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.


Lost without the web?

Is Lostpedia the greatest invention known to man?

If you’re a Lost fan, one who has undergone five series of agony for what one hopes will be the ultimate payoff, you might well agree.

If you’ve never seen the show, which started back last Friday, or stopped watching so early that you think Jack’s biggest problems are polar bears and Sawyer, then you might think: what?

Lostpedia, for the record, is essentially Wikipedia for JJ Abrams disciples. It’s a forum detailing everything – or at least, almost everything – known about the episodes, the characters and the themes.

Like Wikipedia, it’s user generated which means any crackpot with a theory about why the island moves or who exactly the smoke monster is can post an explanation.

Essentially, it’s the height of geek-dom. Not only are Lost fans fervent followers of a wierd sci-fi show, they actually spend other time reading and talking about it. One way ticket to loserville, right?

Except, if you’ve actually seen the show of late, you’ll know that Lostpedia, and all the other recaps and theories espoused on websites around the world, are pretty crucial.

Lost is perhaps the most complicated and implausible TV show around, and certainly the only one I’ve ever felt the need to ‘revise’ before the start of the new series.

It’s torturous, often not very enjoyable and highly addictive, and it needs the companion guide.

Remember when you studied Shakespeare at GCSE. You read the play, but you’d probably also watch the film version, perhaps see it on stage and invariably refer to the York notes study guide. Lost is exactly the same – you can’t just watch it – which is why it couldn’t have survived without the internet.

Fifteen years ago, Lost may not have made it to series six with so many viewers, not to mention such a high profile, because everyone would just have given up. Oceanic 815 would still have crashed, but you’d never have invested in finding out what happened.

Lost: a series for the online era?

Sure, back in the pre-web days we could discuss a dramatic episode or deconstruct a particularly complicated film. But the opportunity to analyse, and analyse some more, and then some more; that’s a function of the endless beast that is the internet.

For a show so complicated – time travel, good versus evil, a wierd hippie commune, not to mention the Jack, Kate and Sawyer love triangle – if you didn’t have something to help you digest it all, you’d have to give up.

Without the internet, Lost fans would need a help-line with desperate fans phoning up in a panic: “why is Charlie back from the dead, who was Cindy again, when did Adam tell Hurley about the guitar case.”

There are 5,980 articles on Lostpedia – it actually went up by one while I clicked on the site – and the content will just keep on growing. The show, to most fans relief, is ending this season, but it’s unlikely to answer all the questions. According to co-creator Carlton Cuse:

“Obviously, not every question’s going to be answered […] some people are going to be upset that those particular questions don’t get resolved. But we felt that if we tried to just answer questions, it would be very pedantic.”

This will lead to deranged, suicidal thoughts by losties everywhere, but also to plethora of online activity. Mark my words, when the final episode wraps, the internet will be swarming with theories, observations and emoting, not to mention they inevitable fan fiction.

So there you have it; Lost, the official TV success story of the web age.

Ironic really, for a show set on a desert island with little technology to speak of.

Why 2010 will be a gleeful year

There comes a point in every girl’s life when they have to move past the TV habits of their teenage years. Having watched four episodes of new show Glee, it seems I’m not quite there yet.

I just fancy the teacher rather than the students.

Glee has all the traits of any good, old-fashioned high school show. It’s got laugh-out-loud geekiness equal to Zac, Screech and the gang in Saved by the Bell and the will-they / won’t-they formula of Dawson’s Creek. The cast is every bit as attractive as those fielded by The OC / Gossip Girl maestro Josh Schwartz.

All good, but not alone enough to guarantee Glee will be the mega-hit it has already proved in America, where it has been Golden Globe nominated. So why all the song and dance about it?

Song and dance is exactly why, actually.

Glee is what High School Musical would look like if Disney allowed for irreverent digs at disabled people, gay dads and teen pregnancy scandals.
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