So I bought the “Lost” box set, and watched disk one (the first four episodes). I thought about watching disk two, so I put it in the player and watched the first couple of minutes or so of episode five. Then I stopped, and went away and did some interesting things.
It seems that the one thing that “Lost” definitely lost was my interest. Why?
Well, for one thing, the nature of the show (okay, admittedly it’s a bad idea to judge a whole show on four episodes, but you figure they would front-load some of the good episodes early on, right?) is presented as a mystery, but the way it’s done isn’t mysterious. It’s teasing. There’s a difference, in that mysterious is “Hey, what do you suppose is happening? Man, is this weird or what? Let’s see what happens next!” Teasing is “Bet you can’t guess what’s going to happen. I know what’s going on, and you never will! I’ll make sure it’s all twisty, so don’t even try to guess!”
The monster in the forest is a good example here. It’s never shown, though some of the survivors have seen it. Why can’t we? Because we’re not allowed to. (Alternate answer: it’s lame.) It has nothing to do with keeping the show eerie, and everything to do with making sure we don’t get any information. Normally, I think it’s great when the viewers don’t see any more than the characters do, it keeps the discoveries the same for both audience and characters, and we can react in the same way. But note: people have seen the monster. The drug-guy (Merry or Pippin, I forget which) compares the polar bear unfavorably to it. He’s clearly seen the thing, then. Why haven’t we? Dunno.
Let me say, though, that this sort of thing, while annoying, isn’t fatal. If the characters and stories are engaging, an irritating authorial voice can be dealt with.
But here’s where I have a second problem. The characters. We’ve got the doctor, who’s a straight up kind of guy. We have the lead chick, who’s got a shady past, but is a straight up gal. We’ve got the jerk guy (Sawyer?) who is short tempered but I bet turns out to be a straight up guy. The drug guy, who takes drugs, but is otherwise a straight up guy. The Iraqi, who feels apart from the others but is otherwise a straight up guy. Seeing a pattern here? For variation, we’ve got the oriental guy, who has a very rigid cultural ethos—all we need is someone who can’t use contractions and we’d have “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on an island.
Lots of people loved “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I didn’t. I didn’t hate the show, I liked it for the most part, but I liked the early years best, when it was, you know, a science fiction show. Before it became a soap opera. Nothing wrong with soap operas I hasten to add, but in order for them to really work (in my humble opinion) you can’t have all the characters be the same character. Ever wonder why the last four seasons of TNG were stuffed with guest stars? Because you can’t have any conflict with people who have the same opinion. Some giant monster is eating whole star systems? Picard, Worf and Riker all give opinions on what to do…and they agree they should leave the monster alone and hope it stays away. What? Where’s the conflict there? There isn’t one, so they’d have to bring in some scientist who was crusading to have the monster destroyed. There we go, there’s some conflict, this calls for immediate discussion.
Well, I seem to have gotten off track, here. My point is that the characters on “Lost” strike me as being the same character, over and over. I like the fat guy, with his easy-going Whoa nature, and Terry O’Quinn is always fun to watch. That’s not much for a show with about twenty main characters. The rest of them just make me tired, and the flashbacks showing aspects of their natures don’t really help. These people are boring, and I would hate to be stranded on an island with them. Well, I’d hate to be stranded on an island with nearly anyone, but these people in particular would drive me nuts. I’d go live with the monster.
The show is a huge success, and I’m not knocking it because of that, because I’m some kind of snob who can’t like the same things the great unwashed masses like. I can, and I have. I will, I expect, eventually pick up disk two and start watching again. And maybe with episode five, the show really takes off and the light dawns and I become a huge, raving fan. It could happen. Maybe it will.
So far, though, and based on the available evidence, it hasn’t.