Ah, Lost

By | January 21, 2009 | 2 Comments

Very excited to watch the new season of Lost in a way I normally am not excited about TV shows. I watch my share of television, but most of it is the meh sort where I enjoy it in the moment and then stop thinking about it. Even the nominally Sci-Fi shows on the schedules don’t excite me much. But Lost does.

I didn’t even want to start watching it, all those years ago. I’m one of those dense bastards who resists anything popular, and the more people telling me how great something is, the more I resist. So when Lost premiered and everyone I knew told me it was great, I shrugged and proceeded to not watch it. Then I was over my friends Jeof and Misty’s apartment one night and they had it DVR’d, and so I watched the first episodes there, and was hooked.

I think the reason I like Lost so much is twofold: One, it’s a true science-fiction story, not just a gimmicky TV drama, and two, it trusted itself enough to start off really, really slow with the SF stuff. These two aspects are key, I think.

There are a lot of TV shows that are nominally SF/F, and most of them flat-out suck. Television has always seemed to regard SF/F as a strange redhaired child in the room, the sort of ADHD kid no one can predict or control. Most of the programs they’ve slapped together that are SF/F seem to have followed the hack writer’s code that in SF/F anything can happen because it’s all magic. Rules are for the ruled, so if they need a way out of a plot in episode four, why, the main character suddenly can fly. Why not?

Also, a lot of shows are just SF/F gimmicks slapped onto a traditional dramatic template. This can work pretty well – The X Files being an intelligent, successful example of SF/F stories slapped onto a Procedural template – but it can also be faux SF/F, where the only reason a show gets styled SF/F is because one character supposedly has powers or something.

Lost, on the other hand, is true SF. There are fundamental ideas in the show being explored, and internal rules – or at least seem to be; time will tell if they stay true to the mechanics they’ve set up, but so far, so good. I’m not 100% sure what’s going on just yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to turn out all right as far as internal SF rules go. It’s a show based in science to some degree asking a lot of what if questions, and if that isn’t SF, I don’t know what is. Which may, of course, be the case.

On the other hand, Lost didn’t jump out of the box shaking its rattles and dancing its obscure dances; the first season was a slow burn that started off as a creepy story about people surviving a plane crash on a deserted island, slowly discovering many, many unhappy things about said island. By the time you realized you were watching a full-blown SF/F show, you were already several hours into the story.

This is important because another sin of a lot of TV SF/F is to assume that SF/F fans are in it for the special effects and the set-piece wow-factor, and so come out in episode one with guns blazing, weirdness everywhere, oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all these poor sane people, infecting them. Wackos everywhere, plague of madness.

What Lost, on the other hand, got right is to remember that SF stories are still stories, and focus on world-building and character development for a while. The weirdness came, and came big, but it took a while, and by the time you were wondering what was in teh frakkin hatch, you were involved in the story on a human level.

Then, of course, Lost attempted to kill us all with that third season, but let’s let that slide. Even your best friends sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and try to kill you, right? Well, that’s been my experience.

So, to recap: Muy muy excited about catching Lost tonight. Just in case you were interested. And as I’ve said to The Duchess about 500 times this past year: I can only pray the writers don’t screw it up.

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