I love science fiction, but for some reason, I never started watching the new BSG, even though I was a fan of the original. That was a mistake. John downloaded the first two seasons and I recently watched them all. This is probably the best show on tv right now (ok, I don't have HBO, but still). I'm a big Lost fan but BSG is now holding the coveted #1 spot on my tivo season pass list. There's so much to like about this show, I'll just make a list (Spoilers ahead)-
The reimagining - I know this was controversial, but it was genius. The humanoid Cylons, the Cylon origin, even the female Starbuck, it all works, and it fits together better than the original. And it gave them the latitude to create a new storyline for the whole series that they can now reveal bit by bit. In that way it's somewhat like Lost, you know there's something going on, you don't know exactly what it is, but you get bits and pieces through each episode.
The writing - It's been consistently good and sometimes great. It's as much character-driven as it is plot-driven maybe more so, which I think is usually a hallmark of great storytelling. The storylines are fresh and unpredictable, and often very exciting. I was literally shaking with nervous anticipation during the conflict between Adama and Kane. They strike a good balance between action and drama. They deal with tough issues, not just mirroring current events like prisoner abuse, but also dealing with problems you would expect to arise in a situation like theirs - military/civilian conflict, press freedom, rebellion.
The characters and actors - As mentioned above, the characterization is great. You really care about these people. I had a lump in my throat when Starbuck told Adama that she had passed Zak when he really shouldn't have passed. It felt like a real moment. And the way the relationships change. The fact that Lee lets go of his anger when he finds out that Zak's death wasn't his father's fault. The way the relationship between Adama and Roslin goes from rocky to mutual admiration. Sharon's realization that she's a cylon and her suicide attempt. It's all good. It would be easy to use a lot of stock cardboard science fiction characters, but for the most part they avoid that.
The special effects - They look great to me. I like the gritty look, which makes sense and I never find myself taken out of the story by some jarring effect. I also don't see them using the special effects gratuitously. But it does look awesome when Galactica is firing full throttle fighting off hundreds of Cylon raiders. I like the way they have a lot of very retro tech. No lasers, just bullets and nukes. About the only thing they have that we don't is the FTL drives. I think it adds to the realism. It makes it easier to identify with them.
The season 2 finale - Well, it's definitely different. I like it so far. As I said above, I think the strength of the series has been it's writing and characterization, I don't feel it's a formula-driven show. So, this breaking of the formula is ok with me as long as they stay true to the characters and keep the story interesting and original. I like the idea of Kara organizing a Cylon resistance on New Caprica (when are the webisodes supposed to start?) And the idea of the fleet running on a skeleton crew trying resist from outside. I think this could ultimately be a good thing for the series. Showing that they can do different things relatively early in the series gives the writers more room to work in the future.
All in all, great tv. As good or better than anything on the networks. If this is the kind of quality the SciFi channel produces, I'll have to start watching more of their shows.