« 'Lost' finale flopped in the ratings | Main | NBC News: A close look at immigration »

Why I hated 'Lost'

Lostfinale2 A friend of mine in Los Angeles -- I'm withholding her name to spare her hate mail from Lost geeks, whose capacity for bile surpasses their actual numbers by a factor of about a million -- just sent me a note:

I never followed Lost. But last night, some friends had a finale viewing party, and I thought I'd go so I could watch both the finale and the retrospective to at least get an overview of characters, plot points, catchphrases, etc.

Well! Apparently I missed "the greatest show in the history of television," "the best known television show in the world," "the show that forever changed how television drama is written!"

Um, really?

What I saw was a mishmash of cliched characters, everything but the kitchen sink plotting, see it coming from a mile away "poignant" deaths, "ethnic diversity" in which nearly all the significant characters are white and the hero is a classically handsome white man and the black father and son have completely disappeared, "spirituality" that would sound superficial coming from a 14-year-old, a surprise ending you could figure out 30 minutes in, and oh yes, lots of people bloody and screaming.

Yet watching that for six years left a 22 year old guy at the viewing party sobbing at the ending. And me getting chewed out by the 38-year-old host for not understanding how profoundly important all this dreck was in the HISTORY OF TELEVISION.

Wow, OMG, what did I miss? 'Cause, frankly, on a good week, I think Gossip Girl has a better insight into human nature. I kept feeling that everybody at the party was confusing complexity with profundity -- sure, you could bring all your liberal arts education to bear on Lost and try to find philosophy in it, but to me it felt more like, "We'll just throw whatever shit we can brainstorm onto the screen and let the viewers have at it."

I wonder how much this has to do with age? There was, shall we say, something of a gap between me and most of the guests. Is Lost something that seems profound, original, moving, etc., etc., if you haven't watched the last 30 years of television, 'cause you weren't, you know, like born? Am I, as I was accused of being by the host, "arrogant, jaded and cynical"? Yes, for sure to the last two, but I was stung by the first. Your thoughts?

Here's my reply.

The insanely inflated hype for Lost the past few weeks has been a part of why I couldn't stand the show anymore, but only a part.

When Lost started out, it was a terrific show. The premise (a bunch of people stranded on a desert island with mysterious and somewhat threatening properties) and the stories (as flashbacks filled you in on the characters, each one turned out to be carrying sinister secrets) -- were utterly intriguing. The execution was excellent; even with all the flashbacks, Lost maintained a clear narrative line. The first season was excellent, the second and third, very good.

But the show began running downhill abruptly during the fifth season and was downright unwatchable by the sixth. It increasingly relied on gimmicks (time travel and alternate universes) that left the narrative hopelessly confused and the characterizations meaningless, since it was impossible to remember what world or year you were watching, and which characters might have been possessed by evil spirits. The show became self-consciously portentous, every action and word and even name imbued with multiple layers of symbolism and metaphor. Plot lines shot off in multiple directions, most of them ending in useless cul-de-sacs. Worse of all was the self-importance of the fangeeks, who bragged that they influenced the show's direction. If they did, it was certainly not to their intellectual credit, or that of the writers, either. Imagine Van Gogh painting in front of a studio audience, adding elements and colors in response to shout suggestions from drunken morons in the bleachers.

As for remaking television, horsebleep. Shows were using elliptical storytelling years before Lost came along. (Ever hear of Twin Peaks?) Heavily serialized storytelling goes back even further, to the prime-time soaps of the late 1970s. And I almost choked this morning when I saw a critic on a news show claiming that the relationship between social media and Lost was a technological first. There's way more Internet traffic about American Idol and Dancing With The Stars than about Lost.

The Lost finale drew 13.5 million viewers, a miserable flop for a show so heavily promoted. Compare that to M*A*S*H''s 105 million. Yes, that was a different era, the three-channel universe, but that's the point: As a media phenomenon, Lost was a lesser example from a lesser age. (The Friends finale, competing in its same zillion-channel era, drew more than twice as many viewers.) The bottom line is that the show outlasted both the creative juices of its creators and the interest of its viewers. You didn't miss a thing.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

can't fight this feeling anymore

This was a most satisfying post to read. So right. A great first season - not groundbreaking, mind you, but well done and intriguing - a few missteps in season 2. And then it started to ride right off the rails. All along the creators kept saying: "We learned our lessons from "The X-Files"! We'll end our series better!" Apparently they couldn't quite manage it.

Kate

Had no clue what was going on for most of the show, but, you know ... Sawyer. A little Sawyer makes up for a lot.

Justin

I'm not so sure there's a generation gap as I know people of varied ages, young to old, who got the show and loved it. But your friend should stay out of it if she never "followed" the show. Also, if you're going to criticize fans for having to much bile (too many genre fans do, admittedly) responding with bile doesn't ingratiate you to them. Resorting to "your ratings sucked anyway" and "American Idol gets more internet traffic" is school yard belittlement at best, while promoting the greatness of similar shows that 20 years old or older just makes you seem like an old fuddy duddy.

I don't get a lot of shows that are popular. I'm a very selective TV viewer. But much of this heated backlash is as much a reaction to the hype as it is the show. It's disingenuous. It's okay not to like it but the venomous backlash is just as bad as the over-the-top praise.

patrick

I lost Lost during season 3. SO I missed its degeneration. I will probably leave it this way so I can remember it fondly!

Glenn's Friend

Justin, your point about backlash and praise being two sides of the same overhyped coin is well-taken.

But if people are making the claim that a show is new, original, breakthrough, etc., it is not "fuddy-duddy" to supply context. For a critic, it's a professional responsibility. Glenn brought up numbers in response to the quote about Lost being "the best known show in the world." Yikes, talk about provincialism! Anything from Baywatch to Betty la Fea is probably better known outside the States. Two and a Half Men gets better numbers on an average night than Lost got for its finale. Say what you like about the taste of the audience (sigh), that is context for the over-inflated claims of Lost's influence.

For myself, if ABC is going to hype the ending of Lost as if it were the moon landing, then new viewers have just as much right as long-time viewers to be disappointed. Ideally, I should have thought, "Wow, I missed a great show! Gotta buy the DVD!" I certainly feel that way about Battlestar Galactica and The Wire, but an appetizer portion of Lost has not left me hungry for the entree.

All that said, I really do thank you for your comments, especially about fan bile. The reason I wrote to Glenn is that people I thought were my friends went into full-on fangeek "Burn the Witch!" mode when I had the temerity to admit I wasn't impressed.

All the best,

JAC (Jaded, Arrogant and Cynical)

CG

JAC- as a media enthusiast, I am surprised you didn't take the reactions your "friends" had with the entire show and realize that maybe to fully understand and engage with the show, you had to watch it from the first frame. Because it's just as important as the last frame. Instead, you played 6-year catch up and expected equal footing in a room of people sharing a media event that was, for them, very special and probably personal. From the way you write about the party, you were looking for a fight.

As for Glenn, you reference: "gimmicks that left the narrative hopelessly confused and the characterizations meaningless", and "the show became self-consciously portentous, multiple layers of symbolism and metaphor, plot lines ending in useless cul-de-sacs," etc. etc.

It reads like you're missing the point or were not willing to go along with what the show was doing from the get go. Its narrative definitely erupted on the side of crazy during the last 3 seasons, but to call its function and power meaningless couldn't be more off base. The nature of the show, its characters and messages are speaking to the frustration of these "usless cul-de-sacs." (i.e. What does it all mean? Where are we? Is this real?) In the end and for all six seasons, the way it went about presenting philosophy, religion, sci-fi, romance, adventure, etc. etc. was great art. That doesn't mean it's the best show ever made. Richard's flashback was serviceable at best. But there is no doubt in my mind that overall, Lost is a phenomenal work.

It seems like you got fixated on an idea of what Lost should be, and became frustrated by that. Also, why not stick to the content and less on the marketing? It's far less interesting than what was happening on screen. And if felt too influenced by the constant hype that ABC was pumping, then shame on you. The show was never less than constantly frustrating and irresistible, like any good addiction. I couldn't be more satisfied or more at peace to see it end.

For a nuanced, intelligent, and in-depth take on the finale, check out Time.com post:
http://tunedin.blogs.time.com/2010/05/23/lostwatch-all-of-this-matters/

Rachel

Without LOST I would have LOST my job.

ra

I am happy for those who loved the show and are sated and at peace with its ending. I'm not interested in begrudging anyone their enjoyment.

I watched every episode of Lost, mostly only once and usually when it was originally broadcast. I waxed and waned with the show over its shaggy, uneven 6-year run. It held frustrations but it usually delivered something worth seeing so I hung in there. I rolled with the characters and bore with their struggles and had a hope that it would all hold together and the gauntlets they faced would make some kind of sense in the end.

With the introduction of time bending I opted out of caring about any answers to Lost's obligatory episode cliffhangers and WTF moments. There's no point in deduction if the matrix of logic or credible progression goes out the window. The answers could now be anything at all so for me the narrative structure of that part of the tale collapsed. I didn't and don't care about the cheesy golden hell-hole, the looming big foot, the sibling rules or even the candidates. They just WERE and that's pretty much where the show left them - an unanswerable mystery known only in part. Like all greater-than-human mysteries it's either something one embraces and accepts or something one rejects and disbelieves. I can live with that so my disappointment didn't rest in the extant plot holes about the origins, nature, or consequences of the island's powers and importance.

However, with that said, I do think it's disingenuous to introduce a pretty well dressed up mythology of some kind complete with icons, priestesses, messiah-esque figures, arbitrarily invoked rules with alluded to consequences and never do much more than dance around it obliquely, meting out obtuse bits and pieces couched in self-referential mystery and then just back away at the end and say, in essence, "it's vitally important 'cause it just is, 'kay?" I didn't care particularly, but I can certainly understand the frustration of those who did.

At any rate, my disappointment came on an emotional level. I was sailing along pretty well enjoying the finale until the last 15 minutes, then it turned into Bobby Ewing in the shower for me. It just felt empty and unsatisfying and I happen to believe strongly in an afterlife so it's not like I devalue the concept.

I didn't mind Jack dying on the island as it seemed fitting actually, but for the entire alt time to have been a false construct for Jack's passing over felt entirely too deflating for me emotionally. I had rolled with the beautifully plotted alt world that got them all together and gave new life to characters whose deaths I had mourned in the island time. I loved seeing the merging of the realities and that feeling of being raised up emotionally grew with each new "recognition" and each merging of the island life and the alt life ... and then, turns out, they were all dead and just gathering to go off to the white beyond.

Sorry, that didn't provide any kind of emotional or spiritual catharsis for me. All the beatific smiling, hugging and heart stirring music didn't make it work for me. Christian's whole little speech was squishy feel-good pap with no spiritual balls of any kind for me. It just fell flat and felt hollow. It was a whole season's worth of investing in yet another reality matrix, of building excitement and emotional investment as that reality started to finally gel in the last few episodes, and suddenly it became Bobby Ewing in the shower.

All the emotional release and soulful reunions were in some kind of afterlife holding room? There's a new concept. After years of mobius strip style plotting, now the show gets linear? They all had to die to be found? The lines of connection and emotional reality only blur in death and its useful constructs, but in the "real" world of the island, time skipping, body co-opting, smoke monsters and obtuse demi-gods are all just business as usual?

Sorry, that's just such a huge let down for me. That's how it felt and I can't make it unfeel that way no matter how wrong the devotees might believe I am. Just like the island, it is what it is.

Dave

First of all friends was before Hulu and youtube so you can't really say how many people actually watched lost.

The problem I have is with people like you who refused to simply be entertained by the show. Even if you couldn't follow what year it was (Which I think makes you kinda dim witted) you could simply enjoy the ride.

Gossip Girl? Really? How can I respect anything else this person has to say when they bring up a show like Gossip Girl. Nearly all the significant character where white? Did you watch the show? You had asians, a bi-racial couple, an Iraqi, a red head(sarc), a dog and a black father and son. Tyhe black father and son weren't there because the son aged you moron. It would have been stupid to have Walt at 19 or 20 when none of the other characters were supposed to have aged.

American Idol did not have a larger internet presence than Lost, a simple google search would reveal that.

It was entertainment and damn good tv while it lasted.

ad

LOL! Jack's father implied in finely that some died sooner some died later, assuming "everybody" died....so why not Walt?
I think you are the one who is a "moron" here brotha.... You didn't get the ending better than anyone did.

Very disappointing. Agree with ra.

Tawl

If Lost had been written with real answers and explainations in sight.. it could have been one of the best TV shows ever. Instead.. it was a series of teasing puzzles and riddles that never had answers.

The comments to this entry are closed.

-
 
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About The Miami Herald | Advertise