May 19, 2010

Why I Like Lost - Part 1

As the TV show Lost comes to a conclusion in just a few days, I thought now would be the last time to finally deliver as promised and blog about why I watch this show.   The show is impossible to watch if you haven't watched from the beginning, so you shouldn't even consider watching the finale if you aren't caught up.  Plus, if you want to enjoy the show later on DVD, it will spoil it.  So start from the beginning if you must...

Because I recognize that I am "one of those people" when it comes to Lost, I'll try to keep this as succinct as possible. 

Somewhere along the line, as I got older, I started to appreciate different kinds of art for the sake of whatever it is that makes it, well, art.  When I see a painting, I am often astonished to think how it is that the artist can take an idea and turn a blank canvas, a Tabula rasa if you will, into no simply a picture of something but also a representation of an opinion, a culture, a philosophy, a theology or an idea.  Good art makes us reflect on what matters in life and inspires the kinds of questions all humans ask themselves but often have a hard time expressing.

Storytelling is an art form.  Like any other form of art, it can be well done or it can be done poorly.  A good story includes captivating character development, compelling themes that illicit emotion because they tap into real human conflict, and thoughtful implications that do not require explicit explanation or agreement.  These things are delivered by a narrator or exposition, but through the story itself,  prompting consideration and trust from the audience.  A good story is not about how much it costs or special effects or technical achievement.  Take those things away from the movie Avatar, for example, and all you have a sophomoric tale that spoon feeds the audience and removes the need for intelligence.  A good story, on the other hand, makes a profound statement through characters and plot and dialogue and dignifies the audience rather than demeaning them.  Lost is a story that is rich in all that is the art of storytelling.

This isn't to say that it is without flaw, certainly the story shouldn't have taken certain turns.  But the reason I like Lost is because of the depth of the storytelling and the characters and its underlying themes.  It is a story about the most basic human questions about life, God, meaning, purpose and love.  All of those elements present the viewer with much to ponder about what matters most in life.  The show itself doesn't promote truth or spiritual realities, but it raises the questions that must be raised in dealing with those subjects.  For me, it has prompted real life discussion of these issues with many of my friends, and in a couple of them, life changing results.   That is good storytelling. 

So, what is so great about Lost?  I'll make a list. 

The Writing 

I have a theory.  Because of all the reality shows now on TV, Lost had at its disposal the best writers.  This is the most creative show on TV in a long time.  Its storytelling technique is brilliant and unusual.  The way the story unfolds is intricate yet riveting.   The dialogue is smart and consistent.  The show is emotionally moving and thrilling at some times.

My wife actually started watching before I did back in season one.  She doesn't normally stop everything just to watch a TV show, but in the Fall of 2004 she suddenly was totally into this new show Lost.  For all I knew, it was just another reality show with people stranded on an island, and I was surprised that she was so into it.  By the 5th week, I had to check it out, and I watched my first episode entitled "White Rabbit."

There were several things that intrigued me about this episode.  Mostly, I was surprised that my wife was not happy with me interrupting to ask questions trying to get caught up as she was watching intently, as if there was more going on than I was aware.  I didn't get it, but I knew there was something more to this show that just people stuck on an island after a three hour tour.  So I followed the rabbit down that hole and within a couple of weeks, I understood this show was special and I was hooked.

If you are thinking about watching, a warning:

A friend of mine returned from a 2 year mission trip to China and stayed at my house while we were on vacation so that he could look for work in San Diego.  He asked me if he missed anything important while he was gone, so I gave him the DVDs for seasons one and two of Lost.  He said he found himself excusing himself from appointments just so he could get back to the house and watch more Lost.  He ended up making no progress in the job search and had to plan another trip later.

That is good storytelling.

Here is how it begins...

.... Why I like Lost - Part II coming soon...


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