Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Can Someone Explain the Lost Phenomenon to Me? (Preferably in 20 Words or Less)

This morning I heard a report on NPR, talking about the final season of Lost, which begins tonight. The show has, apparently, long since stopped being a television program, and become a mythos:

ABC and its owner, Disney, sort of see Lost as a much bigger property. I think they see it as a long-term franchise--not unlike, say, Star Wars or Star Trek--that can live on for 20 or 30 years.

Now, I've never been much of an enthusiast for the Star Wars universe; saw the original film lots when I was a kid, but even by Return of the Jedi I was sitting in the theater, thinking the movie wasn't very good. Star Trek, of course, is a different issue; that's a franchise I can get at least somewhat passionate about. So I can appreciate how television shows can expand, both from their original premises and within the imagination of their fans, so as to go on seemingly forever, following their characters and foibles and adventures for as long as there is someone to write them (and a corporate entity willing to license such). But still...Lost?

I suppose I could hang out on Wikipedia and try to dope out the whole mythos, but I'd rather turn to knowledgeable others to just give me the essentials. And the key essential is...um, how? Granted, I've seen exactly one episode of Lost in my life (everybody was talking about the first season, so I tuned into the first episode of the second, back in 2005, and watched a couple of guys go down into some deep bunker where they discovered this lunatic watching them with camera and hitting a button to prevent the island from blowing up, and then there was this old film they watched which talked about crazy experiments from the 1970s...am I making any sense here?), so what do I know? But still...aren't they on, like, an island? Doesn't that kind of limit the whole "strange new worlds" element of any possible franchise? How would they get new characters? Would random planes just keep crashing on the island every few years, or what?

I wasn't thrilled by some of the ways J.J. Abrams reconfigured the Star Trek universe, but it made for a fun movie, and I've no doubt Lost is fun for its fans. I'm just not one of them. Is it worth trying to help a Lost innocent like myself understand why some people are talking about a Lost theme park, or at this point, am I better off just continuing to ignore the whole thing? (Hey, it worked with The Sopranos...)

10 comments:

The Modesto Kid said...

Well Gilligan's Island has had a long afterlife -- though I don't think there were any feature films made (and I tremble to think of that being done), it's still in the popular consciousness 45 years on. I have never seen Lost, is there gruff skipper and goofy sidekick character?

Ryan@dontdodumbthings.com said...

Without wanting to sound harsh, the answer is: No.

But I do feel sorry for you, if that helps. Give it a try on DVD. If any show was ever worth it, Lost is.

Jacob T. Levy said...

I'm a fan, even a serious fan, but I think viewing Lost as a franchise in that sense is crazy. It's a narratively closed universe, not a big open one-- and not intrinsically interesting as a sci-fi setting apart from the way it ties its particular characters together.

It's got sci-fi-trappings, but it's narratively more like a mystery than it is like Star Trek. Maybe the mysteries will fail to be resolved in a satisfying way, as was true on X-Files, or maybe they'll be resolved well, as was more-or-less true on Alias, but either way, once it's done it's done.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Modesto,

I have never seen Lost, is there gruff skipper and goofy sidekick character?

Is there a far Polynesian character who is the comic relief? Gurly, or something?

Ryan,

Give it a try on DVD.

Maybe. But when it comes to television on DVD, I'm still trying to finish Monk and Life on Mars.

Jacob,

Maybe the mysteries will fail to be resolved in a satisfying way, as was true on X-Files, or maybe they'll be resolved well, as was more-or-less true on Alias, but either way, once it's done it's done.

I thought part of the point after a while with the X-Files was that there could be no resolution, because the aliens had already messed with the lives/minds of the protagonists too much. But then, I never watched, so again, what do I know?

Jacob T. Levy said...

More than 20 words, but 10 minutes or so from the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Part of the point on X-Files might have been that there could be no *victory,* but, no, there could have been narrative resolution. I could try to describe the difference and what went so catastrophically wrong in the final seasons, but a) you wouldn't actually care and b) it's still painful to revisit...

Russell Arben Fox said...

I could try to describe the difference and what went so catastrophically wrong in the final seasons, but a) you wouldn't actually care and b) it's still painful to revisit...

That sounds like the way I view the final season of Deep Space Nine. Crap, thinking about how atrociously they mucked up Gul Dukat and Sisko and the Dominion storyline...gah, it makes me still, eleven years later, want to throw something out a window.

AHLDuke said...

To answer your question-

As you might have gathered from the one episode that you watched, there is indeed something more going on in Lost than a bunch of plane crash survivors on an island. The essence of the show's premise is that: 1) there is something magical and mystical about the island itself (though now one is quite clear about what that is yet); 2) various groups of people have tried to control the island for its special properties; 3) there is a significant amount of time travel involved; and 4) there appears to be some great and long-lasting battle between good and evil being waged over the island (a fact which was only really revealed at the end of last season).

That's the core of it, but there's plenty of detail to add on. One of the things I think so many people appreciate about Lost is that the writers have done an incredible job dropping in a lot of symbolism and "Easter eggs" for those really paying attention. Last season was especially good, as the whole season played itself out as the philosophical debate over whether there is free will and whether you can do anything to change the past (or whether what has happened is fated to happen and will therefore inevitably happen). We won't find out the producers' answer to that query until at least tonight.

That's considerably longer than 20 minutes but probably as short as you could possibly get it and do the series justice.

Lindsey said...

Lost:
Season 1- survivor, kinda eerie.
2- you're either in or out.
3- first half = waste of time, last episode = fantastic
4- weirder
5- good vs evil
6- ?

Here's what you do. Wait 'till it's over, then get the dvds. It's annoying having to wait from week to week -and you forget stuff. I didn't watch it at all until last Christmas when my roommate forced me to watch seasons 1-4, straight. If you're going to get hooked, that's how. It starts off as an adventure, then a mystery, then just plain bizarre. Lots of symbols, though we'll see if they can wrap it up decently. I like the Biblical allusions, and the good v evil set up. It has promise. I hope they finish strong. Part of the magic is knowing people who are *really* into it (like my roommate who follows the makers on twitter and has read most of Lostpedia). They make it more intriguing than it really is.

Jacob T. Levy said...

I do think you're an especially likely enjoyer of the show. We've had major arcs with political theory subtexts, free will subtexts, philosophy of time subtexts-- and based on last night, I'd say this season's going to be *very* heavy into theology.

Anonymous said...

Watching Lost is like peeling an onion one layer at a time, expecting to eventually find the "core." Through five season, all there's been is layers. By making this the final season, there's the promise of some kind of core or foundation to the thing. Frankly, though, any kind of finality is bound to be disappointing. The show will end better if we learn that it's turtles all the way down.