've come across.

Blue Thunder, however, is a different story. I saw the original movie, with Roy Scheider and Malcolm McDowell, as a kid and loved it. True, I was more into the gadgetry that made up Blue Thunder herself, but I later came to appreciate the story and the acting just as much. Well, when I found out that the very-short-lived TV series was being released on DVD, I was hit with a pang of nostalgia and eventually picked it up (on sale, 'cause I wasn't quite so nostalgic that I wanted to pay full-price for it), since I eagerly watched it week after week also. Well, how do I put this delicately? I hadn't realized how utterly crappy this show was until I started watching the DVDs. I wasn't even able to make it through all the episodes before I traded the thing in ... and to my surprise, I regret that far less than I thought I would. Maybe it's the casting -- a pre-"SNL" Dana Carvey as co-pilot to James Farentino (about the only watchable one here), and former NFL players Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith as Blue's ground support team and the show's comic relief ... and how can Sandy McPeak hold a candle to Warren Oates' portrayal of Captain Braddock? -- or maybe it's the slipshod scriptwriting, which may or may not seem far more so now than it did back then (the tightening of air safety, especially since 9/11, being just one thing that's changed quite a bit, and the extreme advances in computers being another). It can be funny how sci-fi shows can sometimes be the ones that age the least gracefully, can't it?

So, bottom line: If you haven't seen Blue Thunder, definitely check out the movie but skip the series (believe me, you'd be doing yourself a favor, even if you're a die-hard Butkus, Bubba, or Dana Carvey fan). If you haven't yet discovered Alien Nation, it doesn't matter whether you see the movie first or the TV show, but I recommend both. I am actually still toying with the idea of seeking out some of the comic-book miniseries that have come out over the years....

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