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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's Hard to Know Where to Start, Part 2: Lost

I need those TPS reports on my desk by noon, John. And put that knife down.
My wife and I started watching Lost on Saturday, and had gotten through the first 2 DVD's by Sunday afternoon. That's 8 episodes, people. There's something about watching these shows with long-lasting story arcs back-to-back-to-back that just sucks you in. It was the same way with Alias. When I catch up to where the rest of the world is (the middle of season 2), I will let you know what I think about it, and where things might go. For now, I will make a couple of obvious points.

1) I have never seen or heard one of the people behind the show (producers, writers, actors, etc.) reference the show Twin Peaks as an influence, but they should probably check it out, because they are totally ripping it off. If they don't, they are doomed to repeat its late-period mistakes. At this point, they are creating a lot of forward momentum. Soon, they will have to provide payoffs, though -- otherwise people will get frustrated. They need to keep the sense that there's a plan behind all this, and that the writers aren't just making crazy crap up as they go along. They need to keep America convinced that the emperor has clothes, and that it will be worthwhile to keep following it because eventually the mysteries will be revealed. There are two possible things that could kill the show : (a) revealing mysteries too early without even more mysterious mysteries to replace them; or, (b) losing track of where the many-splendoured narrative has been and where it's going.

It's no secret that Twin Peaks first fell victim to (a) after they painted themselves into a corner (or, more accurately, ABC painted them into a corner) by teasing the audience over and over again. America can only take so much teasing -- just ask the French. After the main mystery of the series was revealed(Who Killed Laura Palmer?), they had nothing to replace it with, and by that time the show's creators had gone on to other projects, leaving less-talented story makers to basically write a story from scratch using Twin Peaks characters. This led very quickly to (b), the most obvious example of which was a by-mail chess game between the protagonist and the antagonist that just inexplicably went away and never was mentioned again because the writers lost interest.

I'm only eight episodes in, but I can see that the show has bought itself some time by slowly revealing the lostaways' backstories over time. It's amazing to me that a show with a story that depends so much on the viewer watching every single episode has done so well in the ratings. In a way, it's a lot like Alias (as it should be, since JJ Abrams is heavily involved in both shows) in that the narrative just keeps launching forward with amazing revelations and bizarre happenings that there always seems to be a danger that it could just burn out. Of course, the writers of Lost have set up so much weird stuff that it even if they devoted the rest of the show to explaining what's going on it would take 10 episodes to satisfactorially complete. That's what I mean about introducing new mysteries as you solve old ones. At this point, I'm half-expecting Rambaldi to show up carrying a radio made out of coconuts. If that happens, I'm outta here.

For example, the next real-time episode is supposed to reveal what Kate did to deserve that mugshot and that butt-chinned Marshall chasing after her. Had they done that in episode 5, it would have been a herculean deal, because at that point everybody wanted to know what the nice girl could have done. Waiting until now has made us wonder all this time, but it's now like 20th on the list of things we'd like to know. Revealing it isn't a danger to the show like the revelation on Twin Peaks was.

Anyway, I really really like Lost so far, and I'm sure I'll be caught up real soon. I don't even want to think about how long that post is going to be.


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