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It's now one of the longest-running sci-fi series on American television

Stargate SG-1 Team

They thought it would end after season 5, 6 and 7. But no. Since being renewed for its eighth season last week, Stargate SG-1, the Sci Fi Channel's highest-rated series, is now officially one of the longest-running sci-fi series on American television.

The show's two-hour seventh-season premiere episode on June 13 beat its cable competition with a 1.9 household rating, reports the network, and delivered more viewers (2.43 million) than any season premiere of any series in Sci Fi Channel history.

The premiere also brought in more viewers than any episode of Stargate SG-1 in its entire cable run to date (its first five seasons aired on Showtime) and was the most-watched June telecast in the history of Sci Fi Channel.

Not bad.

Interestingly, the network is getting really serious about aliens, recently hiring a lobbying firm to press Congress to disclose the results of UFO investigations and is also, it's reported, considering going to court to have documents from a 1965 incident in Pennsylvania declassified.

The ensemble core cast of the locally shot series, Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge -- will all be back for SG-1's season eight, definitely its last, which will serve to set up show writer/executive producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper's spinoff series, Stargate: Atlantis, featuring a new cast playing a team attempting to discover the Stargate's origins.

I dropped in at the show's Bridge Studios set a few weeks ago for a visit just before the eighth season was announced.

Anderson, who's worked and lived in Vancouver for a good part of his adult life (he began shooting his earlier series, MacGyver here in 1985), is now 53, and aging very gracefully. (He seems to have that annoying disease that makes men even better-looking as they get older.) He's fit, tan, his now-silver hair cut military short.

He invites me into his trailer, so bereft of personal touches it could be parked on a RV sales lot in Peoria, and explains that for him, now, it's all about personal life and family. And thankfully, the network understands.

He returned for season seven only after negotiating a deal allowing him a shorter work week and to relocate and commute from Los Angeles, where his beloved daughter, Wylie Quinn Annarose, who turns five next Saturday, now lives with her mom, Apryl Prose. (She and Anderson are separated.)

"I was clear about what I needed to the powers-that-be," he says. "What I needed to make another go of it [he works 3 1/2 days a week and has every fourth week off], and they stepped up and said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' "

Anderson flies in on Mondays after dropping Wylie off at school, works from 3:30 until wrap, shoots Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, flies out on Friday to collect her from school and has her for the weekend.

"Mondays are a little dizzying maybe," he says, " 'cause I go from the bliss of being with Wylie and all that that affords me and then I come into this relative madness, but it's okay. Everyone knows what my priority is at this juncture of my life and career and it's worked out so far."

During last season's hiatus -- the show wraps in the fall and returns in February -- Anderson, who usually takes exotic vacations (last year river rafting in Tibet) stayed closer to home.

"It was imperative that I connect with Wylie," he says. "I had to make a decision about what to do about the seventh year and I wanted to make sure that she felt included in the process of decision making. I couldn't let her make the decision but I wanted her to know that she was listened to.

She definitely knows what daddy does for a living, I had to explain why I kept having to go to work. The whole psychology of my leaving all the time is something that I needed to manage with my child."

Another change in Anderson's personal life came into play earlier this year, with the death of his father, a San Diego jazz bassist and teacher.

"He was diagnosed with leukemia and within three months he was gone," says Anderson.

McNamara, Lynne. "Stargate SG-1 Heads Into the Record Books." The Vancouver Sun. July 30, 2003.