Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Lost Again

Since everyone else is writing about Lost today...

Two recent conversations have helped me solidify and better articulate my feelings on the show. First, a friend said, "I love big ensemble dramas!" and I thought, So do what's the problem? Well, the problem is those are really hard to do well, and I just don't think Lost is very good at it. That might be an inherent problem with its structure. On a show like Battlestar or The West Wing or even Grey's Anatomy (and I'm assuming The Wire, though I've never seen it - I know, shut up)even though there are a gajillion characters, they're all in a fairly confined world, so you can tell one individual story and still check in with other people, because that individual has to do that in the course of his or her day. From the very beginning Lost gave us the flashbacks, which took us away from 99% of the cast for half of each episode. (I thought that structure was really cool for the first couple of seasons, but I think it helped the show get away from the writers. It certainly helped it get away from me, since I ultimately care about what's happening on the island and didn't want to be taken away from that to watch Jack be a super surgeon or whatever, which isn't so interesting.) And in later seasons when everyone was in different camps the same thing could happen on the island. I think this explains why, as I said in my earlier post, I've never been able to get a real feel for any of these characters or even how the majority of them relate to each other. It's like the writers couldn't keep track of everybody after a while, and if they can't how can I be expected to?

Then this morning I was talking to my boss, who loves Lost but is not normally a science fiction fan. I explained to her that good sci fi/fantasy works because it has rules and it sticks to them. The premise may be utterly ridiculous, but in this world, this is how things work. The world is therefore believable even if certain elements of it are not. (The same principle applies to musicals, but I digress.) The world of Lost has never made sense to me. I was careful how to phrase that because I'm sure others will disagree. But I've just never understood how the Island is supposed to work, and have had a hard time making sense of it. The ground-rules need to be there and need to be clear to hook me in.

That said, I liked last night's episode, even though it was beyond silly. I didn't miss having the regular characters around (and what does that say about them??) and found it rather a relief to have an episode with only three people in it, telling us clear and simple things. I didn't care at all that most of those things made not one bit of sense, I was just happy to have a simply-told story for a change. And I'll watch Betty White Allison Janney do just about anything. It was like CJ Cregg held a press conference and explained the show.

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