"Lost": That's Not Okay

The creator’s of ABC’s “Lost” won’t do much better for potential fans than me. I was hooked from its opening scene, when the place crashes over the tropical island and everybody runs around the wreckage screaming, and “John Locke” (they are not subtle on this show; there is also a character named Rousseau who is very much “back to nature”) sat amidst the wreckage with a very Zen, “I have something to do with all of this” look on his face. I love the full orchestra (extremely rare for a TV show — I’m not aware of any others that use one) playing a Bernard Herrmann-inspired score; the other liberal borrowing from Hitchock; and, most of all, the constant recurrence of my very favorite literary trope, “the rabbit hole.” Basically every epsiode our band of sexy, remarkably well-made-up Swiss Family Robinson plane crash survivors discovers a new mysterious hatch that leads to another world, or something much like it. I love that they at least try (see below) to participate in genuine philosophical debates, and I even can’t resist the retro-70s stylings of their Dharma Initiative world (not to mention the awesome 1000-foot tall ancient Egyptian-seeming statue that has some secret temple hidden in its base). This is a very weird show for network TV, and I like that they were willing to take all of these risks.

So, as you can see, there’s a lot I like. But really all that has done is make me much, much more disappointed at what a crappy job the creators have done at following through on all of these great ideas. It’s no secret that people complain about all of the unanswered questions in the show — but my beef a little bit different. I’m OK with the mystery and ambiguity about the world they’re in (“Is it the afterlife? Is it an alternate reality?” etc.) What I’m NOT OK with is the way in which the characters react to the mysteries to which they are subjected. Over and over again, a character is solemnly informed that he “must” do something like “journey to the temple” to find some mysterious figure, and nobody ever says, “Why?” And if they do, they always accept an answer like, “Because it is your destiny.” “It’s my destiny? All right then — let’s go murder that guy!” It’s utterly unreal, and even if you are one of those watchers, like me, who is willing to suspend disbelief as to the stuff that’s actually happening, I can’t get past the completely phoney reactions of the characters.

I get that the show wants to explore questions of free will and fate, and, again, I’m OK with a certain degree of ambiguity and abstraction as the trade-off. But this goes way beyond that — the writers are just really lazy (or incompetent). They have some nifty set piece in mind, and they don’t give a damn how they get there. It’s not unlike a show like, say, “24,” where plot developments are simply not possibly consistent with previous ones — but the problem is, “Lost” has this weighty, pretentious vibe as if it’s actually an intelligently-wrought show.

What really kills me, though, is that I am such a sucker for so many of the set pieces/imagery that I willingly submit myself to the completely phoney characters and their reactions to what’s happening around them. I actually sort of dread watching it, because i know how enraged it will make me, but I do it anyway. And it pains me that the creators had such a cool idea, and executed aspects of it in such an interesting way…and then just punted on the tough part, not only of tying it all together, but of conceiving character reactions that make any sense at all.

Hey, “Lost” That’s Not Okay.

1 thought on “"Lost": That's Not Okay”

  1. When Jim and I first started watching Lost we had to force ourselves to sit through the first few episodes. Without friends telling us that it is a good show we would have probably never continued watching after the first couple of episodes. I could not figure out why I was not interested in it even though the story itself of people getting stuck on an island seemed so fun. I asked Jim what he thought about it and he nailed it. He said that basically he is not interested in the characters and does care about what happens to them on the island after the plane crash. We are in the fifth season now. I have to admit we have been watching Lost every night; however, even thought the characters have some more personality by now, they still are rather plain order executing and plot developing robots.

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