Friday, 19 February 2010

The Seventh Best Television Programme Of The 00s


image Mainly because we’re a bit annoying, we love it when a television series makes you do a bit of mental legwork before you can properly appreciate it. Quite often, it’s obvious when this is happening – for example, every other person on the ‘web seems to be going on about The Wire, and how you need to sit through about six hours of it before you can really begin to enjoy it, as if it’s an Xbox 360 game where you need to ‘unlock’ the good levels by playing through a load of infuriating ones first. But when it comes to Lost (not to be confused with the 2001 Channel Four reality-series-cum-gameshow, of course), it really seemed like it was a colourful exciting caper that everyone could enjoy right from the off. The first episode attracted a huge 8.5 million viewers in the UK, despite it being promoted via a slightly annoying trailer specially shot for UK cinemas, which saw the Lost characters gyrating artistically to a gratingly pretentious cast voiceover (“one of us is a killer, one of us is a cop […] one of us is a sinner, one of us is a saint […] all of us are Lost”), giving the impression of the series being the most expensive Calvin Klein commercial ever. Since then, viewing figures have remained high (for an imported series), with it currently the most-watched show on Sky1 – admittedly on a figure well down on the first season, but still extraordinarily high for Sky1, with 1.4 million tuning in for the start of the final season. Even in this multidigital age, it’s still rare for a programme on Sky1 to get more than a million viewers, and Lost smashed that barrier quite comprehensively.

imageThe fact the show is still hugely popular with its loyal fanbase is a good indication of the series’ high standards, considering the way the story arc would have been easier to follow if it were written in Braille, then printed onto a monochrome Rubiks cube, and encased in concrete. The first few series made heavy use of cutaway flashbacks. Then just when everything was starting to slide into place, it added “flash forwards” into the mix. And then the Lost puppetmasters employed a third dimension for their flashes to manoeuvre in, yet somehow, providing you were paying enough attention, were taking careful notes, or were keeping an eye on Lostpedia, it still made perfect sense. Sort of.

From the start of episode one, the disinterested cynic could be mistaken for scoffing “oh, right! A load of superficially attractive people have crash-landed on a island, only for us to discover they’re all meant to be ‘deeper’ than that, like that rubbish Linkin Park video where the camera zooms into different members of the crowd and it’s revealed they’ve each got their own network-friendly ‘issues’ to deal with. Oh HOW VERY BLOODY ORIGINAL. And how come the fat guy never seems to lose any weight on this desert island, eh? Eh? EH?” Hang on, did we say ‘mistaken’? We meant, ‘a cock’. Keeping with the show for a number of episodes (and indeed, events sped up immensely once the producers knew roughly how long the series would last) revealed that, to paraphrase Stewart Lee, the answers are there, it’s just that some of you might have to raise your game.

Of course, to keep things interesting, each big answer was accompanied by a new, even bigger question, but that was all part of the journey, and it certainly helped that the journey towards each answer was so tremendously entertaining. We’re going to go light on spoilers here, as we’re hoping to convert at least one of our readers to revisiting the series if they’d given up on it (we’ve already hooked four families on the Lost-pipe that is our DVD boxsets, a 100% conversion rate), so we’ll keep things appropriately cryptic, and in bullet form. Don’t worry, we won’t use any charts, and you won’t need to load anything into PowerPoint.

  • Lost is a programme brilliant enough that some events of episode two won’t be fully appreciated until the final (and current at the time of writing) season. Now, that might sound utterly daunting, but as long as you’ve got the mental capacity to become captivated by the series, you’ll cope (given the fact that, if you’re new to the series, it won’t take you six years to get through it all, this is much easier than it used to be).

  • You like hidden depths in your television drama?  You thought it was quite good the way David Tennant’s last Who episode rewarded the viewer for remembering past events from earlier series? Yeah, welcome to Lost. Most brilliantly of all, even if you’re a bit crap at picking up on these things, it really doesn’t matter that much. But – it does add to the overall experience (it’s like when a smart-arsed stand-up comedian makes a joke based on an obscure reference that not many people will get, but you;re one of the people who do get that reference. You know how that feels? Good, isn’t it? Much of Lost is like that.)



  • You want deep? You like deep? Okay, a few of the recurring themes with Lost are: the eternal philosophical quandary between fate versus free will, science versus faith, good versus evil, black versus white. Redemption.  Isolation. Imprisonment. Parapsychology. Rebirth. Religion. Revenge. Salvation, secrets, daddy issues and a load of guns. And, one of the most pivotal issues in the entire series begins with a central character listening to Pixies’ “Gouge Away” on their car stereo.

  • Demented obsessive internet geekery? For a television programme that doesn’t involve anyone being in outer space, being a vampire, or being a vampire slayer, Lost racks up a comprehensive EPIC WIN in this regard. Bewilderingly verbose fanboy wiki Lostpedia currently contains a total of 6,077 different pages exploring the entire ethos of the Lost universe (probably even more by the time we click ‘Publish’). Several of which we’ve blatantly ‘borrowed’ from for these very bullet points.

  • Even if you’ve sat through the series, and scoffed at the more outrageous parts of it, you might be surprised to discover that some of the more surprising twists are grounded in actual proper scientific theory. Top sci-fi website pointed out that the central tenet of Lost – a big spooky island containing magical magnetic powers and which might just be able to travel through time and space – covers many theories hoping to be explored more deeply by the physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider. And yet, Lost began several years before the LHC became news. And you thought Lost was a drama series, it’s actually a documentary beamed back from the future. Er, starring the guy from Party Of Five, and the kid from Hetty Wainthrop Investigates.

  • Io9 also posits theories that Lost might merely be an extrapolation of events previously seen in Quantum Leap, and in Red Dwarf. These however aren’t quite as impressive, and we probably shouldn’t have bothered mentioning them,

  • Even though the series is now in its final season, crackpot theories still abound. The aforementioned Io9 has compiled fifty of their favourites, but we’ve got one of our own, which you can read in the comments section (providing you’ve seen the first two episodes of the final series, otherwise it might ruin your enjoyment of everything. Actually, it will anyway, because we’re definitely right. You’ll see.)


imageWe haven’t even mentioned anything specific about the heroes and villains from the Lost characters throughout all that, and this is partly because, the way things have gone so far, we possibly may not yet know who exactly is a hero, and who is a villain. Sawyer started off as the most obvious bad guy, but as the series went on (in keeping with the whole ‘redemption’ thing), he became a hero. And, at the time of writing this, well, “erk” seems to sum things up.

We’ll wrap things up here. It’d be more proper to actually round this entry off with an actual summary of the series as a whole (well, we say ‘proper’, you might say ‘less insulting to your intelligence’. Tomayto, tomarto), but the truth is, we’re still not entirely sure what the ruddy flip is going on. One thing is for sure, though. Lost has kept us completely captivated for more hours than any television show over the last decade (other than Seinfeld, but we were very late to that party), and it’s that fact more than any other which means it’s our Seventh Best Television Programme Of The 00s.

(Remember kids: our crackpot theory on all of this in the comments.


4 .:

Mark X said...

My theory (as of after tonight' episode, but more specifically after a dream I had about the show last week). WARNING: SPOILERS.

You know how Miles communicated with Juliet after she'd died, and she'd simply said "It worked". Well, that's the secret behind the 'flash sideways'. Once a character dies in the 'island-reality', they pass over to the 'alt-reality'. This could explain why The Temple People, who despite saying they're 'The Good Guys' were about to kill the Lostees until they see Jacob's note, presumably being told they all need to be kept alive for now. And it also applies for lots of other reasons I can't qualify, but it'd be brilliant if the series ended with Sawyer being reunited with Juliette (as opposed to the boring Ross-Rachel relationship of Jack and Kate). If this isn't the case, then what's the big reason for Miles being there? He hasn't had that much to do yet. That must be it. Yes.

John the Monkey said...

I watch Lost, although I find it infuriating, personally. It has an air of being artificially prolonged about it to me. "No THIS is the real mystery, etc etc" It's worthy of its place in the top 100, I think, but were it my top 100, I don't think it'd be quite this high.

Although I find it interesting in one way, I'd always felt that the one extra missing from the DVDs was the one telling me why I continue to bother with it when I find it so irritating...

Mark X said...

I've heard that said a few times (including by the people behind Lost itself), but for some reason I've never quite felt that it's that slowly paced. Maybe I'm just unnaturally calm when it comes to things like that, but I even enjoyed the Nikki and Paolo episode for its own merits (such as it being like a standalone episode from Tales Of The Unexpected).

While the first three episodes from the final series did make me think "Oh shit, the wheels have come off", the latest episode put things comfortably back on track. I do think that in the grander scheme of things, Lost does deserve to go down on the list as the Second Best US TV Drama of the Decade. (Ooh, a clue about the make-up of the top five, there.)

John the Monkey said...

It's not from a pacing point of view (it rattles a long at a fair old clip, and thankfully, not as breathlessly hyperactively as the more recent 24s). It's more the way you see it as a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Then it becomes clear that is's a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum.

THEN... and so on. A bit like the later X files, where they discover that behind the guy who's going to tell them the truth is YET another guy who actually knows the truth. That's more what I mean by artificially prolonged, as opposed to the epsiodes themselves seeming to drag.

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