Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TV Watch: LOST


For the past few years when I would watch something on the ABC television network I saw commercials for "LOST", a program that I had never watched. Over time I would hear numerous friends and family members talk about this show, see and hear references to it in popular culture, and wonder what all the fascination was about.

Sometime late last spring I decided to do something about it. I signed up for the 'Netflix' service and began to receive DVD's of "LOST" beginning with the pilot episode. That first introduction to this new series was a revelation. The production value for a pilot episode of a TV program was equal to what you would normally expect to find at a movie theatre in a motion picture. I was hooked.

There is a very famous anonymous quote that goes: "For those who know, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice." Suffice it to say this quote applies perfectly to the "LOST" experience. If you have never watched the show, I cannot recommend it more highly. You can catch up as I did through Netflix, or via any number of internet resources.

I became addicted to the program, rifling through episode after episode, eagerly awaiting the next DVD shipment and then devouring the four episodes that it contained. Waiting days for the next shipment was at times grueling. That is the nature of the show. It is high quality, and it is highly addictive.

Tonight on ABC, "LOST" begins it's final season run. The producers and writers have promised that all of our questions regarding the show will finally and fully be answered. It's stars have begun making the rounds on talk shows and in magazines trumpeting the season. Fans like me have been waiting and waiting for the beginning of the end, and tonight it finally arrives.

For the uninitiated, "LOST" is the story of the survivors of the crash of an airliner, Oceanic Flight 815 onto the beach and into the waters just off of a tropical island. It follows their struggles to recover after the crash, to organize themselves, to explore the island, and ultimately to overcome what turn out to be numerous challenges, some human, some mystical, some mysterious.

There are initially 71 human survivors from what were 324 people on board, as well as a dog who survives, spread across 3 sections of the aircraft wreckage. That first season saw 14 regular speaking parts, making it the largest ensemble program in television history, and enabling the show to establish numerous relationship pairings and conflicts. From that very first season the show was not afraid to kill off major characters, and it has never been beyond introducing new ones.

New characters are brought on to the program in a variety of manners over the years. Remember, there were 71 survivors and only 14 initial speaking roles, so plenty of room to begin to introduce others as main or secondary characters. The show also establishes early on that it will explore the main characters past lives leading them up to the crash, so it will frequently 'flashback' to a character's life and experiences prior to the island.

Series creators J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Jeffrey Lieber envisioned a story line involving drama, fantasy, adventure, and a touch of science fiction. What they have achieved is simply a television masterpiece. Though the high quality of production and the strong writing are the backbone of the show, it is the actors that make us ultimately suspend belief, that make us feel this could really happen. That make us care.

Matthew Fox is the show's leading man, playing Dr. Jack Shephard, a man who has struggled in life with his relationships, particularly with his father Dr. Ben Shephard, played in a recurring role by John Terry. The balance to Jack's complicated heroic character is that of John Locke, played by Terry O'Quinn. Josh Hollway stars as bad boy and hunk James 'Sawyer' Ford. Evangeline Lilly plays the surprising Kate Austen, who ultimately is locked in a love triangle with Jack and Sawyer.

Also in the mix are Naveen Andrews as Sayid Jarrah, a former member of Iraq's Republican Guard. Emilie de Raven plays the very beautiful and very pregnant Claire Littleton. Dominic Monaghan plays her sometimes protector, rock star Charlie Pace. Jorge Garcia is rotund lottery winner Hugo 'Harley' Reyes. Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim play Korean married couple Jin-Soo and Sun-Hwa Kwan.

These characters, a host of other survivors, and others who have been on the island previously or who eventually are also drawn to the island end up being challenged by one another, a deadly 'smoke monster', a mysterious underground research facility, a doomsday clock, time travel and displacement, their own personal fears and demons, and ultimately get caught up in a struggle between good and evil themselves.

Like every group of people, be they family, friends, co-workers, teammates, or survivors of a plane crash, there are many facets to each of the character's personalities. There is good and bad in each and every one of them, and over the first five seasons they have each had their personal demons exposed and their motivations explored. Despite all of the mythology, religious undertones, and the supernatural, it is these human stories that make "LOST" the quality drama that it is at it's core.

The lush paradise of Hawaii provides the gorgeous and mysterious island that is itself a character in the program. In one of the early shows, Charlies asks the question that grows on everyone's mind: "Where are we?" The answer is yet to be revealed, with speculation ranging from a simple island in the middle of the ocean to a sort of purgatory between Heaven and Hell.

Not since "The Sopranos" has a television series captured my imagination this way. In sifting through the hundreds of channels and thousands of hours of programming junk, there is much to like about television today, particularly on cable networks. "LOST" is that very rare thing today, a blockbuster program from one of the old school networks that actually lives up to the hype. I can't wait to welcome back the characters, and start to uncover the mysteries of "LOST" beginning tonight.

NOTE: This is a continuation of the "TV Watch" series, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that label below this article at www.mattveasey.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed The Stepfather- this was just as a great as the first. Dylan Walsh did a great job filling the shoes of Terry O'Quinn http://bit.ly/dicg8I