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Won’t Get Fooled Again

May 24, 2010

My best friend just spent his alloted three minutes venting his frustrations over the season finale of Lost – a show I did not realize he watched. As I listened to him tick off theories, plot holes and disappointments I calmly asked him, “What other kinds of shows do you watch?”

This was an honest question. He and I actually don’t talk much about interests that don’t overlap. He cited shows that, for the most part, seemed to be cohorts of Lost and before he could veer back into his rant, I stopped him.

I’ve watched a lot of television. More to the point – I’ve watched a lot of different kinds of shows. I already knew the big reveal of Lost and I had only seen about twenty minutes of the pilot a couple of months back. I knew it instantly because I had seen versions of it in lots of different mediums. Sure it was utilized for different reasons and under vastly different circumstances; nevertheless it was still the same trick. I don’t care what the producers said; show runners are notorious tricksters. I don’t care what kind of lush tropical disguise the trope wears; I always recognize it. I don’t even care how well prepared I am for it. I rarely find it satisfying.

Based on my best friend’s rant – which I’ll spare you – I got the impression he felt scammed. This made me chuckle. For six years he had been furnished with what I am told was a compelling character drama – complete with lush surroundings, heart pounding acting, moral dilemmas, puzzles to solve, taut writing and superb acting. On a network channel! Considering all the garbage on network television he ought to be a lot more grateful.

Or, he should expand his viewing habits to include shows reflecting genres other than sci-fi. Perhaps, then he won’t be so damn bitter when Mr. “Plot twist/spoiler.” arrives to shepherd one of his beloved shows to its final resting place. As I said, I find this kind of plot resolution troubling.

Mr. Miyagi said, “Best way to avoid trouble is no be there.”

Further Reading
Penpusher’s exceptional analysis as a longtime fan of the series. Dean is my personal pop culture analysis hero, so you’re in for a TREAT.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. evmaroon permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:39 am

    I watched all of season 1 when it was as new as a screaming baby, and loved the intricate, taut character work. Then season 2 came out and between the HD-makes-it-darker-on-a-regular-television and all the night scenes, I gave up watching, lest my brain revolt with a headache from all of my squinting. But I too figured it was either the “Jacob’s Ladder” solution or the “St. Elsewhere” one. I’m really glad I didn’t watch it all these years, but no worries, I don’t get out of this television season unscathed; I’m one of the few who really liked FlashForward and it’s about to get pulled out from under me and everyone else. Best time-traveling series since Quantum Leap.

  2. badhedgehog permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:18 am

    Sometimes I think that series with those twists would be better if they were shorter, just 2 or 3 seasons instead of 5 or 6. Better to keep things reasonably neat than to turn the plot inside and out and inside and out like some kind of flexagon, all the time knowing that you’re on the way to the same “aha”.

    Compare with: UK Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. 2 seasons of LoM and 3 of A2A. Although, erm, wait a minute, I may be about to either demolish my own argument or prove it, given that Ashes to Ashes is the sequel to Life on Mars and therefore one could consider the whole thing a 5 season series with one intermediate reveal and one end of series reveal. I suppose it depends on what my opinion of the final season of Ashes to Ashes actually is. I’m four episodes behind and need to catch up first. I don’t expect to find out anything I don’t already know for a fact or very strongly suspect from the ending of Life on Mars.

  3. May 24, 2010 8:40 am

    I’ve watched the first 4 and a half seasons of Lost. Eventually I’ll get around to watching the rest, but I know what happens. Between Facebook and every other website on Teh Interwebz, it’s sort of impossible to not know what happens. It doesn’t make it make sense, but I’m not sure that watching the show the whole way through will make a difference. Also, I don’t love all of the characters as much as other people seem to… Jack and Kate can suck it. Actually, if they’d just leave me with an island of Daniel Dae Kim, Josh Holloway, Henry Ian Cusick, and Jorge Garcia, I’d be totally happy. Hmmmmmmm………

    Shows that I watch that have had great series finales are things like King of The Hill, Monk (even though it was a little…schmaltzy…but it still made me happy), and M*A*S*H (again, kinda schmaltzy, but I LIKE SCHMATLZ!). They answer questions, give a good “ending” (which is actually a good beginning) to characters I love, and don’t totally pull any of the old tropes. Or at least, not many of them.

    Let’s not forget the ending of Roseanne, where everything from the last season was part of a novel, and things from earlier seasons had been changed to make them “more like how they should have been” (like Becky was really with David and Darlene was really with Mark, among other things). That all irks me. *grump grump grump*

  4. May 24, 2010 10:59 am

    I’ve never watched LOST. I was a Heroes fan, and in a way I’m glad it got canceled before they could come up with a “wrap up.” Unless a show has a very limited season and well-defined story arc (I’m thinking along the lines of the Prisoner), I prefer to see scifi or comic book type shows left open-ended. So we can keep talking about what might have happened next. Or, heaven forbid, some of the characters or situations can be picked up later on (for example, in movies like they did with ST:TNG and Firefly).

  5. May 24, 2010 2:51 pm

    @Everett, I’m still bitter WB canceled The Bedford Diaries in 2006.

    It’s so cheesy. Oh Tom Fontana! Oh Matthew Modine as a pervy Sociology professor teaching something called, “Sexual Behavior and Human Condition” which features equipping college students with camcorders and unleashing them on unsuspecting sexual partners and crushes. OMG.

  6. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:56 pm

    I have watched every single episode of Lost and for the most part enjoyed them all. Yeah, the show kinda jumped the shark this season (or last, depending on how deep you want to edit the story problems) narratively speaking, but as far as dramatic swells and pathos, it’s still all there. if you want to make Lost into the fcking rosetta stone, then yeah, it’s hella disappointing, those fools are smart enough to blow our minds that way. but if you make it a butch Grey’s Anatomy, then it’s pretty great.

    the finale had a lot of strong points, as far as emotional pathos and giving satisfaction to the audience with character flashbacks and reminding us of all the reasons we liked watching their stories. it also had a lot of weak points in plot. like when Ben was stuck under a tree that they couldn’t move it, and then the next scene he’s standing next to them on the cliff. oops. there are several things like this, which are signs of a harried ending, an annoyance that could be solved with BadHedgeHog’s suggestion of shorter tighter seasons.

    i think part of why people feel tricked is because the finale offered a loose semi-cognizant explanation of the last season, i.e. it was an idealized dream born in the feverish death throes of the lead character Jack, to show how much they all meant to each other in this life, so much so that they decided to meet up together in an imaginary realm so that they could all enter heaven together? um, ok, cool. whatever. so the show ends and you’re talking about the nuances of all that, then you realize, wait a minute, what about the existence of the island itself? it’s really a cork on a hellmouth? turns out the show was surprisingly literal about it all. we keep ascribing mysteries that weren’t there – they told us. sure it was a weird fable based in fantasy with the same amount of scientific explanation as an edith hamilton mythology chapter, but they told us. it’s the viewers fault for not believing them!

    Lost tricked people who tuned into human drama story into watching a sci-fi series about time loops, etc. But in the end, it was about human drama. And that can be pretty disappointing to the sci-fi geeks, I suppose, who want math problems solved to the t. Now, I would generally prefer both, but I guess I didn’t really believe the creators and writers were mathematicians, so I kept my expectations low!

  7. May 24, 2010 4:03 pm

    Lost tricked people who tuned into human drama story into watching a sci-fi series about time loops, etc. But in the end, it was about human drama. And that can be pretty disappointing to the sci-fi geeks, I suppose, who want math problems solved to the t. Now, I would generally prefer both, but I guess I didn’t really believe the creators and writers were mathematicians, so I kept my expectations low!

    This absolutely illustrates my point about folks vectored towards this genre and how they often set themselves up to be unsatisfied by finales in such, much better than my, “watch more different kinds of television” did.

    Okay, I have a confession.

    If you or Ev hadn’t mentioned watching the show I would have absolutely NO interest in watching it. I tend to judge television shows by their viewers (I haven’t seen Alias either) and wait until the programs are vetted by folks I think have similar reasons for watching shows (Spoon turned me on to Arrested Development) and an overall sense of good judgment. So with this double seal of suggestion I’m thinking I might give the show this summer to involve me.

    I am okay with not having questions answered and I don’t even feel that necessarily is a requirement of art. That’s math. Geeks haven’t figured out that art is not math.

  8. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:10 pm

    I think Lost went from being a good-good show to a good-bad show (the CGI submarine and sharks! the hilarious repetition of the same dialogue from scene to scene [“where are we? why are you trying to blow up ___?”]), and those are my two favorite categories of movies and tv!

  9. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:16 pm

    also, omg, I thought I was the only person in the world who watched the movie Passengers. maybe i was just one of only ten who saw it in the theater. when I reviewed it, I certainly tried to keep it that way!

  10. May 24, 2010 5:28 pm

    LOL. woot!

  11. May 24, 2010 5:33 pm

    Your review of Passengers made me LOL. “What are these actors doing here?” I was thinking the same thing. Andre Braugher – really? That gave away the plot twist more than anything else. I smelled “magical negro” and instantly sniffed around for the plot twist.

  12. May 24, 2010 8:07 pm

    I really like LOST. I think Ray nailed it… It’s just a great show about people. If you try to read too much into it, you’re going to end up with egg on your face. Which as many people have noticed, is probably the reason so many people are pissed off at the ending. At it’s best, LOST was pure entertainment: chase scenes, love triangles, good vs. evil, stuffs exploding. At it’s worst it was quasi-spiritual flim-flam with Philosophy 101 references thrown in to give it “depth”. I loved it for being a great escape. It was fun to try to figure out the little mysteries, but I never stayed up nights adding up the numbers, cross-refrencing the book and pop culture references, or looking for hidden details in the backgrounds. And just to chime in with Bad Hedgehog, the length absolutely hurt it. I read an interview with the producers who said they wrote the original story with 2 seasons, 4 at the max, in mind. When it got popular, I think they had to add a lot of fluff to the mythology (that wasn’t all that strong to begin with) to stretch it out. Still… I love the characters enough to watch it all again.

    Ha! I tried to get Snarky to watch Lost once, but I think we got derailed when we started talking about Psyche!

  13. May 24, 2010 10:41 pm

    Ooh, Psych! That’s a show I’m looking forward to coming back. And not just because I’ma make Dule Hill my husband (James Roday will be my gardener, and he will be called Sven).

    I just caught up with the last season of Lost (as in season 5). We watched the last 5 episodes tonight in a row, which echoes when we watched the first season (we watched it in 2 days). I imagine by the end of the week, I will have finished the series. And the people I know who have a brain and enjoy stories about people loved how the series ended. They’re also the only people I know who like There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men, so I’m gonna trust them that I’ll be happy.

    I’m fairly certain that I’ll enjoy the last season because I’m more invested in what happens to the characters than all of the fake-science/time travel stuff. I don’t care if my questions about the Island get answered; I’m more interested in knowing how everyone is connected to everyone else. Tonight was full of “OH NOES!” and “OOOOH, I KNEW THAT!” Of course, I also decided to make everyone’s names into verbs, so a number of people got “Hurleyed” and “Sawyered” and “Desmonded.”

  14. May 24, 2010 11:28 pm

    I freaking love both the novel and the film No Country for Old Men!

  15. evmaroon permalink
    May 25, 2010 12:29 am

    No Country for Old Men! Awesomeness….

  16. May 25, 2010 12:49 am

    I love saying things like, “Mofo was hounding me like Bardem hounding Brolin!”

  17. chava22 permalink
    May 26, 2010 9:54 pm

    I think scifi fans (of which I am one) often fail to realize that the writers of the show are NOT math, science, and tech heads–and thus will not feel the slightly obsessive need to tie up every problem With Science.

    Battlestar Galactica ended in a very similar narrative fashion (no giant plot twist, but generally centered around faith & leaving a bit of mystery/art rather than having all the Questions answered).

    OTOH, I do think there is a point at which it veers away from art and into sloppy writing and abuse of the genre conventions. I never watched a single ep of Lost, so I can’t speak to that, but I’ve seen plenty of scifi shows go for the old deus ex machina and/or Giant!Plot!Twisty! one too many times. Witness the end of New Who season three….

  18. July 4, 2010 11:22 pm

    I think scifi fans (of which I am one) often fail to realize that the writers of the show are NOT math, science, and tech heads–and thus will not feel the slightly obsessive need to tie up every problem With Science.

    Like surferbabe Chris Carter of The X-Files fame.

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