Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Gentlemans wager

After catching the latest Pirates movie was had dinner nearby. The discussion turned to the show 'Lost', which has gotten a contract for three more years. I do not believe that it will go that long and have made a gentleman's wager of dinner with my friend Ed over this.

It's not that I don't enjoy Lost. It's a pretty damn good show. But it does have one serious fault working against it. These writers have no clear idea of where they are going. There is no set arc or master story. Anyone who tells you there is, is wrong. Oh there may be some broad, nebulous idea thingy in the producers mind somewhere. But a solid plan? No. JMS had a pretty damn solid plan for B5 that made it a great Space Opera. Even the X-files eventually settled down to a central backstory. Lost? Not so much.

And how long can this show continue to pull shit out of its ass? How much weird shit can happen on this island? How long can these characters continue to do dumb things and never ask intelligent questions? I believe that the show can have a good ending. But three seasons worth? We will have to see. I suspect it will go the way of several other shows that had similar motifs. Anyone remember John Doe? Or the Running Man show (I thank that's what it was called). Great premises wasted.

While pontificating on Lost I somehow blurted out that Lost isn't that original. It's basically The Prisoner with a warmer climate. Never saw the show? Don't worry, it first ran in the 60's on BBC. But the parallels are freaky:

Lost: People wake up to find themselves on mysterious island
Prisoner: Spy wakes up to find himself on mysterious island

Lost: Island inhabited by Black Smoke, that can kill
Prisoner: Island guarded by Rover, a mysterious device that can kill

Lost: Others controlled by no. 2 who answers to unseen no 1
prisoner: Island controlled by no. 2 who answers to unseen no 1

Lost: Main characters have secrets they don't want revealed
Prisoner: Main character has secret he doesn't want revealed

Lost: Areas of the island are under video surveillance
Prisoner: Areas of the island are under video surveillance

Lost: Other try to get characters to join them
Prisoner: No 2 tried to get No 6 to join him

Lost: Dead people occasionally show up alive.
Prisoner: Dead people occasionally show up alive.

One could go on and on.


Anonymous said...

I never thought of comparing Lost to the Prisoner but I see exactly what you mean.
I remember both those shows but didn't care for Total Recall(If that is the other show you were thinking of.)
Unfortunately once I found out John Doe's secret it kinda lost something for me.


Goodman Holiday said...

Man, I'd take that bet. For one thing, there's the fact that the remaining seasons will be only 16 episodes each, which will help keep things tighter. And if, as I suspect, next season they replace flashbacks with flash forwards, that looks to be a boatload of fun.

Also, I think the fact that Lost isn't as tightly planned as Babylon 5 is an asset. There's a lot to be said for being open to changes in direction and character based on how things evolve on screen. Sawyer was originally envisioned as a southern dandy, until Josh Holloway forgot his lines during an audition and kicked a chair in frustration... and the producers liked it. Ben was originally intended to be around for 3 episodes. I think adapting to what works and doesn't work on screen is essential for a series. Babylon 5 was more committed to faithfully telling the station's pre-imagined history than to delivering a satisfying series. Like when they lost a key actor who was critical to the season 5 storyline... and then they tried to tell the story anyway.

And yes, I do believe the writers basically know where they're going... enough. I don't think it really matters how much of a plan they have for Jin or Hurley or Desmond. They say they have a direction and an ending, and I believe that's enough. Now that they know the exact number of episodes remaining, they can plan in even greater detail.

You missed another similarity between Lost and The Prisoner. With both shows, some critics predicted that since the island couldn't be escaped without ending the series, the show would ultimately be rendered boring and pointless. Not so much, it turns out.

Steve said...

I don't know that flashforwards are as cool as flashbacks. It seemed to work well in that episode, but will it work all the time?

A flashback is a great way to look at a characters motivcations and explain details and interactions. The current story or character is fleshed in or explained. Flash forwards give you an end result in the future, but where is the start? The time on the island most likely. But we can only guess and infer on the events between then and the flash forward.

It may work. And I'll keep watching until such time as I think its jumped the shark. Shorter seasons will indeed help, but I'm not sure people will keep the faith if they think they are being yanked around (and not in a good way).

Anonymous said...

Joe and I and a few friends got together on Saturday for a small cookout. We ended up discussing LOST for 3 hours. We even wrote down predictions (5 each) as to what will happen from this point. Talk about GEEKDOM! Anyway, we look forward to more in-depth discourse on the subject at your next shindig.

Hugs, Chris