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Young Star

A 'Lost' art form

DEFINITELY MAYBE - Carl Francis M. Ramirez -

What the hell just happened?” That is the sound that comes out of the mouths of millions and millions of people every time an episode of Lost ends. There is not one other thing on TV that has elicited that kind of reaction from television audiences on a consistent basis. Lost was simply on another level when it came to cliffhanging conclusions. So it was kind of a mixed bag of irony and poetry when Lost closed its final chapter a few weeks ago. It ended, in my opinion, appropriately and with a clear sense of finality. For a show that thrived on mysteries, ambiguity and cliffhangers, crafting an ending to Lost that would please everyone is almost impossible. The most ballyhooed finale of this decade did in fact make a lot of people happy (some to the point of tears), yet it also left some frustrated with even more unanswered questions.

Either way, this much is clear: Lost, as a TV series and part of pop culture history, will always be remembered as a groundbreaking and game-changing show. The conclusion can be argued to death, but the relevance of the six years that led up to it cannot be denied.

We now live in an era of television. For the last couple of years, TV has arguably produced better fiction than film. TV has already redefined several genres these past years with shows like The Wire (redefined the crime drama), The Sopranos (family drama), BattlestarGalactica (sci-fi), Friday Night Lights (sports drama), Dexter (crime procedural) and 24 (action). Heck, we’ve even seen the unlikely marriage of Shakespearean tragedy and biker gangs in the gritty series Sons of Anarchy. Television is where it’s happening. It’s the same reason all these DVDs of every TV series imaginable (local, American, Korean, Taiwanese, whatever) are being hawked and peddled on every shady street corner in this country. Television has transformed from being something we just watch to something we experience. Television is no longer a distraction. It’s an art form. And Lost is the perfect example of why that is.

There has never been a show like Lost before, and I believe it’s safe to say there never will be again. Lost was too ambitious. Forget that it had the most expensive TV pilot in history. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lost dared to tell a story so sprawling, so grand, so complex and so rich with mythology that each episode needed to be debated with friends, coworkers, strangers on message boards and whatnot. The depth and sheer scale of drafting stories for more than a dozen characters — inclusive of past, present, future and sometimes even alternate timelines — takes a rare combination of talent and balls. Yet that’s what Lost accomplished, and that’s the main reason why this series changed what a television show is supposed to be.

Lost, first and foremost, was a triumph of good writing. What made Lost create such a loyal (and you would really have to be to stick with Lost for six years) fan base was that it was written with the right balance of drama and geekery. Obviously those two attract different sets of audiences, and Lost produced something that appealed to both. Dramatically, this show was top-notch. This was the home of the best characters on television. The drama between Jack and Locke or Jack and Sawyer or Ben and Locke showcased a kind of tension not only between two complex people, but of conflicting ideologies and faiths. There was drama both on the physical and metaphysical level.

This is where the sci-fi and geek element come in. Lost is ultimately a show about characters, but what made it so unique was its incorporation of very erudite and scientific elements into the show. During its run, Lost dabbled in religious concepts such as reincarnation, purgatory, hell, karma and original sin. It also played around with philosophy, often paying homage to great philosophers through the name of their characters (Locke, Hume, Bentham, Rousseau, among others) and incorporating their work in the themes of the show. (For example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s assertion that man is born pure and is corrupted by society). And of course, Lost redefined sci-fi storytelling with its use of time travel, psychology, physics and theories of alternate realities in its narrative. These are all very pedagogical things that Lost made a normal — and even integral — part of a popular TV series. In a world where the relevance of television in the realm of fiction is increasing, Lost was a pioneer. Lost wasn’t the first or the last great TV drama, but it was certainly the most unique. In a TV landscape that prominently features formulaic rich-kid dramas like 90210 or Gossip Girl, indulgent vampire fiction (True Blood, Vampire Diaries), pointless reality shows (Jon and Kate who?) or some kind of singing show that churns out cutesy covers of cheesy ‘80s songs, well-crafted, intelligent and poignant dramas like Lost will always stand out. And now we finally know how the hell that happened.

* * *

For questions, comments or corrections, please email me atcarlfrancisramirez@gmail.com.

BEN AND LOCKE DRAMA FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS GOSSIP GIRL JACK AND LOCKE JACK AND SAWYER LOST SHOW TELEVISION
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