In January of 2004 I started my first website to vent on all things pop culture. I updated and ran this site for over 2 years posting occasional reviews and ramblings. After burning out on the website thing I took a 6 month break and did not renew my domain. Still needing some sort of outlet I started this blog in January of this year. Since I do not wish those reviews and posts to be lost, I thought I would begin posting them here. So this one is more for me than you, oh wait, this whole thing is more for me than you. Well, whatever the case, each week we shall take a look into the past, all the way back to (start Conan O’Brien impression here) the year 2000–uh–4.
This week’s look back was originally posted November 1st of 2004 about 7 episodes into the first season of Lost. In honor of Lost not getting many Emmy nods this year I thought I’d throw it up here to remember how fresh this show was when it debuted almost 3 years ago. Honestly, I still think it’s the best thing on TV, so this review rings as true to me today as it did 3 years ago.
Lost (ABC, Wednesday, 8:00PM)
No, I’m not talking politics, I’m talking TV. In the ever increasing landscape of television, this is a foundational principle that is too often forgotten. In our essence we are relational beings and want entertainment that allows us to invest relationally with the characters we see on the screen. It’s no wonder we tune past the blather of sitcoms that present us with prepackaged stereotypes in a candy coated shell. The shows that have won acclaim recently (critical and otherwise) have consistently been the ones that give us new lives and well drawn personalities to invest in. “24” would just be another concept if it weren’t for Jack’s brooding righteousness. “Alias” would just be another spy show if it weren’t for Sydney’s persecuted tenacity, Sloan’s mysterious lovability, or even Marshall’s goofy brilliance. And “Arrested Development” would be just another yuk fest sitcom without, well, a whole family of quirky, unique, well defined personalities. So it’s no surprise to see big numbers and big critical acclaim for ABC’s new Wednesday night character driven behemoth “Lost”.
“Lost” is the story of 48 survivors who crash landed on a mysterious island. Of course they didn’t know it was mysterious when they crashed, they were too busy screaming and avoiding flying shrapnel to take note. It was when the loud dinosaur noises, polar bears, and 17 year old French transmissions started showing up that clued them in. (Not to mention when your dead father walks up to you in his burial suit you tend to get a little freaked.) But the beauty of the show is not only in it’s mystery or sci-fi elements, it is firmly in the characters. In fact, the show was originally to be titled “The 48” as a reference to how character driven it would be. (The number has already diminished to 46 and I wouldn’t be surprised to lose many more by season’s end.) To further emphasize how much this is about the people and not the island, each episode (since the pilot) has focused primarily on one member of the 14 core group we have really met so far. Witness how each episode starts zoomed in on a closed eye of one of our survivors, which then opens as they camera pulls back. It’s almost as if each episode a character awakes to present their story to us and then fades back to let someone else take the spotlight (It may also represent, as some have postulated, that these survivors are not survivors but are awakening into a sort of purgatory). My favorite story so far involves a man named “Locke” who though previously in a wheelchair can walk unhindered on the island, a change that transforms him from a pathetic withdrawn cubicle dweller to a unflinching, outgoing, boar hunter. Each story draws us deeper into the series, and gives depth to another character. They could continue this pattern for a full two seasons, without draining their character base, not to mention if another ship or plane wrecks on the island, or if there are others already there.
As impressive and engaging as the characters are, the show doesn’t stop there. The cinematography and direction are wonderful, as is the writing. If the writing and constant mystery and discovery seem familiar it might be because the same brain behind Alias is also highly involved in “Lost” (that would be the brain belonging to JJ Abrams). It all combines to create an almost instant addiction and craving for Wednesdays to just hurry up and get here already. It’s a craving that comes from knowing that every week will result in more answers but also more mystery (sorta like faith, eh?).
Of course it wouldn’t be a Siphonics review if we didn’t look at exactly what the show is saying. It is true that each story deals with it’s own issue; how to deal with limitations, what it means to lead, how to deal with past mistakes, etc. But the heart of the message of “Lost” is how a community in crisis adapts and how important true community is to survival. It’s certainly a point that goes against the common individualism that runs so rampant in Western culture. These people are learning week by week that the only way to survive is to be willing to work together and embrace roles. They are also learning what things are truly valuable. Money is no longer an issue, and with the lack of the distractions we face each day they begin to see the value in the relationships around them. A father attempts to connect with a son he never knew, a wife deals with the apparent death of her spouse, a son deals with the impact a demanding father has on him, a drug addict lets go of his addiction, and so on. The point is each character seems to be learning and growing each week, dealing with issues that may have never been dealt with in their normal day to day (more credence for that purgatory theory). In the end this all combines for an overwhelmingly redeeming storyline and an incredibly compelling TV Show.