On Lost and the death of TV

Excellence - in image form

I think we can all pretty much agree that Lost is one of the best shows on television right now. Everything from its excellent writing, to its talented cast of characters all the way through the high production value. The show has had its downs, sure, not every episode is spectacular, and the third season did have a little trouble getting off the ground (the initial 6-episode “Jack, Kate and Sawyer Show” is a black mark in Lost’s history). Lost is also unique in the fact that we know the writers are working towards a definite ending, and that ending is coming nearer and nearer.

I think Lost is responsible for an invigoration of television. It rejuvenated serial storytelling, and brought back something that many story-loving viewers were missing. It’s not that there were no good shows on TV, but most of them seemed to go on an episode-by-episode basis. A “monster of the week” thing, like Charmed or Buffy. Granted, these shows still had an overarching storyline, but it was not key, and you could tune in to an episode here and an episode there.

With Lost, that’s not the case. You just can’t miss an episode. Miss an episode and you miss an integral part of the story. Now, Lost is not the first show to have serialized story telling – Alias did it, 24 did it, both ran before Lost first aired. But Lost was the first to do it exceptionally well (Alias was great up until the 3rd season, and 24 was always more about the gimmick), and also it seemed to touch everyone.

With Lost’s rich cast of characters, there’s something for everyone. So some may be watching to see the overall mystery of the Island, some watch it for the medical drama of Jack’s flashbacks, some to see Sawyer’s latest con. The reasons are varied, and the writers and producers of the show know this, so they never make it about one thing in particular. It’s about the whole experience, nothing gets done half-assed.

Which is why I think Lost may have, inadvertently, killed television. It has set the bar so unbelievably high, that it’s gonna be very, very hard to top it. Can it be done, yeah, I guess. The right writer, with the right idea could always think about something crazier. But no matter what insane plot someone thinks of it will always from now till the end of time be compared to Lost. If you use strange sequences of numbers, flashbacks, monsters, islands, characters with daddy-isssues – all these things will send the skeptic viewer into a “but when they did on Lost”-rant.

So, we’ve got about 2 more years of “pure” television. 2 more years before Lost becomes that golden show every single creator in the business want to surpass. I’m having a hard time imagining the TV world post-Lost, with all the questions (hopefully) answered and all the mysteries quelled. Will this world have better TV due to writers trying to out-do the greatest show to ever air on television? Or will it instead just feature endless knock-offs of eclectic characters stranded in various exotic locals haunted by things that go bump in the night?

Time will tell, but for now – bring back Lost already!

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2 thoughts on “On Lost and the death of TV

  1. Itai, thanks for this post. I was a faithful watcher of Lost during its first two seasons, and then I grew tired of the suspense and lack of resolution. But I just finished a book called “The Gospel According to Lost,” and it has convinced me to join the show again. The author makes the same point you do—that Lost is more than a TV show. With that framework—that this is something different, that this won’t be resolved in an easy hour—I’m ready to embrace the show again! I know, we’re coming up on the final season, but better late than never, right?

    If you want to read the blog I just posted, reviewing the book and the show, you can find it here: http://melaniejongsma.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/book-review-the-gospel-according-to-lost/

    Thanks again for your post. I’m more excited than ever for the Lost season to start!

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