Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bring on the Cheese

Because the other 8 plans failed...SQT posted last week about some of her kitschy favorites. I’ve been thinking about cheesey sci fi for a long time, probably since my movie-loving friend took me to a bad movie festival when we were in junior high that featured Plan 9 From Outer Space, Horror at Party Beach, and I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It seems to me that you could talk endlessly about cheesy science fiction.

Sure, there’s a lot of science fiction out there that’s smart or well made, Forbidden Planet or the new Battlestar Galactica for example. But for every one of those, there has to be a couple dozen more that occupy the cheese-filled realm like Independence Day or Star Trek TOS.

Insert trilling trumpet fight song hereStar Trek had its share of “smart” science fiction and social commentary, such as Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. But the whole series is most known for its cheap sets, some lame effects, and a hammy William Shatner getting his shirt ripped, then doing a combat roll followed by a double fist punch to his opponent’s stomach.

Desi Arnaz Jr. and Automan!If you really want to talk about cheese though, I think the best thing to do is look at Glen Larson’s body of work. Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, Manimal, The Highwayman, and Night Rider have all seen the airwaves thanks to Larson.

Now when I was a kid I never saw much of Galactica, but my dad and I enjoyed watching Buck Rogers a lot. I remember seeing an episode where a robot/cyborg/whatever tracked Buck through a desert and attacked him at some kind of outpost. When Buck threw a computer component at the monster, it became obvious that the impromptu weapon was actually a cardboard box with the appearance of machinery taped to the sides of it.

Beefcake or Cheesycake?Buck Rogers had a lot of cheese going for it. It had roller discos, it had Gary Coleman, child genius, and it had Twiki . Remember this was post-Star Wars, so you had to have cute comedy relief robots. Twiki’s job was to haul Dr. Theopolis around and to make the occasional sardonic comment. Twiki was voiced, of course, by the immortal Mel Blanc and featured that memorable “Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-bee” whenever he talked. Sure the robot was amusing, I guess, but he also ensured that the show was well entrenched in the “realm of cheese.” He even got to dance with a female robot once at a space disco.

Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-beeIt seems like the list of cheesy sci fi goes on and on, even calling the genre “sci fi” gives it an air of cheesiness. I think that it sometimes makes the product easier for consumption, my dad was never a fan of SF but he sure enjoyed the goofy, roguish Buck Rogers. I have no problem letting my four-year-old daughter watch Batman, but I think twice about letting her see Farscape (though the last time she did, she assured me that she understood that it was all pretend).

So do you think cheesy sci fi hurts or helps the genre? Just because something is cheesy, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless or substandard does it? Is there something cheesy out there that you really love or absolutely can’t stand?

12 comments:

mist1 said...

There is something about the cheese factor that I like. Especially when I am sick or brain dead. I find it strangely comforting.

SQT said...

The cool thing about sci-fi is that no matter how cheesy it gets, someone will love it.

Buck Rodgers is a classic example. It was cheesy. But it was still great on so many levels, and no I don't mean Erin Grey in spandex.

I think it would be fun to see a remake of it if it could be done intelligently like the new BSG.

And the cheese factor was so integral to the original Star Trek. It's why we love William Shatner so much. I always get the feeling he doesn't mind making fun of himself and you gotta love that.

Just telling it like it is said...

OMG I loved Buck Rodgers...I thought that he might even want to marry me...I mean I mean the story lines in it self were so real...didn't you love how they acted....he is almost as good as David Hasselhof...now that is damn good..but does he sing?

Local Henchmen 432 said...

Buck Rogers rocked. When I was 6.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There were some great 'cheese' shows. Buck Rogers and the original Galactice were great.

big joe said...

Larson made a Night man show that kept the cheese factor going It even had a n episode , with Manimal, and his daughter

deslily said...

I'm just wondering... everyone is calling those shows "cheesy"..now. But did they really seems "cheesy" back when they were new to you??

I love ST back when it was on as new.. yes, if i look back now it was done rather shabbily... but i also know tv was not spending money on such shows, so I think they all did rather well.. for the time and money allowed to them.

SQT said...

I don't remember thinking Buck Rodgers was cheesy back in the day, but I was still a kid. Same goes for Knight Rider and Star Trek. I look back now and think they look cheap, but I didn't back then.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I remember sitting down to watch Buck Rogers. I was in college. I made it through about fifteen minutes and turned it off. Yes. Bad. Really bad.

Night Gallery, Glen Larson, the guy who gave us the original Battlestar Galactica, could be cheesy as well...but only when Glen Larson wrote the segments. When the series stayed with the tone and art of Serling, it soared. When it sunk into Larson's realm, it died.

A third cheese..and this is profound cheese...just about anything Dino DeLaurentis had his hand in during the seventies. Allow me to focus on King Kong, the one with Bridges and Lang. Kong on the World Trade Center.
Bad. Really.

ShadowFalcon said...

I have a love for the Cat from outer Space....

Irene said...

Cheesiness usually sells best. =)

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I would have to agree. cheese is fun. I used to love Buck Rogers and I would watch it again if it were on.