Phil Gyford

Writing

Thursday 29 September 2005

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Steven Johnson has

…[Lost is] starting to strongly resemble a load of navel-gazing soap claptrap that passes itself off as something more stimulating by going “woo, woo, I’m mysterious” every five minutes. It reminds me of the sort of rubbish “surreal” painting you do during art class aged 14 (you know — a giant eye hovering over a desert landscape, surrounded by floating question marks, the kind of thing even a Marillion album cover would consider embarrassing).

I’m prepared to admit that Lost is more intelligent and challenging than the majority of TV dramas, both past and present. Unfortunately, it faces little competition. To talk of Lost as if it’s some dense, multi-layered, demanding puzzle is bordering on the delusional.

Featuring more than a dozen characters and weekly flashing back to their uniquely curious pasts does not make for depth or exciting character development. In the UK we’re eight episodes in to the first series and I care less about the lot of them now than I did a couple of months back. Will they be rescued? Will, as Brooker wondered, “the last episode end with the camera pulling back to reveal the whole thing’s been happening inside the brass knee of a gigantic clockwork robot”? He and I no longer care, and I can’t imagine why anyone else does. I suspect it’s purely the high production values that are making everyone else think the show is “quality”. Even Johnson seems worried Lost won’t be all he claims it is:

It

Comments

"why aren

Posted by nick on 29 September 2005, 11:37 pm | Link

...and, I feel embarrassed to say it, but they cancelled Angel too!

What I realise I really enjoy about a show like Angel (as I come towards the last few episodes in the last season) is that it doesn't hide any of the "wooo, it's a bit mysterious" bullshit. It *is* mysterious. There is more interesting character development in the character of Wesley in that show than in any of "24", because these guys face death, mutilation, torture, betrayal, (etc, etc) as their day jobs!

And yes, it's silly. It knows it's silly. But because it wears the veneer of silliness, it can get away with being relatively interesting too. It's what makes the difference between it, and an inferior show in which we have a male character who often goes unshaven, and a female character who has large tits.

That and the Sopranos, which has absolutely nothing in it other than what you see, are two extremes, but to my mind, they're both much better than Lost in many ways - knowing without being self reverential, creative with character, without being self satisfied.

Ah well. But when was TV ever wholly good, or ever wholly bad. I'll bet if we watched "Cracker" again we'd think it was a cliche ridden load of cobblers.

(But, Lost does have Naveen Andrews in, you've got to give it that ;)

Posted by cait on 29 September 2005, 11:52 pm | Link

I propose an IPTV channel made up entirely of pilots... the Lost pilot was great but the desire to view past episode 4 waned dramatically. Channel 4 did this nicely with their comedy lab series. On the other hand, the pirate distributed pilot of Global Frequency got a massive reaction. It sounds dreadful, but let the (real, global, democratised) MARKET sort this out! he he

Seriously, use free distro mechanisms to build a base, grow support, production co's (who currently do not recieive a fair share of ad revenue) choose between a few options - a pure subs based model (HBO++), an IPTV with targetted micro-ad or even DOG-ad model (see mark pesce on tv for more) or a traditional sell to broadcast + DVD sales model...

Cut out the middle man where possible. Same as the music biz should have done.

Posted by paul pod on 30 September 2005, 12:54 am | Link

I think the Sopranos has the depth of character and movement that you're looking for.

Having seen the first two episodes of the new Lost season I've reached a conclusion. They drag things out quite a bit and then have a few moments of action each episode. Gets tedious after a while. But, it must be said, there is some wacky stuff going on in Season 2...

Posted by alistair on 30 September 2005, 5:38 am | Link

Yes, I didn't want to get into what shows I like too much for fear of having my argument become too vague. Trying to keep it simple!

But yes, Sopranos hits the spot for me: complex, knowing, great characters, unpredictable.

And, Cait, although I never got into Angle, I liked Buffy for just the reasons you cite. I didn't "get" it at first, and thought it was glossy pap, but when I realised the knowingness, and could see it from a different angle, it was great. That a show can manage both the silliness of the musical episode and another time have one of the most heartbreakingly sad hours of TV I've seen, and still "work" as a whole is pretty special.

Global Frequency... it was a pretty good pilot, although I wouldn't be convinced unless more episodes were better. It did that thing of trying to cram so much into 45 minutes that it ended up as unbelievable nonsense.

Posted by Phil on 30 September 2005, 9:32 am | Link

Few shows survived my NY schedule, but Lost is on the list. I think I remember losing interest midway through last year, but it picked back up by the end of the year so keep hope!

Firefly aired in the US and ended up being too complex and thought-out for TV audiences so it was pulled. But its devoted fan base was so vocal about the network pull that it was created into a movie, which just opened as Serenity.

Do you get Rome? It's pretty good, just began last month on HBO.

Posted by anniem on 2 October 2005, 1:15 am | Link

I quite enjoyed Firefly, and am looking forward to Serenity -- although the characters were cartoons, they had more charisma than those in Lost and I cared what happened to them. But if it was cancelled simply because it was too complex for audiences then I think we might as well give up on civilization now. I mean, it's not so far from The A-Team, plot-wise.

We haven't had Rome yet...

Posted by Phil on 2 October 2005, 10:57 am | Link