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May 19, 2010

Losing "Lost"

Locke-orange The TV show "Lost" finally ends on Sunday, and I have a confession to make: I don't like "Lost." Also, I've probably watched more episodes of "Lost" and know more about "Lost" than anyone else who thinks the characters are boring and doesn't really care about their flashbacks, flash-forwards, flash-sideways, secret crimes, shocking deaths, shocking returns from the dead, sweaty trysts, love triangles, J. Crew-model physiques, mind-bending transformations into embodiments of good and evil, or famous philosopher namesakes. They're just a bunch of actors in tight shirts to me.

But, while I don't love the fictional people or stories of "Lost," I'm fascinated by the story of "Lost" as the series that finally succeeded in taking sci-fi weirdness, alternate realities and other such stuff mainstream. It should have been "Twin Peaks." It could have been "The X-Files" or "Buffy." But ultimately "Lost" was the show that geekified Middle America.

In that spirit, I offer some Lostie links.

On Thursday the 20th, a guy from the New York Times interviews Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who've had creative control of "Lost" for quite a while now. (Forget J.J. Abrams; he's off doing Star Trek movies.) You can see the interview live at the Palace 9 in South Burlington at 8 p.m. for $10.

Why bother? Well, Cuse and Lindelof are reputed to be ... a bit full of themselves, which could be amusing, especially if the interviewer doesn't take a softball approach. (They're also known for scattering the word "fuck" liberally in their scripts, suggesting that the characters are mentally cussing, like, all the time, which you probably would too if you were stranded on a time-traveling island with a smoke monster.)

Middlebury professor Jason Mittell, whom I profiled last summer, teaches courses on TV. He loves "Lost," and he's blogging up a storm about why he's still hopeful that the show will answer the right questions even if it doesn't explain everything. Warning: spoilers! Here's a good quote: "Really? We need an episode dedicated to the engineering marvel of the Frozen Donkey Wheel? Lost is a show featuring time travel, smoke monsters, and clairvoyance -- do we really need to understand how everything works enough to recreate the island in our basement?"

Finally, I came across this cheat sheet to "Lost" for people who feel obliged to watch the finale even if they haven't followed the show since season 1. It is, shall we say, a bit tongue in cheek, but I found it genuinely helpful. Favorite "faker's rule": "Claire has replaced her real baby with a squirrel baby. Any conversation about Sayid or Claire will eventually circle around to the squirrel baby, so make sure you're the first one to bring it up."

Whoops, here I am writing, and the next-to-last episode of "Lost" is on. Better go see what's got into John Locke now. C'mon, writers. You've got, like, 45 more characters to pair up and/or kill off!

I still love Lost.

Margot - thanks for the link. I'd love to hear more about why you continue to watch despite not liking the show. Will you be at the Palace tonight?

Hi Jason-- Might make it over there, but I'm not sure I'll have time. I just find Lost an endlessly interesting case study in how serial narratives work or don't, and that's why I've followed it despite never cottoning to the writing or the characters. (As opposed to BSG, which I was passionate about on every level even though, yes, I know the ending sucked!)

Did you ever read the Bitterness thread for Lost over on TV Without Pity? Sad to say, the mods closed it a year or so ago. From the ranting and raving there I learned a lot about how writers can keep or lose the respect of a rabidly attentive (read: geeky) audience. It obviously didn't reflect the attitude of more casual Lost fans, but it fascinated me, and I kept watching the show just so I would understand their snarky commentary.

Which makes it sound like I have WAY too much time on my hands... oh well. Anyway.

What's BSG?

Battlestar Galactica, the new version. Yes, I'm a nerd.

But it was such a good show and I miss it...

What galled me about Cuse & Lindelof's NYTimes interview: Not once did they mention, or give even the slightest h/t to Jeffrey Lieber, who actually created Lost. ABC took the show in a different direction, and Jeff actually had to go to the WGA to get any credit for what he created. Just another day in the down-and-dirty world of Hollywood.

But it would have been nice to see at least an ounce of class from Cuse & company as Lost takes its final bow. And personally? I would much rather have seen where Jeff's character-driven version would have gone. A lot of the crazier sci-fi stuff bored me to tears.

Interesting-- I didn't know that, Lisa!

I would have preferred it more character driven, too. But more importantly, I always wanted Lost to be more like Lord of the Flies, with or without the crazy sci fi stuff. My favorite parts were the creepy ones, back when the Others were actually scary. I was so annoyed when they started getting those Dharma food dropoffs. Even Survivor contestants have it worse on their island! (And they look dirtier, too. I can't stand how coifed people on Lost look.)

On the other hand, I guess you can't sustain something like Lord of the Flies for six seasons. People would get really, really freaked out. Even The Prisoner, which I've been watching for the first time (classic '60s British fantasy/social allegory and an obvious influence on Lost), called it quits after one season because the creator knew the concept would get stale.

But will I be watching the entire finale tonight? You bet!

Wait, tonight? Crap. I don't have tv.

I'm sure all 2 hrs. and 50 minutes (!) will end up on Hulu (or ABC's site?). Just avoid spoilers till then!

Whoa. Lost fans, did you think that was a good way to end it?

I got sick of Matthew Fox back when he was on Party of Five. He seems like a nice guy, just not that interesting. I don't know. Maybe that's my biggest problem with this show. I did kinda feel for his character a tiny bit, though.

But mainly I was rooting for the Man in Black to get off that stupid island. And to get an actual name. I always sympathize with the Cain figures.

I loved the finale (and blogged about it here).

@Lisa: from all the research I've done, Lieber's script was not part of the show that was made, but rather something that ABC commissioned but rejected - the fact that he's credited (& well-paid) at all is quite generous, given that his work is not part of the show as it aired. I've read the Lieber script, and it would not have worked as a series.

Thanks for the link, Jason-- great post and comments!

It fascinates me to see how much others get out of the show, and I wish I weren't immune. In fact, that's probably why I watched so much -- trying to see what I was missing. Maybe the core problem is that I'm not enough of a romantic to get behind things like Desmond & Penny's True Love.

But I've never liked any J.J. Abrams product, including Cloverfield and the much-acclaimed new Star Trek, so maybe there's a basic difference of taste and temperament here.

Margot, how can you root for the smoke monster? Who are you?!?!?

I watched the show last night on Hulu.

********SPOILER ALERT************

I gotta say, I was a little disappointed by this finale. Jason, I read your laudatory post, and I agree that moving the show back to being about the characters was wise, but the church scene at the end was a little much for me. I liked the parallel reality, but I'm disappointed by all of the Christian overtones at the end.

I feel like, all along, there was a war going on for the soul of the show. Was it going to be a piece of religious propaganda? Or was it an antidote to the propaganda? And in the end, the propaganda won.

Or maybe I just feel that way because I see my evangelical Christian cousins chatting about the show on Facebook...?

And Sayid and Shannon? Really?

Also, I was kind of hoping that the plane would crash at the end, just to make it an almost clean sweep. I was ok with Hurley, Ben and Desmond surviving. But Miles? I guess I was ok with the pilot making it out, too. I think he was my favorite character. I empathized with that guy.

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