Lost

Originally written for eVent! magazine [ep] on 03/22/06.

Am I the only one who no matter how much they watch it is still totally confused by Lost?  Every weekly episode promises to bring the answer to all the confounding questions facing the castaways of the fateful flight, but instead only leaves us with more questions.  And when I say us, I mean me because maybe you’ve got this all figured out.

Like a Twilight Zone version of Gilligan’s Island Lost follows the trials of a group of hunks and babes and a few old people marooned on a not-so deserted island following the crash of a jet liner.  What began on as a fascinating look at how a group of people deals with a cataclysmic, quickly changed into a mystery as it was discovered that not only did the tropical island have polar bears but it also had another group called the Others who seem to be hunting the castaways.  I’m not even going to bring up the hatch that they found on the island, or the computer inside the hatch.

Must see TV?  Sure, but also very confounding television.  Lost is just one show in an increasing movement to add long story arcs to episodic television.  It’s a new development, and while has resulted in some fantastic shows it’s also changed the way we watch television.

From one week to the next you always knew that The Dukes of Hazard would be jumping their car over ravines and messing with the law.  No matter what happened to old Boss Hogg the Duke Boys could be confident that their fictional universe was never going to change, and would remain unchanged for the entire run of the series.  If you missed an episode of TJ Hooker you could tune in the next week and be confident that William Shatner would still be keeping the streets safe from crime.  You always knew that Mrs. Colombo would be around even if only in her husband’s banter.

Like any changes in television this recent change is based on a few successes specifically shows like 24.  Since 24 television writers have become enamored with season long arcs.  You don’t want to try watching the fourth episode of Jack Bauer’s fight against terrorism without having seen the first three. 

Fans of the macabre might point out that there was David Lynch’s short lived Twin Peaks back in 1990.  However it only lasted two seasons, and while it was unusual a labyrinth of confusion, oddness and mystery it’s no surprise it was cancelled.

What Lost and other shows have that Twin Peaks did not was an accompanying change in how we watch television.  24 was not a ratings smash right out of the gate, it was only when the first season was released on DVD did the show start to gain momentum.  DVD releases, and digital recording devices like TiVo in the US and Shaw Cable’s HDTV DVR (digital video recording) device, are what allows for much more complicated shows.

Lost though is a change from even the most complex of shows.  24 is over in one season, Lost which is in its second seems content to build mystery on top of mystery with no end point in sight.  There is every indication that it’s going to continue getting more and more confusing. 

I’m fine with that, I really am.  However at the end of the this crazy ride I want to now everything, from what the computer in the hatch is for to who the heck the Others are.  Whether I have to buy the DVD or record it on my DVR, or go to the writers’ homes and stalk them until they tell me all their secrets.  Until then I’ll sleep comfortably knowing that the Duke Boys are out raising Hell and TJ Hooker is cleaning up crime on the city streets.