Virtuality Review: Saving Earth and Touching Someone - Featured

That Fox is broadcasting "Virtuality," a film meant to introduce a series it has not scheduled, on a Friday night in June -- one week before the Fourth of July -- carries with it the cruel weight of a live burial.



While it ought to be said that "Virtuality" seems created to alienate any but the pointiest science-fiction fans (civilians might prefer the weekend backup on I-95 just outside New Haven), it is an impressively credentialed and stylish bit of television moviemaking, an exploration not merely of our practical dependence on technology but also of our psychological and nearly eroticized addiction to it.


Through Ronald D. Moore, one of the writers and a chief force behind "Battlestar Galactica," and Peter Berg, the director, the film maximizes its collaboration between Mr. Moore's blunt and distinctly masculine vision of a world careering toward apocalypse and the curvier intimacy of Mr. Berg's camera. His artfully melodramatic close-ups (the trademark of Mr. Berg's series "Friday Night Lights") are intended to remind us of all the fleshy emotion from which we absent ourselves when we choose to conduct our relationships at almost every level on screens.


To buy this argument, you would have had to have never fallen in love over a long epistolary relationship conducted through e-mail or found yourself viscerally excited by someone you had met in a chat room not devoted, let's say, to a discussion of "Bartleby the Scrivener." Real people cry, evade, dissemble, sour, percolate, speak truth to power, and here, Mr. Berg tells us at any rate, are what they look like doing it.


"Virtuality" takes place on Phaeton, a starship appointed as if from an Italian design magazine, which happens to be in the midst of a 10-year voyage through outer space with the mission of saving Earth from environmental degradation that will extinguish the planet in 100 years. (Those of you out there now suddenly shouting for the return of "Lipstick Jungle," I can hear you.) The Phaeton crew is made up of astrobiologists, geologists, computer scientists, all of them fantastically good-looking because just as I've always suspected the revolution won't be televised; it will be aerobocized.


Actually though, the starship is on view, the crew's efforts filmed as a reality-TV series broadcast on Earth to five billion viewers, the ratings serving as the clearest indicator that "Virtuality" isn't trafficking in futurism so much as nostalgia. Tensions among crew members are palpable, but needless to say the producers are demanding more. The only real respite available to those on the ship, the only form of privacy, is access to a radical form of virtual reality that allows them to inhabit the world of gaming quite literally. This all seems to work as a preserver of collective sanity until the gaming itself (in a crude metaphor perhaps too obvious even to qualify by the standards of the International Bureau of Metaphor) becomes life-imperiling (or so it seems).


Read the full review:

The New York Times Television Review: 'Virtuality'

Comments

9 comments

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Jun 27, 2009 2:33PM EDT

Do not miss this show, its absolutely amazing.

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Jun 27, 2009 5:55PM EDT

*adds to favourites*

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Jun 28, 2009 5:01AM EDT

Too bad they did virtually no advertising. I've never even heard of this show until I pulled up Sidereel 10 minutes ago. Seems like my cup of tea though, so I'll be sure to check it out. Unfortunately I doubt there will be that many further episodes, seeing how little faith Fox seems to has in this show.

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Jun 29, 2009 3:35PM EDT

Brilliant. Is it all just a dream then?

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Jun 29, 2009 5:56PM EDT

I really love everything sci-fi but this is not for me, after watching 25 minutes of the pilot i found it to be just another drama but this time it takes place on a spaceship. Maybe i'm not doing this show justice since i didn't watch the whole thing, but as for now i'm disappointed, was looking forward for some good sci-fi but instead Fox has f'd up again.

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Jun 30, 2009 2:03PM EDT

This show is amazing. You need to get through the first 30-45 minutes of character introduction to get to the real meat. The end is amazing and I can't wait for the rest of the series.

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Jul 16, 2009 9:01AM EDT

This show is amazing. If you have not seen it yet, then please, watch it right now; you won't regret it. It left me immediately wanting more, but I'm sure, as so often happens with original and intelligent programing these days, the network won't bother to even give it a chance to succeed. Please, Fox, give this series a chance! It deserves it!

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Jul 23, 2009 10:11PM EDT

k ill agree its a lil too drawn out and i wasn't impressed....but then the last 30 seconds happened

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Aug 15, 2009 12:07AM EDT

adultry, rape, murder, a gay friendly environment and a Fox TV show within a FOX TV show. My head is spinning.

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