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Olmos transports from 'Family 'to 'Battlestar Galactica'

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The first season of PBS's "American Family," in which Edward James Olmos plays the conservative patriarch of a Hispanic Los Angeles family, comes out on DVD today.

But it's his role as another patriarch that's bound to get TV viewers in their 30s and 40s talking. Olmos is filming Sci Fi Channel's miniseries remake of the late '70s TV show "Battlestar Galactica." Olmos takes over the role of Commander Adama, originally played by the late Lorne Greene.

After a review of the script from this four-hour re-imagining was posted online (linked from www.battlestargalactica.com), the fan community cried foul. Olmos acknowledged that the new version, set to air late this year, won't appeal to everyone.

"If you're a staunch purist, then you won't like it," he said in a phone interview last week. "But if you're open to a new look at that situation, you might."

In the original series, humans traveling in "a rag-tag fleet" of ships in the deepest reaches of space set out on a quest for Earth, pursued by evil robots called Cylons.

In the new version, Olmos said, it's impossible to tell Cylons from humans, "which poses a tremendously difficult problem that's speaking directly to cloning, which we face in this world today."

Still, he realizes that regardless of the relevance of the new "Battlestar Galactica," some fans will object.

"Big time," Olmos said. "There's no two ways around it. If I were a purist, I wouldn't watch it. Don't waste your time. Get the old version on DVD. Don't hurt yourself. Don't go through the pain."

There's no such controversy surrounding the 13-episode first season of "American Family" DVD set ($69.98, Fox Home Entertainment), although Olmos sees parallels between the two shows.

"[The new 'Galactica'] is more character-driven, which is exactly what 'American Family' is," Olmos said. "It's character-driven, not plot-driven."

Olmos stars in "American Family" as Jess Gonzalez, whose wife, Berta (Sonia Braga), dies unexpectedly, leaving the family to change and grow to fill the void.

Production on the show's second season of 13 episodes begins in late June, Olmos said. If "Galactica" goes to series, he said, production schedules will allow him to appear in both programs.

Olmos said in the first season of "Family," he was most surprised by the variety of storytelling, including an episode that plays like a silent film and another filmed as one continuous take.

"From dramatic pieces of work to some that were hysterical, flat-out comedies, the range was very wide," he said. "Each week, you weren't really sure where you were going to go."

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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