It’s the oldest story in the book: Show meets audience. Audience likes show. Show finds success. Show becomes complacent and panders to audience. Audience leaves show.
Let’s be honest: We’ve all had our hearts broken once or twice by network television. We jump on the bandwagon of pop culture’s finest, foster a relationship and establish trust. We tune in each week and follow the story line religiously. We dedicate get-togethers for the sole purpose of its viewing and MySpace the actors on the show.
But once our weekly favorite reaches its pinnacle of success, something happens. It becomes everything we never wanted. It becomes unrealistic and mutates into food for the masses, deviating from its original concept. Some of us are still getting over the heartbreak of the later “Dawson’s Creek” episodes, and we shed a single tear when “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” finds its way on to basic cable.
This time, though, the networks have gone too far. ABC’s “Lost” is one of many on the long list of shows that have lost its charm. The show’s painful erosion mocks its pre-mainstream suspense and in-depth character development, leaving its audience bored and jaded. And with new episodes beginning Feb. 7, we can only hope our three-month separation sufficed to let old wounds heal.
So what happened to “Lost’s” desert island magic and vicarious adventure that caused the show to jump the shark? – the phrase referring to the episode of “Happy Days” when Fonzie water skis over a shark wearing his leather jacket, marking a decline in the show’s believability.
Let’s rehash the past…
A plane crashes. The survivors, who at first seem as strangers to their fellow castaways, are secretly connected by a subplot of arbitrary happenstance. Each episode directs focus to a string of flashbacks that provide insight into each character’s morally questionable and tumultuous past – not to mention a few closeted skeletons that undoubtedly get outed in later episodes.
There are “the others” who seem to kidnap secondary characters at will, or at least for an interesting plot twist. A smoke monster wreaks havoc on the island; there are character hallucinations, secret hatches, drug addictions, and every once in a while, polar bear attacks during sweeps week.
It seems like an interesting show, right? It was, or at least while we harbored the assumption that “Lost’s” many questions would be answered. But they never were. Since the end of the first season, “Lost” fans have been left completely unsatisfied with redundant flashbacks, forced real-time plot, and questions answered with more difficult questions.
Despite huge budgets, network support and three years to compose relevant rising action, writers have left America with the slimmest of pickings for sustenance in an otherwise barren wasteland of network television.
Let’s take a look at a few of the characters:
Jack Shephard is our troubled protagonist. Shephard’s heart of gold and can-do attitude renders him ripe for the leadership role. His rugged doctor look aligns nicely with his subtle but consistent beard stubble that fails to develop into full-on facial hair, despite the 40 days he’s spent on an island. Short of Norelco product placement, there’s just no other way to explain it.
Hugo “Hurley” Reyes is the show’s comic relief. Before the crash, the overweight Hurley ironically won the lottery and quit his job at the local fast-food joint. Now obesity is no laughing matter, but there is something off-putting about a character who maintains his husky physique after a month plus diet of coconut milk, raw fish and running from mythical creatures.
Kate Austen is our desert island heroine and the uppermost tip of the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle. Her past hints at crime, legal mishaps and violent relationships. Every show needs a good back and forth love story – “The Creek,” for example, wrote the book on the “will-she-won’t-she” plot line – but finding Mr. Right seems a lesser priority when avoiding death becomes part of one’s daily ritual.
Charlie Pace remains outside the circle of Lost’s central story, but is one of the four members of Driveshaft – a fictional band of international acclaim. Despite being an unlikely love interest of one of the hotter hotties in the cast as well as kicking a heroin addiction a little too easily to believe, his musical flashbacks reveal a band that wouldn’t make it on MTV at 3:00 a.m.
The second and third seasons pale in comparison to season one. As the series progresses, each episode becomes less believable than the one before it. As we last left the show, “the others” had captured Kate and Sawyer and forced them into back-breaking labor. When Kate finds a way to escape, she forgoes the opportunity in order to sleep with Sawyer – the show’s sharp-tongued, yet handsome troublemaker. Lost has charged its audience with a suspension of disbelief so intense, that escaping torture seems a lesser priority than a romp in the hay with a main character. This stunt alone sinks the show to the level of a certain “Happy Days” episode.
It’s not as if the writers are incapable of interesting ideas and a progressing plot line. Season one did just that. They’re simply too afraid to reveal anything of importance for fear that they’d give away too much and have nowhere to go. The result, however, is redundancy, useless information and a fading number of viewers.
The show’s development is sad, really. Each new episode bears more and more a resemblance to your high school prom. Every Wednesday we get dressed up for a night of dancing and fun, but are left with nothing more than overcooked chicken and that sinking suspicion that we’ve been used.