The Illusion of Television

I just got through reading a gushing ‘heads up’ to Lost fans about the upcoming continuation to the season (post Writer’s-strike) and I guess it just really rubbed me the wrong way. I know I shouldn’t really take personally what ultimately are the tastes and/or opinions of others, but I suppose as a reformed ‘Lost’-oholic I just feel like it’s a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes and I don’t like seeing perfectly respectable and intelligent people duped.

Lost has a lot going for it – I can see the attraction: great characters, an intricate plot, fast-paced changes of plot direction, an air of mystery. In many ways, I think it’s similar to Alias (also a show I avidly followed). But at some point, perhaps near the end of Alias’s run, I read a review that got me thinking… essentially, the reviewer pointed out, the show (I think they were referring to Alias) is all about the ride but without a destination. Anybody who stuck around to the bitter (and unsatisfactorily completed) end should be able to understand what I’m saying… the credits rolled and I asked myself, “that was it?!”

And I was already, subconsciously, beginning to feel this about Lost. There were too many unanswered questions. Unanswered questions are fine if there is some chance that they will be explained, but more and more questions arose and lots of other little details fell by the wayside.

What is the explanation of Walt’s ‘ability’ with animals? There probably isn’t one, but it sure looked mysterious while it lasted… Where’d the polar bear come from? Who cares – nobody but me remembers it anymore, right…? What was the huge creature that shredded the airline pilot in the first episode??? Nobody knows and I’m sure it’ll never come up… What’s so special about Hurley’s numbers? Who cares – they’re mysterious, they don’t need an explanation…

I’m sure there are more that I’ve forgotten. The point is, a good mystery has a solution. Anybody can keep coming up with another twist – but splicing together twists that make sense and are all part of a nice, coherent story while still keeping the viewers guessing… now that’s what I’m looking for. Sadly, even Alias fell victim to the temptation of stringing the viewers (read: addicts) along by giving them another titillating (yet substance-less) hit. Each episode is more like the patch than a real cigarette. [No, I don’t smoke – it’s just an apropos picture, in my estimation]

It’s funny, after this diatribe I’m suddenly coming to the realization that, by my standards, 90% of TV isn’t worth the time it takes to watch it… hmm, maybe this is why I don’t much anymore. I like Heroes, so far, but I suspect that will pall soon as well. Any show that depends on the same ridiculous thing happening over an over again will strain at the bounds of my credulity after a while. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but for how long?!

Sorry, Jessica Fletcher, but I don’t want to be your friend – everywhere you go, somebody gets whacked. After 12 years, you’d think they’d lock her up! Sorry, Dr. House, but after a while I’ve started to see a pattern – you’re a jerk, people have the most mysterious illness in the world, and in the nick of time you save them! Great for a while (I really mean that – I did enjoy it for a bit!), but what new can happen? Survivor? Hmmm, a bunch of adults competing in lame, contrived events and backstabbing worse than high school teenagers on a soap opera… I’ll pass. American Idol – a talent show I can understand, but the making sport of people who clearly don’t have a clear grip on reality (not to mention people who don’t have decent enough friends to tell them otherwise) is just sad… it’s tantamount to picking on someone with a disability and calling it humour (which is why high school students watch it – a la Jackass).

The only shows I do understand are procedurals and sit-coms. A sit-com is about daily life and humour – daily life is always happening and those who can find humour in the mundane are impressive (especially those who can keep the humour clean). Procedurals are generally about life on the job and the job keeps happening, so that’s not surprising either (and doesn’t need to be contrived). That said, there are enough Law & Orders out there that they could show all the reruns end to end ’til eternity and not run out – we could use a fresh idea, people!

You may claim that House is a procedural, but that would only be if he treated normal issues – it is not SOP to have a unique, nearly-impossible-to-solve medical case come through once a week (or at least, that’s what my intuition tells me).

I apologize to those I’ve terribly offended… if any happened to stumble across this blog. I just needed to vent. As I tried to state at the beginning, I can’t regulate your opinion (nor do I want to). If you want unadulterated, free-from-the-constraints-of-reality entertainment, more power to you! And I hope you enjoy it! I just wish there was more intelligent-through-and-through entertainment out there.

Like Firefly – but I guess that’s why they cancelled it… can’t have the people thinking too much!

PS – if they did answer any of the aforementioned “Lost-questions”, please drop me a comment and fill me in! Inquiring minds want to know!

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2 Responses to “The Illusion of Television”

  1. Lots of valid points – not much worth watching. Lost is one of the few shows that I watch – I like the intricacy of the plotline, and all of the literary, cultural, historical, and now, physics! Daniel Faraday is a physicist character dealing with time travel, and Charlotte Staples Lewis (C.S.) is a English character – not sure where hers is going. Where’s the link to the “gushing heads up”?

  2. didn’t link on purpose… it happens to be a site I enjoy reading and didn’t want to offend. 🙂

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