It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of ABC’s “Lost.”
Starting December 2008 over winter break, home from college, a bit bored at night, I finally decided to rent the first disk of Lost. I watched four episodes that night, went back the next day and grabbed disk two, and the day after drove to the store and bought the first season. I never looked back.
Lost is a revolutionary show, and I am not only a huge fan of the story and everything that goes with that, but for what it’s doing for television.
The evolution of television has gone, in my lifetime, from a time of sitcoms born into the slew of procedural crime dramas. Thanks to shows like Buffy and one of my all-time favorites, The X-Files, shows incorporating heavy mythology (the story arc running under episodes of a show, Mulder’s pursuit of Aliens, etc) became popular, and recently opened the doors for full mythology-based shows like Heroes and Lost. Heroes fell apart when they strayed from trying a radical change in their second season to instead more or less recreate the first season, which turned the show into a soap opera of intertwining characters.
For many, Lost’s plot and mysteries were so complex, tightly weaved, and confusing it seemed as if the writers were just stringing the audience along. But then Lost did something that I’ll forever respect them for and the network for allowing it – they put a finale’ date for the series.
After watching the X-Files, which ran four seasons past the intended finale at the end of the fifth season (in which the makers planned a movie trilogy to finish the story), and instead produced seasons that were far too unsure of themselves in not knowing how to build on their mythology when it could end at any time, dragging their feet, introducing new, expendable plot points – it was horrible, all because the show was getting great numbers of viewers and the network was afraid to pull the plug on a good thing.
Thank God Lost set a date. Not only is the story going to be told as it should, with questions answered (well, MOST anyway – I’m sure they’ll leave a couple open), but the hype for the network is fantastic! The show is generating a ton of support going into its final season. Battlestar Galactica did the same thing, but I don’t (….yet) watch the show so I can’t comment on it, but the same effect was created – lots of hype, and a story that ends when it should.
Obviously I’m a writer and I take the concept of story very seriously. I think television shows are a fantastic medium for telling complex, mysterious, good tales, and I quite enjoy the form, but when good shows are forced to peter out into mediocrity I get angry.
The CW’s “Supernatural”, for example. The creator, Eric Kripke, had his outline for the show planned out roughly through the end of season five, and with their present apocalyptic storyline, it would be the perfect, end-with-a-bang, epic finish this May – but Super is bringing in the best numbers since early in season one and the network doesn’t want this hot item to go yet. It’s still in talks for renewal so we’ll see, but I’m preparing for disappointment. Where do you go from here? Dragging the apocalypse out slowly? Having them go back to normal? No, we need a little bloodshed and tears, a little ground-breaking and sulfur, not some monster-of-the-week.
It should be said that it’s not an issue of faith in the writers. The writers are wonderful – they’re crafting some of my most favorite stories on TV, but I’m of the school that stories are beyond us and are channeled through us – no matter how good the writer, a good story will fizzle if lead too far.
Hats off to the shows and the networks doing this, I hope it’s an upward trend that will continue so that good stories can keep on living –