Although I suppose one can watch and enjoy Caprica without having seen Battlestar Galactica, the series Caprica is a prequel to, it might kind of hard for me to not reference BSG in this post. So be warned as you read ahead.
I've heard BSG described as a "space opera" and I always kind of wondered about that description. I've watched my share of daytime and nighttime soaps and BSG, especially considering its military and political themes, didn't really have too much in common with those entities.
But Caprica? I think Caprica would definitely fall into some kind of soap category. The show revolves around two families, the Graystones and the Adamas (yes, Admiral Adama is here but is still a kid), and there are big corporations, mobsters, teenagers, cults...classic soap opera elements. The difference here is that Caprica is set in a very different but at the same time very familiar world. You could probably call it futuristic, as there are robots and artificial intelligence and computers that look like a sheet of paper*, but there's no indication of how or even if this world is related to our time or Earth at all (although BSG fans know where this is all going...)
*Is this what we're moving towards with the iPad??
And I've really been enjoying discovering the little ways Caprica is similar or different from our own world. For one, this is a polytheistic society, where those who believe in one God are considered terrorists. Homosexuality and group marriages appear to not be a big deal, but racism is still very prevalent. (There are "Twelve Worlds" and each planet seems to have one ethnicity?) The most popular sport is called Pyramid, which is some kind of ball game. Oh and the Graystones have this funny little servant-robot named Serge who totally cracks me up; it's very Jetsons.
Anyway, the show kicks off with a train bombing that kills two teenage girls, Zoe Graystone, and Tamara Adama. Zoe is the daughter of Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), the briliant and wealthy head of a technology corporation, who is a computer genius herself and member of a monotheistic cult. Tamara Adama is the daughter of Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), a lawyer who is part of the Tauron ethnic group and has connections to a Tauron crime organization through his brother, Sam. Joseph's wife is also killed in the blast. These two men initially connect because of their family tragedies but quickly become enemies.
Here's where more of the science fiction stuff comes in. Before her death, Zoe had been working on an "avatar" of herself that exists in a virtual reality type world accessed with "holobands" that were pioneered by her father's company. We don't know all the details of her plans for this avatar, but after her death, Avatar-Zoe continues to exist. Daniel learns about the avatar from Lacy, one of Zoe's friends, and "downloads" this avatar into one of his 6-foot robots intended for military use. Daniel thinks that this failed and that the avatar is lost, but Avatar-Zoe is now stuck. She's the first Cylon!
So yes, Caprica is a very different show from BSG but so far I'm very much enjoying it. It's too early to tell if it'll have the same kind of critical acclaim or pop culture resonance that BSG had (well, in the geek world anyway) but I'll definitely be sticking with it.