May 25, 2010

Flashback to LOST


 Locke, Jack and No Smoky Monsters

Commenting on some of the comments from my LOST finale summary

To Ron, who complained that LOST was "a show that arguably raised the bar for action on network television" and lamented that much of the finale was "two and a half hours with everyone smiling at one another" - 

I respectfully disagree. If you watched LOST for six seasons, you'd know that every season finale had more walking from Point A to Point B than an old Roger Corman sci-fi snooze-fest. Action was limited to small spurts, such as the actual physical confrontation between Jack and Faux-Locke on the cliff (which I would agree looked far more like an old-school Star Trek slugfest between Kirk and the Gorn than anything fresh and exciting.

You're not the boss of me, Jack!

To Bernard, who complained that the finale "proved to me that there was no overarching plan from the start" and cited the fact that Michael Emerson was original only signed for three episodes as proof of this -

The creators themselves have always said they only sat down to hatch a plan after they got picked up for a second season. Having said that, your particular example isn't proof that they didn't. They had already introduced the Others, and presumably they had a "leader." The fact it turned out to be a guy named Ben masquerading as Henry, rather than a guy named Ben we met two episodes later doesn't change the planned finish line, just the details in getting there.

Got milk?

To Ryan, who said "I would've loved anything more on (Widmore) and his involvement, (Dharma), Walt's powers, how Ben moved the island, why (Jacob and Smokey) were different, why the (Smokey) didn't have a name"-

And Ryan added many more unsolved mysteries, as did Bernard who wanted more about why the "numbers were what they were" and why women couldn't have kids on the island.

I think the point is that even if they did answer questions, some people would have been disappointed. For example, they DID answer the question "Where did Jacob and MIB come from?" and people then asked, "Where did their 'Mother' come from?" and if they explained that, we'd probably have twenty more questions. 

I would have been happy with simply having there being a magic glowing force at the heart of the island. Once we actually saw Desmond down there, I agree with Ron that it looked like a rejected Sigmund and the Sea Monsters set. 

Which one of you is the candidate?

Most questions you can make an educated guess at the answers anyway - women were infertile as a result of either the bizarre side-effects of electromagnetism on the island, or the fallout from the bomb going off, or a combination of both. Does it really matter? 

The question posed by the show in the pilot was summed up by Charlie, when he said "Where ARE we?" They answered that - a strange magical island. Then they posed the question of what is in the Hatch? They answered it. Desmond. Then they posed the question, who are the Others and how did they get there? They answered it. We saw the origins of Dharma. 

Most of these major questions were answered along the way, and some of the lesser ones slipped through the cracks, or didn't prove to be as ultimately important as we thought. After all, does anyone really care if Hurley's friend Dave was real or not? 

Remember me? I was on Sex and the City!
 
Some other questions are simply McGuffins. Does it really matter why turning the wheel teleported you to Tunisia, and not, say, Los Angeles? No. Could the writers have come up with a scientific explanation for teleportation that you would have accepted? Probably not. So let's just take some of these as given, and move on. I say better to not have answered these type of questions. 

In the end, LOST was groundbreaking simply because it presented us with a storytelling format we'd never seen before. It also would not have seen nearly as off-track if they had known from the get-go that they had X number of episodes how long they had to tell their tale.

If the networks were truly to learn from this example, they'd go to the BBC model, and give shows a 13-episode order. If they're successful, then maybe they get another order in a year or two. If not, they simply go away. In either case, the writers get to tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and end - the story they want to tell. 

Viewers don't feel cheated in the process. 

Take "Happy Town" which was recently promoted up the wazoo by ABC. This show was being billed as the "next Twin Peaks" and was going to be a season-long mystery. It aired twice, then ABC announced it was canceled. Well, why would a show like this get viewers if experience has taught us that this is how quickly the plug gets pulled? Who wants to put in the emotional commitment to new shows if they might disappear as quickly as they appear? 

Who is the killer? The network.

It's simple. Buy a show. Give it three months of consecutive airings. Let them finish out a complete story arc. If it hits, buy three more months. If not, bring in the next show. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

In the end, we should all simply be thankful that LOST wasn't canceled a few episodes into the run, like say FlashForward. For once, even if you hated the finale, we all ended up winning here.

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