(Nota bene: For those who care, this was meant to go up a fortnight ago and I thought it had. Then again, no one actually cares all that much so…)
The major flaw in TV’s hit new series ‘Lost’ is that it isn’t clear, until the end of the season, that only a month occurs between episode one and episode twenty-five.
One month. Not the third of the year that it took to screen episodes one to twenty-five over in the States.
Anyone who was in my general vicinity during the heyday of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ will be familiar with my irritation of the American system of making TV shows as they screen. It tends to mean that shows start in September and end in March, with blocks of new episodes intersperced with repeats galore.
For ‘Buffy’ this worked; each season of the show was a year in the characters lives’ and so we tolerated the delays. Things were probably happening in Sunnydale when we weren’t watching (indeed, one of the related computer games postulates exactly that for Season Five). ‘Buffy’ also wasn’t a contiguous story, or, at least, not all the time. The narrative slices Messrs. Whedon and Co. provided filled the mental belly; four week ‘breaks’ were tolerable because there was a sense of closure.
For ‘Lost,’ however, the ‘system’ doesn’t work at all.
‘Lost’ is likely one of the first shows that will be much better on DVD. DVDs allow you to watch a large amount of episodes in a short period of time and thus will get around the fact that, after six episodes of some of the best writing on TV, the series settles down, sedately, until the last five episodes. Note that I don’t claim the show loses quality, only momentum. ‘Lost’ is a rare thing; a popular TV show that is something more than style.
(And it might run seven years if the creators get their way… With a plotline mapped out for that time period… Luckily they have exit storylines for seasons three and five if the show doesn’t get that far… This is impressive. Not as over-confident as you might think, either. Abram’s previous hit show, ‘Alias’ has run for four years and is getting a fifth (probably final) season and the other writers have worked on long running shows such as ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel,’ so the talent for the long haul is certianly present.)
DVD will work in ‘Lost’s’ favour; you will be able to watch as many episodes as you please (and, I suspect, many people will devour the episodes over a weekend because the narrative push is there) without the interminable wait that comes from the way Americans make TV.
Which is a weird system. I am sure I have written on the essential difference between the UK and the USA when it comes to writing and producing TV series. Essentially, in the UK you film and then show (with few exceptions). In the US you film, show, film some more, show a few, repeat a few, film a little and pray that the ratings hold past episode thirteen so you can have the final run up to episode twenty-two. Thus a season of ‘Lost’ takes forever whilst a season of ‘Doctor Who’ passes too quickly.
Predictions for season two: We will find out a lot more about the other passengers on Flight 47, the ones in the back of plane. We might even get some episodes set back in season one from their perspective. The ‘islanders’ will become more integral to the storyline (a given, I think) and we won’t see the bottom of the tunnel for a while. It’ll probably be a plot point vying for solution for a number of episodes (I’m also expecting someone to go down there and not return for a few episodes… Probably coming back with amnesia). Jack’s father will probably make some strange appearance and Charley will be plagued with a want for heroin; he’ll probably be saved from that fate due to becoming a surrogate father.
I like ‘Lost;’ I can why people found the ending annoying but as someone who likes the end of ‘The Prisoner’ I can’t possibly comment.