Lost: celebrating the TV show that made us lose our minds

Take one plane crash, add a pinch of romance, a dash of smoke and a hint of otherness, and what do you get?

Why, the recipe for one of the most beguiling, bewildering, captivating and downright torturous television shows in history.

Come Monday at 5am, it will all be over for the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 and their island friends. Yes, after six long years, more than 100 episodes and a rotating array of characters, Lost is reaching the end of its journey.
 
How will it end? Jack, the heroic but troubled doctor-saviour rescuing the losties and returning them to dry land?

 Locke / Smoke wreaking vengeance on his brother Jacob with one last puff? Desmond saving the day?

Which of the myriad of hey-I-thought-they-were-dead characters will pop up in the final moments – Charlie or Boone, Shannon or Rousseau? Will Claire ever be reunited with baby Aaron?

Did Nikki and Paulo ever make it out of their graves to find all those diamonds?

Most people, it has to be said, even those who watched enthusiastically back when an errant polar bear was the strangest aspect of the show, don’t care.

They’ve long ago given up trying to follow what those numbers mean, what Penny’s father really wants or how come Richard never gets older. In the end, for many, the costs of Lost (infuriating tautological plots, repetitive love triangles) have outweighed the gains of being a fan.

It’s easy to understand why. There’s nothing intrinsically enjoyable – diehard fans don’t protest, you know it’s true – about watching Lost.

 The plot is achingly complex and it’s going to take a miracle for the writers to wrap up all the questions in the double-bill finale.

It’s the only programme I’ve ever had to revise for – rewatching a season finale not for enjoyments sake but because I can’t remember what the hell happened last episode.

Not only that, but the writers were cruel friends, toying with ideas and characters only to snatch them away when we got attached. You’d just about come to terms with something – time travel, imprisonment in biscuit-distributing cages, and then it would be over, forgotten, in a flash.

Also, a lot of the cast were just plain annoying. Juliet? Who shed a tear when the bomb detonated blowing her to smithereens? Jack and Kate and Sawyer? Less of a  wonderful love triangle, more ‘get thee to a therapist’ now. Pretty much the only redeeming character to have lasted all the way through was Hurley, and we all know he’s mad.

And then we got to the final series, where suddenly everything we knew all along was wrong. No more flashbacks, just flash sideways to another entirely disparate world. Bringing in new characters at the eleventh hour, at the expense of explaining what happened to the original castaways.

In short, Lost has been infuriating, a hassle, a waste of time. A plague on both the producers.

And yet. It’s also been the best thing on TV in years.

The magic of Lost is that all the above complaints are true, and yet you are still compelled to tune in.

It’s hell, and yet it’s so much more fun to watch than all the relaxing, cookie-cutter, neatly wrapped up drivel that appears elsewhere on screen. It’s made you miserable, but you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

No other show offers that same level of nail-biting suspense and agonising intrigue. The thrill of detecting a spoiler or signal is a gift for the competitive TV viewer –  you probably couldn’t ever predict what would happen, but damn, it was fun to try.

Lost was a constant source of ‘what the…’ moments, and in terms of bone-chilling drama, it more than delivered. Think the scene when Jack stood at the Lighthouse, seeing a vision of his other life, that perfect point when we discovered what was in the Hatch, or the tragic sequence when Charlie martyred himself for the greater good.

It’s been comedy gold too; in particular the quick-fire volleys between Sawyer and, well anyone, or the amazing scene early on when Hurley discovered a secret stash of food. With Sun and Jin, or Penny and Desmond there have been romances to tug at the iciest of heartstrings.

The back stories, particularly early on, were always fascinating, while the flash sideways have been a treasure trove of connect-the-dots.

So there it is. It drove us mad, made us sci-fi bores whenever we preached it to the non-converted, and probably won’t even come near a satisfying conclusion on Monday.

But it’s safe to say, however it ends, there probably won’t be anything quite like it on TV again.

Gossip Girl recap: Last Tango, Then Paris – the season three finale

They say you don’t get something for nothing, and as a new soul was brought into the Gossip Girl world, another was set to depart, in what was an explosive and unpredictable season finale.   

Blair misses out on her Empire date (Photo: J Lipman)

 

  

XOXO season three, bring on season four.     

 First up, the new arrival, as Dorota has her baby girl and Eleanor fawns over showing the maternal urges she never showed her own daughter.  

It was perhaps a less glamorous occasion than the usual soiree to unite our little cast, but it did the job, with the maternity ward the scene for more than a few showdowns.   

 As you’ll remember from last week, Jenny has disowned her Barbie dream house lifestyle and run away, although not too far, as she ended up crashing at Nate’s. Nothing happened – with them. It was apparently a less innocent affair for (still sort-of siblings) Serena and Dan, who woke up hungover and in denial about the somewhat amorous night before.   

 “It meant nothing” they protest to each other, Ophelia style.   

Well, whether it did or didn’t (and the longing glances and near-miss kisses of the rest of the episode suggest the former) it makes little difference, because Jenny helpfully papped them and sent Gossip Girl the incriminating evidence.   

 Cue Nate and Serena break-up. Sob. It had to happen, because it is a well worn TV rule that a happy relationship does not good ratings maketh.   

Plus, their pairing was never that great. The whole ‘he’d been in love with her since ever’ thing sprung up out of the blue, and given their collective IQ barely reached my age, their dialogue was never particularly engrossing.   

 Besides, judging by how well-thumbed Chuck’s Black Book of random dial-a-skank girls looked, Nate will get over it.  

Which is more than you can say for Blair and Chuck, whose relationship has finally died (and is possibly not the only one).  

 Blair pretended she wasn’t going to the Empire State Building for a glorious reunion with Chuck, but we all knew she was. But, darn it, Dorota’s waters broke, so she got held up.  

Leaving Chuck feeling like, well, he’d just been stood up at the Empire State building.  

 Add a glass of liqueur and that’s everything you need for a true Chuck Bass self destruction. Which he did with absolute aplomb, taking little J down with him.   

Ooh, how adorably fitting that she lost it to the guy who tried to date rape her when she was 14.   

 Hence, his subsequent reunion with Blair was doomed, with Dan defending his sisters honour (as if she has any left) with a right hook, just as Chuck pulled out a diamond (engagement?!) ring.   

 It looks like that relationship is over, with Blair trotting off to Paris for singledom, shopping and Serena time. If only we could all indulge in that particular form of therapy.   

 As for the corrupted-innocent Jenny and her little dreadlocks too; it’s been well-publicised that Taylor Momsen is leaving the show at least temporarily, to pursue her singing career. Just as Jen Lindley was once shipped off to Capeside to stay with Grams, Little J has been shipped off to Hudson to stay with her mother, complete with perfectly colour-coordinated group hug at the station.   

 One imagines there will be guest appearances, but given she’s managed to destroy the relationships of every main character on the show, maybe the writers have just run out of storylines.   

 Only Eric seems upset about her departure – despite, earlier in the show calling her ‘crazy’. Which has to hurt, coming from the kid who tried to off himself before the show even started.   

 In other news, Vanessa and Dan are kaput. She’s in Haiti, being holier-than-thou, so hasn’t got access to Gossip Girl. But Nate, always the good Samaritan, fills her in on the Serena and Dan situation, and she stops returning his calls.   

Which is obviously preposterous. As if Vanessa would go to a country where she couldn’t check Gossip Girl.   

  A full show, you’d agree, and a more-than-acceptable season finale. But wait; there was more. Two twists at the end, and top marks to anyone who saw them coming. Is the end nigh for Chuck Bass? As he lay in a pool of blood, shot by the Czech muggers who tried to steal the engagement ring, you wonder if he was thinking of his contract.   

 And the best ‘what-the’ moment? We’d had Georgina (the original she-devil) popping in throughout the episode, but I just thought that was about observing tradition – wouldn’t be the end of a season without her.   

 Turns out no, and there was even a reason for her sporting the disturbing Russian get-up including fur coat and oligarch-wag hair-do. Remember early on in the series? When she was a student at NYU?   

 Go on, think back, I know it’s been a long year and a million Gossip Girl relationships have been and gone. Think.   

 It was about nine months ago…

Dress your age, not your shoesize

Dressing for your age should be easy.

It’s like looking at those ‘what was she thinking’ articles in a gossip rag; surely, you think, they would have realised the outfit was atrocious. But clearly, it isn’t that simple.

Otherwise said gossip rags would have nothing to write about, Katie Price wouldn’t put make up on her toddler and Katie Holmes wouldn’t truss her little girl up in high heels.

Not to mention, you wouldn’t see middle aged women in mini-skirts, cellulite wobbling full throttle, or ten-year-olds in gear the Pussycat Dolls would consider racy.

Last month British retailer Primark came under fire for selling padded bikini tops to young girls, a range it subsequently withdrew, red faced. Not that they, or any other shop, will refrain from selling regular bikinis to pre-teens. Just the particularly inappropriate ones, you understand.

Evidently, age appropriate dressing remains a problematic area. But sensible sartorial style doesn’t have to be so difficult – it’s all about bearing in mind some simple home truths, which we are more than happy to deliver.

Tight fright

Today, women can get away with dressing younger or older far more than in previous fashion epochs. But there is still one tell tale sign of mutton dressed as lamb, and that’s a top stretched out so the layers of flesh are achingly visible, jeans leaving little to the imagination. Essentially, if your ribs or belly button are on show, and you’re not under voting age, lose the tight equals right equation and look for fitted but flowy.

Read the rest of this article on Running in Heels.

Love Sex and the City? See my verdict on the new Candice Bushnell prequel, the Carrie Diaries, here.

Gossip Girl recap: Ex-Husbands and Wives

The third person in the Chuck-Blair relationship (Photo: Jennifer Lipman)

 

How fitting on a day when two diametrically opposed political groupings put aside their differences, that we should see evidence of a coalition on Gossip Girl too. 

 It was a case of all hands on deck as this better-dressed version of the Scooby gang rushed to see off Dr rather Evil himself – William VdW. Last week, Rufus had been exiled back to Brooklyn while Lily and Willy got reacquainted. 

 Serena is rather upset, having been told by an obviously reliable (bunny boiler neighbour Holland) source that Rufus cheated on Lily. Touchingly, Blair offers up Dorota’s Polish mob connections to finish him off. 

 You almost think she’ll take her up on it, so passionate is her spurned stepdaughter routine. It’s all a little rich, love. Just a few episodes ago you were shacking up with a married man. 

Didn’t seem too concerned about betrayed wives then, did you. 

 Back home, Lily and William reminisce. “You’ve done such an amazing job bringing them up” he spouts. Surely, at this point, Lily’s ‘I’m a terrible mother’ radar should kick in and she would realise the guy is not for real. 

 The plot thickens when Holland herself tells Lily of her indiscretions with Rufus. Naturally, Lily doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps because she herself knows very well how likely infidelity is – after all, she and Rufus were pretty damn close during her marriage to Bart. 

 But luckily, delinquent daughter Jenny the drug dealer realises something is up. Those pills weren’t magical cancer curing beans. No. They were evil fake medication; the only question was, who was behind it? 

 Jenny, who has perhaps the loosest conception of what being grounded actually entails, enlists Chuck to help. 

It’s worth mentioning at this point that her hair extensions have developed to the point they now officially resemble a cross between a yeti and a porn star. 

 Chuck uses the pharmaceutical drama to ruin Blair’s date. Although he is totally right that in such a case of sophisticated destruction, she’s the girl for the job. “Do you do this a lot?” asks her bemused date. Oh, how little he knows Blair. 

 When she hears another Upper East Sider has shtupped – “my stepfather is Jewish” – Rufus, Blair realises that the whole Holland situation is a bit fishy and gets to work. Along the way they recruit renegade plotters Nate and Chuck. 

 Obviously, William was behind the fake-medicine and skanky neighbour. And so because on Gossip Girl a scheme isn’t a scheme when it’s not in black tie, they head to a society ball for some good old fashioned public humiliation. 

 Game, set and match – William is out. 

 By episode end Lily and Rufus have made up – “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you I was just overwhelmed” she explains, as if that makes up for her nearly leaving on a jet plane with her ex-husband without so much as a ‘ta ta’ – and William absconds from the police with the help of his criminally minded daughter. I guess he really is her father. 

 For Blair and Chuck, it was yet again made clear that things weren’t really over. Oh sure, she had a date (“my first ever” she angsts, which is presumably why she later goes out with attractive-bit-part-boy in the biggest crinoline known to Manhattan). But Chuck ‘Affair to Remembers’ her, with a promise he will be on the Empire State Building until 7.01 the next day. 

 We’ll have to see how that pans out, but any money it involves some kind of desperate, torturous dash while throbbing, tragic music plays in the background. 

 Surprise twist of the night; Dan runs away (who knows where) with Serena. Now, I really hope the writers aren’t setting that romance up again. Remember, their parents are still married. It is just not socially acceptable in progressive society for them to be shtupping. 

 Rather less bound by such concerns are Jenny and Nate, who, because Jenny has suddenly got over her material girl phase and decided there’s no place like Brooklyn, are brought back together. 

Which, all things considered, means Gossip Girl is gearing up for one hell of a season finale next week.

What a difference a date makes

As the Conservatives are well aware, 18 years have passed since the party won a general election.

Interestingly, it has also been 18 years since an election was fought in an even-numbered calendar year.

 And all three of new Labours victories occurred in odd ones.

 One of the beauties of our lack of fixed term parliaments is that elections can take place in any calendar year.

 Given that we are currently in the neatly numbered 2010, what does that spell for the polls next week?

 Well, of the 17 national votes since 1945 (including the 1974 double whammy) ten took place in odd years.

 The bad news for the Conservatives is that historically they have not done well in even years, triumphing only in 1970 and 1992. Thatcher won her hat trick in odd-year votes, following a similar three-election run in the (odd) votes of the 1950s and 1960s.

 Meanwhile, on balance Labour fare better in even numbered years, although it’s a close one at five even wins to four odd wins since 1945.

 But that’s only half the story. Labour may win more often in even years, but they don’t do so decisively.

 Only one even election – Harold Macmillan’s win in 1966 – saw Labour come out with a strong majority, compared with the sweeping victories of the Clement Atlee and Tony Blair odd year elections.

 Not that even years give the Conservatives a decisive victory either. Both Ted Heath in 1970 and John Major in 1992 just scraped in with the largest share of seats.

So do even balanced years favour balanced parliaments? Keen observers may already have noticed that the last time Britain elected a hung parliament was in 1974.

 Another even-numbered year.

Gossip Girl recap: It’s a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World

According to my extensive research, waffles are ‘batter or dough based cakes cooked in a waffle iron’ and they can be eaten as both desserts and breakfasts.

Gossip grub (photo: Kitchen1000)

But, I digress. On this week’s Gossip Girl, it wasn’t just that tasty batter that was weighing on everybody’s minds (and stomachs).

First up, Serena. Having sparred with Jenny last week, blondie has become quite the littel schemer. Eager to play out her version of ‘happy families’ with her returned-from-the-ether father, she conspires to banish Rufus back to Brooklyn.

Before that, she has to bond with her estranged old man, and what follows is one of the most edited-out autobiographies known to the non-Stalinist world.

Sample: “I won a hot chocolate drinking” competition, dad, aren’t I wholesome and exactly what you’d wish your 18 year old daughter to be like. Ignore the Julia Roberts pre-Rodeo drive makeover look – it ‘really is all about the education’.

Yep. Normally I hate the she-devil in a mini skirt known as Jenny, but I did enjoy her innocent query over the teacher and the bed & breakfast. I’m sure it was educational, Jenny riffs, wide eyed.

It doesn’t matter, because Serena soon confesses that she’s been ‘a part of more than one scandal’ (more than one, as used in the context of, Tiger Woods has had ‘more than one’ affair). We also learn that it wasn’t a hot chocolate contest, but an absinthe drinking one.

Which just adds some unintended hilarity to the family cocoa session later.

Family, of course, as in the van der Woodsens. It seems Rufus is out and William is in, what with him trying to buy the apartment below and confessing his undying love for Lily to an entire university. Something tells me it’s not going to last, because resident pharmaceutical knowitall Jenny (whose druggie past has come back to haunt her), googles cancer and realises two plus two equal ‘if you look that good, you’re probably not suffering from an incurable malady’.

Downtown, Danessa have mounted a detente. But then Vanessa gets offered a three month internship in Haiti (because after a devastating earthquake, that’s exactly who you’d want around), which puts a spanner in the relationship.

Obviously Dan gets mad, Vanessa says she’ll sacrifice it but then doesn’t. All very emotional, but enough to make me want to throw a chair at my laptop. Since when do CNN just hand out internships. In Haiti.

Most media interns spend three months rewriting press releases, not on the front line. And with those hair extensions, she wouldn’t last a day.

Speaking of implausible – here’s Blair Waldorf. If she’s anything to go by, it seems you can pretend something into being real. Here she is, telling some mean girls she goes to Colombia. And then, abracadabra, she does. So, from now on, I’m going to write things like: I own six pairs of Christian Loboutins and a private jet. And then, obviously, I will.

Definitely a filler episode; we’re two away from the season finale so it’s all about the dramatic set ups. But also, shout out to the great coats seen on Blair etc this week.

That yellow one made her look like she was in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, about to go singing in the hills at some Nazis, or over the Rainbow with some munchkins.

But then, if Blair was involved, those musicals would probably have had very different storylines.