Why ABC’s ‘Lost’ Is Losing It

Cut “Lost” loose with Steven at [email protected]

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It’s always hard to give up on a bad investment. To date, there have been 58 episodes of “Lost,” and I haven’t missed a single one. Or, put another way, two days of my life have been devoted to sitting on my couch, trance-like, as a blur of images roars past my baby blues and lodges in the space my brain usually reserves for obsessing over less important things, like my Econ homework. Lately, though, something’s been off. “Lost”is now a bloated, snowballing disaster, and I’m pretty sure it’s time to cut it loose.

If you don’t already know—and at this point you’re in a group less numerous than the proud owners of K-Fed’s hot new album—“Lost” crashed into the public consciousness in 2004, hurling episode after episode of compelling drama to televisions worldwide, featuring the survivors of a downed airplane marooned on a mystical tropical island. Boasting interesting characters armed with snappy dialogue, “Lost” transcended the trappings of the nouveau survivor tale and somehow succeeded in creating a conflated sense of wonder and danger, while the serialized structure of each episode—wherein one main characters was featured heavily both on the island and in flashbacks, both of which worked to advance the overarching plot—was remarkably fresh.

But the really interesting thing about “Lost” was that you never knew what was coming next, while you invariably liked the revelation. There’s some sort of blast proof hatch on the island? Sounds neat, I wonder what’s inside. Some loony French lady kidnaps one of the main characters? High drama!

Recently, though, there’s been a pervading sense that the creators really don’t know what the hell is going on, and that they’re just as surprised to find out what’s happening as the audience is. The events in the show are spinning out of control faster than the fight scene in “Anchorman.” Consequently, it’s a lot harder to care. The Others are some crazy-smart scientist nutjobs? Uh, okay. I guess. There’s a Spanish galleon in the middle of a forest? Now that’s just silly. A dude pushing a button helps keep planes aloft? Hey, isn’t there a “Seinfeld” repeat on soon?

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have seen this coming. Plenty of other serial dramas have collapsed onto themselves like so many dying stars after hugely promising starts. “Twin Peaks” quickly degenerated from one of the most fascinating murder mysteries of all time into a messy, convoluted hodgepodge. And do you even remember the last couple seasons of the “X-Files”? Yeah, I suppressed those memories too.

The principal issue is that, three years in, “Lost” eschewed the essence of its cachet. Gone are the cool little mysteries like the ominous series of numbers, or the miraculous healing properties of the island itself. Meanwhile, the character flashbacks that used to be so crucial to understanding the show now seem superfluous, tritely heaping on little more than recycled information. And when the character development isn’t stunted, it’s deplorable: The devolution of Terry O’Quinn’s John Locke from brilliant shaman to a slightly more competent Gomer Pyle is a high crime for which someone should be punished. Repeatedly.

Similarly, the attention to details that made the world of “Lost” so immediate have fallen by the wayside. The sweeping expanse of the island itself has been replaced by dank, claustrophobic cells reminiscent of some Soviet-era gulag, while the minutiae of island survival, like the foraging for food and water, have been wiped away by one preposterous deus ex machina after another.

So goodbye, “Lost.” You gave me a hell of a ride, but I guess it’s time to start that Econ assignment.


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