Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reflections On My Life and Lost the Past Six Years

There are few things in this world that I am truly passionate about. Yes I like a lot of things; comics, movies, books, dogs, boobs etc. But when it goes just beyond liking something, when it transcends from entertainment to experience, when I am challenged not just as a viewer but as a person, and when I am touched deeply by people that will never exist, that is what I truly love. And never in my life have I ever cared more about something like I do Lost. I can't just say that I've never cared for a TV show more, because I've never cared more about anything else in my life that wasn't directly connected to me. I've so deeply invested myself and my life to the mythology and characters that now that it is over, I feel like I have lost something of myself. And now that I think of it, I can't remember exactly what my life was like before the show.

Over the past six years not only has this show kept me glued to my couch every week but it has ensnared me in its allure and mystery that there hasn't been a time since it began that I haven't thought about it or it influencing my life somehow. Never will I look at polar bears the same, never will I be able to say "son of a bitch" without thinking of a salty someone, and never will I forget some of history's most famous philosopher's names. This show has not only brought me joy, sorrow, laughter and anger over the past six years, it has also made me a better person. It has opened my mind to new ideas, turned me on to dozens of books, inspired me in my own career, and taught me what true story telling is like.

I have said before that I truly believe Lost will go down as being one of the greatest TV shows of all time. And the finale tonight has completely solidified that for me. I have never felt more satisfied by a series finale than I do right now. I thought that I would be frustrated or angry that we didn't learn more, but I see now that though the show was serialized and the story kept you through thick and thin, it was about the redemption of the characters and their journeys on and off the island. Without these characters we never would have cared. And over the past six years I have come to love Kate, adore Juliet, want to be Jack, wish I had Sawyer's courage, and aspire to be more like Hurley. Our journey was just as important as theirs and now that one has come to a close, ours can begin.

But where do we go from here? There will never be anything like Lost again. And good, there shouldn't be. Nothing would ever be as genuine or as beautiful as Lost. It will remain where it belongs, in our hearts. I apologize if this sounds corny or geeky but I truly have loved this show since I first laid eyes on it. It has been a big part of my maturing adult life and I owe a lot to the show. I know I will never be the same as I was before it began. And I love that.

So thank you Lost for everything you have given me. I will truly miss you. I'll see you in another life time, brotha.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lost Was Fixed Last Night

I repent for my previous blog. As always, after an immediate, emotional reaction to anything in life, I learn that I should have held my tongue and calmed myself before acting.

After last night's episode I easily forgot many of my gripes with Jacob's lackluster light-heavy episode and feel as though that episode was validated in many ways.

From Ben's good ole evilness, Desmond's alternate reality badassery, the man in black's ruthlessness, Jacob and Jack's little ceremony, to a potentially powerful lead-in to next week, I loved this entire episode with only one notable exception I will not divulge in case anyone has not seen it.

I would write more...but Red Dead Redemption came out yesterday...and I still have some outlaws to bring to justice.

The finale is soon upon us, my friends. Soon...we will know how it all ends.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost Was Broken Last Night

I cannot comprehend the ideas, thoughts, nor the intentions of the Lost writing staff and producers. I've wanted to see Jacob and the man in black's origin story ever since the season five finale, as has everyone who loves the show. But the fear of having their mystique destroyed by seeing that origin proved truer than I could have ever expected. To have these mythical characters reduced to nothing more than humans, conceived on this earth who are as confused by the mysteries around them as the rest of the cast, and their rules and powers bestowed upon them by some mystery woman with apparently magical wine and insight into glowing caves that she refuses to share is, very simply, heartbreaking. The rules we've been hearing so much about aren't explained here, unless we are to believe that these men, after being alive for centuries, adhere to the guidelines of a crazy mother and nothing more.

All I've wanted are basic, solid answers, or at the very least, cool vague ones. We received nothing of the sort last night. As Alison Janney stated, one answer simply leads to another question. But it doesn't need to. It shouldn't be that way. I shouldn't be asking new questions at this point. None of us should.

What is the light?
What does "harness the power of the water and the light" mean and how did the man in black "devise a system" to do so and how does he know that it would get him off the island?
Why did the man in black's body remain after he transformed into the smoke monster?
Why did he transform into the smoke monster?
Who is "mother"?
Where does she come from?
Why is there a whining, shivering musical note every time someone says something?

This episode proved to me that the Lost writers have never had any idea what the hell they were doing. They are clearly pulling things out of their ass with this episode and deciding to tell us to be quiet, eat what they give us, and be happy with uncertainty. And they can easily hide behind this. They can say, "Look we're just reflecting the mysteries of life. There will never be any solid answers in life. That's what we're saying". No. What you're saying is that you cannot think of an adequate explanation for an island that can travel through space and time, smoke monsters, people inhabiting other people's bodies, ghosts, coming back from the dead via pools of water, alternate realities, why people are the way they are (talking about The Others here...we still have no idea why they are so violent), or what the island is. The writers have teased us, strung us along, and done so simply for the sake of ratings. This is not a show like the X-Files where we're never promised anything. This is a show where we've been subtly guaranteed explanation and where explanation is actually essential to the appreciation of the series.

This was a bad episode, plain and simple. After watching it, after being so utterly astounded that this is supposed to be the origin of the most mysterious, intriguing feud of the series, I feel that Lost cannot entirely recover. Yes, the finale may be amazing. The characters I actually care about may get the send off they deserve. But this episode broke an important part of Lost.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Best Writing On Television That I Know Of

I don't watch Glee, Fringe, Lie To Me, Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother, Two & A Half Men, any ABC comedy, anything on the CW, nor anything on AMC, TNT, or TBS that isn't a rerun of Law & Order or Family Guy. Though I believe I watch a lot of TV, what I do watch is a relatively small segment of the medium when compared to what other avid couch potatoes absorb. That is why I can't make an adequate "Best Of" list. Maybe Glee is actually good. Maybe Tyler Perry's House of Payne is pretty funny.

So I'll instead write a brief list of what I feel are examples of excellent writing one can find via the television, Hulu, Netflix, and the like. Why am I doing this? I'm bored...and there's nothing on TV.

Parks and Recreation - This has been the most consistent of the NBC Thursday night lineup. In its first full season there has not been one bad episode. Characters and relationships have been examined and expanded and Leslie Knope has provided a passionate, heartfelt, and hilarious soul to this new series. It has surpassed The Office, its predecessor. Because it does not rely upon a central relationship or character the way The Office did, it has potential to remain as consistently funny. Give this a chance if you haven't.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - While season 5 was the weakest, this series is still the best comedy since Seinfeld. No sitcom in recent memory has made me laugh as hard. This show has no interest in warming your soul with subtle messages of love and peace. This show simply wants to make you laugh and it always succeeds. The worst episode of Sunny is better than almost everything else on television. The comedic timing, coupled with the superb dialogue and characters make this something everyone, young or old, should give a try.

Community - this is probably the most heartfelt sitcom since Tony Danza was still a star. The brilliant diversity of the cast and their ongoing in-jokes and conflicts, coupled with a strong sense of self-awareness and irony, make this one of the best new shows in a very long time. The most enjoyable hour on television (apart from Lost) is Thursdays from eight to nine and it's because of Community and Parks and Rec.

Family Guy - I'm very hot and cold with Family Guy. Overall, I love it, but there are periods when I find it completely obnoxious and I avoid it. Then it comes back into my life and I love it again. It came back this season with an episode that finds Brian and Stewey trapped in a bank vault together. While I haven't seen much of the season, this episode alone is enough to put Family Guy up there as one of the best written series on television. Apart from being hilarious, it examined two characters with a level of depth and craft I haven't seen since...I wanted to finish that sentence with something good but I simply can't remember the last time I was so impressed by a simple series of dialogues between two characters. And it's a cartoon! This fact makes it that much funnier and worthwhile.

Dexter - The writing on Dexter is incomperable. Its titular character is quite possibly the most interesting protagonist in the history of the medium. While the show does an excellent job creating intense conflicts and dier scenarios that test Dexter's abilities, it always comes back to examining his tortured soul, his psychosis, and his issues with an untrustworthy father. If you want to watch a 12 Part film with unrivalled performances and writing, see Dexter.

Archer - This is a hilarious comedy most appreciated by fans of James Bond and the spy genre. But that isn't a prerequisite. I've never seen an animated series so properly replicate the kind of comedic timing one finds in live-action. The dialogue is fast, the awkward pauses slow. This show has a cool 60s art style and an unending stream of vulgar, witty, ironic, sardonic, and intelligent jokes. If you have Netflix Instant watch, definitely check out the first season.

Honorable mentions go to Party Down (also on Instant Watch), Californication, Lost, 30 Rock, and South Park. These shows didn't make my list of best current television writing for a number of reasons. Californication, Party Down, and 30 Rock are shows that are so successful more because of their main characters and the performances of their actors and less because of the actual stories involved, I believe. South Park simply hasn't been having a great season, though their writers are the most daring on television and, during a great season, possibly the best.

And then there's Lost. After Season 4 Lost stopped caring about writing and started caring more about its own mythology. It became self-referencial and self-explanatory. I'm not writing that seasons 5 and 6 haven't had great episodes and occasionally great, original writing. I'm simply suggesting that seasons 2, 3, and 4 were the writer's brightest moments.

Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

About Lost Last Night

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this season of Lost. There are times I love it, there are times I hate it, and then there are the dark times...the times I'm bored and indifferent. When it comes to Lost I find it almost impossible to perform a function of my brain I usually utilize with ease; the ability to differentiate between personal preference and objective observation. For example: I don't like Fight Club. I don't enjoy it at all really. But I know it's a great movie.

With Lost, it's never been easy. If I hate an episode or if I'm disappointed by a season, I cannot see passed my own feelings to whatever merit the show may have.

Last night's episode wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was good. I enjoyed it very much and it shocked me and even moved me at times. A commercial with a giant shark gnawing a man's arm ruined the most powerful moment in the episode but that's to be expected and something I'll bring up later.

But, if I'm being completely honest, I'm not satisfied. And it's not because of one big reason. It's not because we're not getting answers anymore. It's not because a particular character isn't being used enough. It's not because there are useless characters taking up screen time anymore. It's a bunch of little reasons that leave me confused and disheartened with this season and particularly last night's episode.

One such issue is Sayid. He turned evil in a natural, powerful way. His decision last night, therefore, was somewhat confusing to me. In the middle of this episode until the end, he became good ole Sayid. There was no indication that there was any good left in him, no hint that it would come out. But it did in a big way. Yes, I'm very aware of all the arguments in support of his decision that meticulously examine what's happening in that moment. But there's only one thing that could leave me satisfied with this character's rapid transformation and that would be if a flashback to his conversation with Desmond at the well revealed a seed of dissent being planted.

Other such issues are confusion, or a sense of awkwardness, resultant from watching Jack and the original cast follow the smoke monster and even side with him and then turn on him and then side with him and then turn on him again.

Then there's Widmore and his fences and his machines and his obnoxious minions. Any time I see that girl with glasses who works for him I think, "Why am I staring at you? Why am I hearing you? You are not important. You are not a character. Go away". Widmore has simply been cheesey and seemingly without purpose. I know he has a purpose, but that purpose is being kept a secret, so how can I appreciate him?

And perhaps it's as simple as I don't like the alternate reality. If I hate 50% of what I'm watching, how can I be satisfied?

It's become remarkably redundant, rehashing scenes and lines of fan-service dialouge from previous seasons and now even from previous moments of this season. Any time I watch a scene from the alternate reality I simply feel like it's unimportant. And, for this entire season with the exception of the premiere, it has been. No actual information about anything has been revealed to us in these scenes that we didn't already know. And there's a simple explanation for's not on the island. How can anything pertinent about the island be answered if we're not watching the island?

The only pertinent information that's been revealed during alternate reality episodes is that some characters are aware it exists, or that they've had another life on an island somewhere. But that doesn't impact what's happening on the island (at least not now) and the island is what we've devoted our entire veiwership lives to. The alternate reality doesn't make the events on the island any more interesting, it makes them less interesting, in fact. The alternate reality is just there, servicing nothing in the present story, existing solely as a inevitable explanation for a "happily ever after" ending. And because it has no impact on the actual narrative beyond the occasional, and again, redundant, "what if" character exploration, it slips easily into little nods to the audience that feel condescending at this point. Yes, I remember Bernard. Yes, I remember Charlie. Yes, I remember Arnst. Furthermore, the alternate reality creates two practical problems.

1) These scenes literally steel time away from the island. As last night's episode demonstrated, it's the island that can create compelling action sequences and moving drama. To have scenes that seem to have no bearing on anything beyond nostalgia makes me feel as though I'm being cheated out of something I've waited years to see.

2) Anything emotional or powerful that occurs on the island comes with a caveat that reduces the impact of such an event. If, for example, two characters die in a really emotional way, a shot of one walking down a hallway five minutes later reduces the impact of that scene. We've been watching the island reality for six years. The island reality feels like the real reality (dumb sentence, but true). So when a character dies, it feels like they should really be dead. To have the impact of their death stolen from us is almost, unfair. It's as if we're being toyed with.

What bothers me the most about this season is that it simply has not lived up to expectation, and that's something I never wanted to acknowledge. A better statement is that it has not been what it easily could and should have been.

Like Homer watching his flying pig, I have proclaimed, "It's still good, it's still good". And Lost is still good. Lost is still the best television show in history. But I have to acknowledge that this season isn't the best. In fact, this season may be the worst. Every other season, whether it gave us answers or not, had compelling drama. This season has been a confusing mishmash of scenes with varying degrees of quality with no real focal point heading toward a finale upon which it's relying. This feels lazy on the writer's part. I wish the writers had made different choices, choices that would have left us unavoidably wowed after every episode. There have been four episodes that have achieved this, without any problems. But that is all.

I know the finale will be amazing. Every Tuesday is an event of Super Bowl proportions, despite the truth I've been denying all this time. I will always love this show. And, as always, I must acknowledge that my problems would be reduced, if not nonexistent, if I were watching it on DVD. It's impossible to adequately describe how much commercials detract from the emotionality of the experience and the wait between episodes infuriates when we desperately want answers.

Thanks for reading guys. I hope it's a great finish.