Monday, February 1, 2010

A Personal History with 'Lost' [ NO SPOILERS ]

Due to an archaic business model that no longer holds any real bearing, the television networks assault us with dozens of brand new shows every September. And since no one actually has the time to watch every single premiere episode of every single show, we often make our viewing decisions based on pre-release intel: do the previews look good? does it have any actors we like? is it from the makers of a show we already like? what are the critics saying?

Having such filters in place is a necessity, but it can lead to a certain amount of cynicism. Which is what I was experiencing in late summer 2004, as I started seeing an increasing number of commercials, print and bus ads, and overall critical hype for this new show "Lost." First of all, it was from that guy who created "Felicity;" no thanks! Second, what was this; some sort of dramatic version of "Gilligan's Island"? Try again, ABC!

"Guys, where are we?" said the dude from Lord of the Rings. Over and over again. Plane crash evoking 9/11; people trying to survive on a tropical island, evoking "Survivor;" and "Guys, where are we?"

"It'll last four episodes," I thought to myself, determined to never watch it.

What I didn't take into account was that, at the time, I didn't have cable, Netflix, or very much money for the movie theater. My options limited, I had to accept what little was being offered me through the rabbit ear antennas on a lonely Saturday night.

Let me take a moment to lament the sad state of weekend television. Back when I was a kid -- God, how old am I? -- they used to run original shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Not necessarily good shows, but original scripted programming nonetheless. ABC had their TGIF family shows. NBC had their Miami-set sitcom block ("Golden Girls," "Empty Nest," "Nurses," etc.) CBS had their "Dr. Quinn" and "Walker, Texas Ranger." And let's not forget that "The X-Files" started as a Friday show, before Fox realized it was great and moved it to Sunday. By the time "Lost" debuted in 2004, the networks had pretty much given up on Fridays and Saturdays. "The kids are all out partying, not home watching TV," the thinking went; so Fridays and Saturdays were relinquished to airing crappy movies, cheap news shows, and re-airings of original programming from earlier in the week. And that's how I ended up catching "Lost."*

If you ask "Lost" fans what hooked them into the series, most will tell you it was the fourth episode, "Walkabout." Not only is that the episode that hooked me, it was actually the first episode I ever saw (in one of those Saturday re-airings). I clicked the TV on to find a show not about people on an island, but about some guy who works a crappy office job but apparently fancies himself some sort of nature-man survivalist. Then I saw the island, and realized I was watching "that 'Lost' show." But at that point, I was already intrigued. I didn't know "Lost" was going to have all these flashbacks and stuff; I thought it was going to be "Dramatic Gilligan's Island" (though probably without the Globe Trotters).

Then came the big reveal. In the flashback, we see John Locke pull away from a desk... and he's wheelchair-bound. Wait a minute! That doesn't make sense! On the island, he's walking around like it's nothing. And then we see a shot of him wiggling his toes after the plane crash. And then we see him burning his wheelchair. And... what?!

(And if you think it was a spoiler for me to mention the big John Locke reveal, then brother, you don't know "Lost." I've spoiled 0.01% of all the secrets this show has in store for you if you haven't started watching it yet. Watch it in good faith.)

They followed that re-airing up with another. This episode was about pregnant girl Claire. In her flashbacks, a psychic goes batty over how important/dangerous Claire's child will be.

...What?! That's what this show is about? A metaphysical island where the formerly lame can walk and psychics predict ambiguously Earth-shattering things about the unborn? Let me tell you, I completely misjudged this show. In my defense, the "Guys, where are we?" marketing campaign did not indicate what the show was really about. I'm guessing ABC thought a mass audience would be scared off by the paranormal elements of the show... which is a strange thing to think, given the precedent set by the afore-mentioned "X-Files." Whatever the case, they worked it out. The show reached a wide audience, and I was now one of them.

I was there through the frustrating, far-too-many reruns phase of season two. I waited patiently through the "split season" phase of season three. I cheered when the producers reached a deal with the network to commit to an end date. I teared up for "The Constant." I was surprised to meet LaFleur and his wife.

It's been a heck of a ride. I've had a great time discussing episodes with coworkers and friends. I've enjoyed reading what that crazy man Doc Jensen has to say about each episode. But mostly, I've just enjoyed the show.

Tomorrow, the final season begins. 16 more episodes, and then it's all over. Needless to say, it's exciting to find out how it's all going to end, but bittersweet because there won't be any more. "Lost" was a one-of-a-kind show; the right show at the right time, as some have said. Shows like that are rare. I plan on fully appreciating what's left of this one.

And if you haven't been watching "Lost," now is a great time to start. By the time you finish watching the five previous seasons, the sixth (and final) will be available for you to complete.

*The trend of filling weekends with cheap programming seems to be passing, as CBS in particular has found modest success with its original Friday shows "Ghost Whisperer," "Medium," and "Numb3rs."

1 comment :

  1. "...big John Locke reveal, then brother, you don't know 'Lost'..."

    I think you meant 'brutha'


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