The Problems with LOST

[this is a work in progress and may be subject to re-edits – just so you know.]

This show started out as an ambitious attempt to do something new – but it has only ended up trying to hybridise too many things into one one overall package. Being a ad-hoc combination of reality show (in inspiration at least – from 'survivor' certainly), the TV movie of the week, soap opera, and occasional internet game, all set within a fantasy paranoiac sci-fi, action-thriller show framework such as the X-files, the Prisoner were. Unfortunately:

  1. It's a victim of it's own early success – the TV company having been persuaded to spend so much money on the pilot season obviously wanted a return on that investment. A very big return. At that point the creators should have started to make cautionary noises but instead they said 'yay, yessirree boss man we can do this – this show can be re-jigged to run for years and years and years'. No really, one of the writers did said that. (They've since done a complete volte-face on that one.)

  2. As it's turned out they were wrong, with way too many characters to juggle around the creators must have thought gleefully: “oooh, we can have a 'movie of the week' flashback for each and every one of these characters and that alone will make the show last years and years and years....” and rubbed their hands at the prospect of having created a format that will keep them in full time employment forever. Alas – these movies of the characters back stories happen to be of very variable quality. And the big over-arching background story of the Island mysteries (the 'Others' – Dharma – Smoke monster and whatnot) means a large part of the audience wants to see those elements reaching some definite conclusions and answers from time to time. Over this long stretch of time (80 days of Island time has currently taken three years real (broadcast) time) with the result that the flashback stories are looking more and more like an indulgence which is only serving to hamper the overall grand narrative flow – become a stalling mechanism rather than deepening our understanding of the individuals like they once did. That's when they're not blatant out and out irrelevant filler. This is a fundamental fault of the restriction of TV networks insistent on having to have a set number of episodes per season -when rather obviously 24 episodes is proving way too many for the makers of Lost to fill, especially when they're so intent on dragging out the big main plot/final reveal for as long as they possibly can. I also think they've made a serious mistake in this self-imposed format by limiting themselves to only following the one single character's flashback story a week – that in itself has become too cumbersome. (For example -I still can't believe they wasted a whole episode merely to show us how Jack got his stupid tattoos. Or of Hurley getting an old van to work.) This device seriously unbalances the show.

  3. Being a regular listener of the official podcasts. The two main creators worry me. If 'the Others' are based on anyone it's the creators themselves. They are every bit as manipulative, just as devious, as equally insistent on never giving anything approaching a straight answer to anything -except when it suits them. And don't they just love playing with the audience and it's expectations. (I.E. All the books they've snuck in there – which many fans then go on to read -thinking they'll provide clues -turn out to be mostly just jokes on their audience. Which I'm sure is very entertaining for them, but it's only aggravating for us. It certainly shows an arrogance and a barely concealed contempt for their fans.) Even then the worst thing is when they do 'listen' to the audience and come totally unstuck in their half-hearted attempts at appeasement. The recent Nikki and Paulo storyline being a case in point. Maybe it's no accident that they only bother themselves to take notice of the audience's criticism (one of these being that we never heard much about the background characters milling about on the beach) when they saw it as a way of creating for what is for all intents and purposes yet another filler episode. (This is something they had already done before with the boring and rather trite 'Rose and Bernard' episode.) Then ended up with yet another very patchy episode. The only people who seemed to have liked it and there are quite a few – can't actually like 'Lost' itself and are far more into the whole 'movie of the week' aspect of the show. (Actually, thinking about it - does anyone anywhere still do TV movies of the week anymore? Or is this a lost format? Unintentional pun there.) I've said before and now say again -Lost would be far better show for being half, or even a third, maybe even as fourth as long. As it is – it's a long rambling dreary barely coherent mess that's now become a chore rather than a pleasure to watch.

  4. Call me a cynic but it's looking more and more like that the ultimate pay-off of the whole grand over-arching plot is actually going to prove to be embarrassingly lame and the creators (who took over from J. J. Abrahms) know it. (Having sat through the finale of 'Alias' and seen for myself what a complete crock of shit that was – I have absolutely no faith that the conclusion of Lost is going to be any better.)

I still remain fascinated with 'Lost' but not for the obvious 'proper' reasons. It certainly confirms for me some of the impressions I've gained over the years on how the way the whole American TV system works and it is all quite utterly bizarre. There's a constant never-ending battle between the creative people and the TV executives. These executives seem to hail from a completely different planet than the rest of us. They work in the industry but they seem to only have total contempt for it. I get the impression that they've only interested in spreadsheets and Neilson scores and advertiser's money... These people would only be happy if broadcast output consisted of nothing else but a constant 24 hour stream of commercials. That does seem to be their ultimate aim. Yet these execs - despite not understanding anything whatsoever about the creative process are constantly interfering in it. They're totally bereft of any understanding of audiences or what makes for a successful show or of, especially how their whole industry is currently changing under their feet and where the old tried and tested methods no longer apply, that the rules are currently in flux all under the pressures that new technology is bringing – yet they still care far more about what their advertisers want then their audience do. The audience – IE those people who actually watch the shows, and pay hard cash for the DVDs and internet downloads when they get released. The people they probably make more money off of than they do from advertisers. They just never seem to enter the equation. As I've said - bizarre.

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