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LOST–This Writer’s Perspective

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Okay, really, I don’t have some big, philosophical or academic diatribe to write about this TV show. The truth of the matter is: I’m addicted to LOST, which is why you typically don’t see blog entries from me on Wednesdays. By the time I get home from choir practice around 8:00, that only gives me an hour to read the mail (usually junk mail on Wednesdays), take out the trash, check and respond to e-mails that have been building up for a few hours (not that there are usually that many), set up the VCR to record Medium which comes on at the same time (which really just means making sure the tape is rewound, put back into the correct VCR–not the one that eats tapes–and the timer button pressed), set up the coffee maker for the next morning, and settle whatever other affairs need settling before sitting down at 8:57 to make sure that I don’t miss the absolute very beginning of the show. (Previously on LOST . . .)

I did not start watching LOST when it first came on. At that point in time, I was just weaning myself off Alias and had several other programs I watched on a very regular (religious?) basis. I did not want to get caught up in another show that had to be watched every week for the viewer to understand what was going on. I’ll call this “sequential” as opposed to “episodic.” Episodic programs, to me, are those that deal with a particular problem each week which is solved by the end of the hour (or by the next week if it’s a major problem). For example, the CSI and Law & Order franchises, ER, JAG/NCIS/The Unit, etc. Yes, there is continuing backstory for the main characters, but you don’t really have to watch every single episode to understand what’s going on. Whereas sequential programs, like Alias and LOST (and probably Heroes, but I haven’t watched that one–waiting ’til it comes out on DVD this summer) is one continuous story with a cliffhanger every week. The characters’ backstories are vital and integral to what’s going on in the here-and-now (especially true in LOST). And they seem to involve more global/universal themes such as survival or saving the world, instead of solving one particular crime or figuring out what someone is dying of before they actually die (as happens each week on House, another episodic show I enjoy occasionally).

Anyway, as I stated, I didn’t start watching it two years ago when it first came on. I ended up getting hooked on it this year–in January, actually–when my coworkers, who are die-hard fans, loaned me the first two seasons on DVD…which I watched in the span of about two weeks (can you say “got no writing–or anything else done”???). At that time, all six of the episodes from the beginning of this year were available for free viewing on the ABC website, so I was able to get caught up with the entire show just a few weeks before they came back from their hiatus in February.

Most weeks, as my scream of “Nooooooooooooo!” dies away, I turn the TV off wondering what, exactly, it is about this program that makes it so addictive. I’ve come up with a few reasons, the first of which is the fact that it’s sequential. There isn’t closure at the end of each episode, even when there is a conclusion to whatever conflict happens on that week’s show—there is that agony of needing to know what happens next.

The second reason, the reason why I need to know what happens next, is strength of character development. As a writer, I’ve watched the behind the scenes featurettes on the DVDs and listened to JJ Abram’s and Damon Lindelof’s commentary about their process with coming up with the story and how they developed the characters. One of the things they did that makes this show somewhat different is that they developed many of the characters around the actors who came in to audition. Case in point–Yunjin Kim, the actress who plays Sun, actually auditioned for the role of Kate. But they liked Yunjin so much that they developed the characters and plotline of Sun and Jin so they could have her on the show (and I’m so glad, because they’re some of my favorite characters).

The third is tightness of storytelling. There is very little I’ve seen in any episode that has happened that has not come into play in the plot. The people responsible for creating this show like to plant what they call “Easter eggs”—whether it’s the DHARMA logo on the shark or the use of the Widmore Pharmaceuticals products or the frequency of certain numbers—that may seem unimportant when they first appeared, but now have considerable importance . . . even though we’re still not sure exactly why.

Fourth, the writers aren’t at all scared of killing off characters—even those we’ve come to love. This puts all of the main characters in mortal jeopardy (although most viewers feel pretty confident that they wouldn’t dare kill off the key cast who’ve been there from the beginning) and we have to watch each week to make sure that these characters we’ve come to love will survive to entertain us another week.

I could talk about how they’ve dealt with backstory on this show, but that could run over several thousands of words, so I’ll spare you.

What about you? Do you have shows you’re addicted to? Have you ever analyzed why they keep you coming back week after week?

  1. Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:48 pm

    Heroes is like Lost. Gotta watch that one continuously. But it’s worth it 🙂 Yeah I’m a fan. I’ve never seen lost. My two obsession shows are Crossing Jordan and Bones…Wednesday are my favorite! I get the two back to back!!

    I love the continuing story shows…they’re so much like books to me…love watching them.


  2. Friday, March 30, 2007 2:14 pm

    Wow, I’ve never seen Lost–I think I’m the only person in America who hasn’t! I’m not addicted to too many shows anymore, but I have several I like to watch if it works out. Little People, Big World; Reba (yes, I actually love this one!); Seventh Heaven (if they’d come out with a new episode!) I guess that’s about it for me. Everything else I just keep on for background noise.


  3. Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:39 pm

    I haven’t seen it either, Georgiana. My brother’s future father-in-law is quite obsessed with it though.

    I’m actually hooked on The Unit and Criminal Minds. The Unit has some VERY interesting backstory for the characters, as well as plot-lines that keep recurring. One that keeps me tuned in is the fighting between Mack and his wife Tiffy. They have a very interesting relationship. Also Bob and Kim. Bob is the new man in the Unit, and Kim is still trying to figure out how to balance everything that it takes to be the wife of a Unit member.

    Criminal Minds is just amazing. The characters are multi-layered and just when you think you’ve got them figured out, the writers throw a curve-ball. Like last week. Hotchner has something in his past that draws him to burn victims. Don’t know what it is yet, but they will bring it back up. And Reed is still recovering from a harrowing kidnapping experience and watching that play out in his low-key way is also very interesting. And then there’s Morgan! There was a real shocker about him back in December.

    And I’m a CSI junkie. But get over the whole Sara/Grissom thing already!!!



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