Saturday, February 21, 2009

Still Watching and Loving Lost

For some time now, I have been a consistent viewer of the TV series Lost. For me, it is one of the few shows (I only watch two, sometimes three a week) that is worth my time and energy. Interestingly, I didn’t start watching the show until Season 2 was completed. That summer my wife and I watched the first two seasons and we were caught up in depth of the characters, and the mystery. Furthermore, we always enjoyed the frequent literary, philosophical, scientific, and religious allusions. As the show has continued into Season 5, I have spoken to many who have left Lost because its content and storyline demand so much of the viewer. Truthfully, one can’t watch Lost while doing something else. Unlike most TV shows, Lost requires the central focus of the viewer. Character complexity, frequent allusions (some which require research) confuse some viewers and the inclusion of time travel and all the intricacies therein sometimes frustrate viewers to the point where they give up and turn to more canned dramas. In these canned dramas one only has to focus on the events of a single hour after which the problems are solved in a tidy way until the following week. In some cases, others have turned to the even more banal sitcoms and reality TV where one doesn’t have to think at all. (My animosity towards sitcoms and reality TV and reasons behind it really need to be saved for another time.)

I am amazed at how some criticize a show like Lost because they can't figure everything out the first time through. Have we become so lethargic that we must have everything spelled out for us, and be spoon fed the purpose and themes of all that is shown on television? While everyone has different tastes, those who have left Lost for the aforementioned reasons and instead turned to the canned drama, the sitcom, and the reality TV show are indicating much more about themselves than the writing and purpose of a show like Lost. This phenomenon exposes something about TV viewing in America. We have left books for television, now when television challenges us, we turn the channel. We don’t want to have to reflect on a television show, we don’t want to have to delve beneath the surface of a show’s characters and events, to find some connection to our own lives or the world in which we live; instead we want pure distraction. While I agree distraction can be fun and necessary in some moments in life, I don’t agree that distraction is all we should look for in our television viewing.

One friend told me that she stopped watching Lost, as she compared it to a bad relationship in which she gave and gave, but never received anything in return. While I agree the demands of watching shows like Lost (yes I agree other quality shows exist) are great, the rewards for the critical viewer are just as great. If television is going to be part of our lives, shouldn’t it challenge us in some way? Are the shows that we are watching causing us to grow? Are they asking good questions and addressing pertinent issues in our world and culture? While Lost isn’t perfect, I feel challenged while I am watching it, and I am challenged to reflect the next day as I discuss an episode with my students and friends. For me, this makes a show worth watching. I hope creative writers and talented actors continue to bring these types of shows to viewers in years to come.

1 comment:

  1. It isn't that the average viewer has become lethargic. Rather, it is that in today's society we are demanded much more than in the past. Americans in general work longer hours than those in other developed countries. I for one, spend what amounts to ten hour day's doing school work. (Want to see how that adds up? Okay. Wake up at 5:30 am. Get to school at 7:40. I am at school from 7:40 to 2:35. I get home at 6:00. I complete my homework at 6:00. From 7:40 to 6:00, that's ten hours and twenty minutes. ) We are over-worked. This results in us being lazy at home. I'm exhausted by the end of the day, and so is everyone else. So then, I should spend excessive amount of time watching Lost and try to figure out the plot and remember what happened in the last 50+ episodes and re-watch old episodes to catch minor details and look up every literary allusion I don't immediately understand and comment on blogs and spend more time debating the last episode and compare every character to some other monumental figure in history and then debate with everyone who doesn't watch lost (and conform to your view of a TV show) why it IS so great, and... I can go on. I'll save you my breath though. I'm just not sure I see the rewards. You can't claim your entertained by Lost, merely perplexed. You can't say your smarter by watching Lost, it is a work of fiction. If you want critical thinking, go watch Mythbusters.