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Humanity on display on a desert island

Review by Brian Jones | May 25, 2007 | Page 9

Lost, season finale airs on Wednesday, May 23, 9 p.m. EST on ABC.

THE PREMISE of ABC's hit show Lost, sounds pretty hokey. A plane flying from Sydney to Los Angeles crashes on an island, leaving 42 people stranded. Then, weird things start happening--things that, after watching 67 episodes, you still won't understand.

If that doesn't inspire you to start downloading the show, here's a challenge: Watch the first four episodes of Season One and try not to be totally hooked. And keep reading.

ABC's hit show Lost isn't just a compelling drama; it's a groundbreaking television production in a number of respects. First, the show is truly an ensemble production, with more than 20 "main" characters!

Secondly, the cast is quite international--there are entire episodes that are spoken mainly in Korean, or that linger in a Nigerian village or a Scottish monastery. How many shows have an Iraqi main character? How about an Iraqi romantic lead who fought against the U.S. in the first Gulf War?

Thirdly, while any regular viewer could tell you volumes by now about any of the characters, there is still a lot about their circumstance that remains shrouded in mystery. For example, we still don't know where they are!

The main producers/writers of the show, Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse, have succeeded in spinning a web that is so layered that after unraveling its mysteries week after week for three years, there's still plenty of mystery left to go.

True, there have been missteps in the pacing. At times the yarn was too slow to unravel, and the ratings fell (the first few episodes of Season Three, especially). Nevertheless, how many shows on shows dare to leave their viewers scratching their collective heads over and over again ("Was that some kind of smoke monster?"; "How did a polar bear get there?"; "Is that person real?" and "Huh?" are all valid questions)? This kind of delicious confusion is part of what makes the show so unique, and so addictive.

The main mysteries of Lost revolve around the nature of the island itself--how its special electro-magnetic properties seem to have cut it off from the rest of the world or have caused ships and planes to crash there, or seem to interact with the thoughts, hopes and fears of its inhabitants.

As they struggle with survival, with one another and in their encounters with the mysterious "Others," the Lostaways grapple with events that seem to be pre-destined and with coincidences that seem impossible. Questions of faith and science, fate and free will are intelligently woven into the narrative and, at times, are debated.

Interestingly, it appears that everybody on the island has serious father issues. For those of us who have gotten used to TV that assumes its audience is not intelligent, that focuses almost exclusively on the lives of the upper middle class, that ignores questions of real oppression, inequality and alienation, Lost is a breath of fresh air.

Unlike Survivor, which pits deserted islanders against one other for money in order to show how horrible people "really" are, Lost tells the warts-and-all life stories of a random collection of passengers on a plane.

Interestingly, one of the first lessons they learn after the crash is that they have to work together and share in order to survive. "Good" people do bad things, and "bad" people do great things. Sadly, this kind of humanity is, dare I say, lost on many TV networks.

Watch Lost, but start at the beginning, and don't skip an episode. This reviewer has faith that you'll find the answers you're looking for, even if you have to wait until the end of Season Six.

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