by DICK CHENEY
Lost: The End
creators Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams
I tried to watch the season finale of Modern Family with my wife yesterday, and I didn't understand a word of it. I had to watch the season finale of 30 Rock with the closed captioning on to understand any of the jokes or Julianne Moore's dialogue, although it didn't help that I was forced to cover my eyes whenever Matt Damon appeared because he looks like a creature I invented in Spore.
Television is doing an incredible job of replicating the real lives of people. The camerawork makes me feel like I'm tagging along in their suitcase. When Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant brought the format of their multi-camera comedy The Office to U.S. shores, I didn't think the new show would be as impossible to understand as the first, especially considering I grew up in this country. It was, and I haven't understood a single word Kathy Bates has said since she joined the show.
TV writers have one set of experiences; the rest of us have a completely different set of experiences. Every day of my life, I talk to Mexican-Americans and Pakistani-Americans and African-Americans and Daniel Faraday. Sure, I'm usually saying, "Could you put that in a plastic bag?" or "U r my constant", but I'm somehow able to communicate with them. Yet everyone on TV is white and I can't understand a single thing they say.
I have not been able to laugh at a single joke Phil has made all season without considerable research except his lol with Kobe. As the final moments of Lost rolled across television screens around the world last night, the disconnect between television writers and the general public grows more distant. People don't like being told that 20 hours of their life was wasted because the writers of Lost read too many messageboards and decided that the show's fans would find it really hilarious if they all met again in heaven.
If you believe in heaven, this is an insulting, heretical idea. If you don't believe in heaven, why on earth did you elect a president who spends more time advising LeBron James and telling his wife her shoulders look too big in that dress than running this country?
What happened to Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and all the other brainaics behind Lost was that they started reading their own press, and feeling bad for what Jeff Jensen's life is going to be like now. They are hardly alone in being corrupted by this development, because Jesse James is doing a television interview in which he'll have to provide a convincing explanation for both infidelity and his passion for the Third Reich.
Never read what people say about you. The only person who could read his own reviews and not be affected was Donald Rumsfeld and he's now playing a long term-ish game of backgammon with Walt on another undisclosed island. Never cross me, Lambert.
Speaking of which, it did seem fairly unconventional that black people weren't allowed in Lost's version of heaven. All the audience really wanted was more Walt. What kind of show creates a young black kid with magical powers and never has him use them? That's worse than casting Ben Affleck as Daredevil, or anyone. Of course, this is same show that turned Jack Shephard and Hurley into gods but wasn't smart enough to have them part the sea. Even Jesus had to prove he wasn't just a regular bro.
Unlike most of the shows I mentioned earlier, ninety percent of which were written by Mindy Kaling, Lost at least became simpler to understand over time. This is hardly a point in its favor. While much of television has abandoned the cinematic techniques of film presumably because the guy who invented steadicam has naked pictures of Jeff Zucker doing E from Entourage, Lost still believes it can achieve a kind of visual transcendance.
At times it has been successful at that, but not in last night's finale, and not since ABC slashed the big budget effects for an endless series of jungle sets that all look identical. We learned, mainly, that the entire sideways world in which Oceanic Flight 815 didn't crash was just everybody being really dead. Some have questioned why Ben Linus would continue hanging around in purgatory to pursue a romantic relationship with the actress who played his daughter, but that's sort of self-explanatory.
Since Lost came out of thin air and J.J. Abrams lost interest in the show once he started having regular sex, there was no guiding overlord to say, this is where a 100+ part drama has to go to stay compelling. The three most annoying and clichéd dramatic techniques in the world, all of which Lost used with equal aplomb, are as follows.
1. Everyone is always constantly debating what to call each other. "Can I call you John?" "Call me John." "I'm not Mr. Locke. I'm Mr. John." "Call me Jack." "Blah blah blah." "I'm gay." "I'm bald."
2. Having the end be a take on the beginning. Not even James Patterson does this anymore it's such a joke.
3. Having a character apparently die and reappear again, especially when he is the only pilot on the fucking island.
Tragically, when it most counted, Lost underestimated its audience. Instead of coming up with a deep mythology to explain the island's supernatural powers, they just got high and read too many Philip Pullman books. In the weirdest "action" scene in recent television memory, before Jack turned Hurley into Jacob he attacked the smoke monster like Morpheus, and Kate killed the the poor guy by shooting him in the back and pushing him off the cliff.
If the writers had just listened to the messageboards (just as Matthew Weiner draws sustenance from these recaps), they would have realized that "satisfying" your audience never works. Surprising your audience always does. Answering a burning question might feel good for the brief seconds it no longer burns, but compelling human drama requires more than plaudits and a really weird concert that presented the unlikely combination of master pianist Daniel Faraday and Driveshaft.
It would be a shame if the last moments of Lost soured our memories from the artful beginning, when the show's unique form, content and characters provided frights, laughs and drunken driving arrests on Oahu in equal measure. What a show! There are more moments in Lost's brilliant run that will stay with me longer than all of Truffaut or Sartre. Somewhere, someplace, there is a living record of Evangeline Lilly's life before she became the centerpiece of an urban legend about a lost census worker.
The first stories about these characters were compelling and somewhat fresh, by the fifth or sixth story the situations became somewhat familiar. Writers get tricked into repeating their finest moments. It's kind of like how an evening with an ex-girlfriend usually ends in a lot of disagreement about whether or not Matt Damon is now a candidate for assisted suicide and impotency in the bedroom.
What will happen to all the friends I made during these six seasons? Some will move on to other places, others will reappear on ABC shows because their contracts aren't up yet. I don't know for sure. When I first began reviewing Lost on this site, I was so immature I thought they would tell us what the numbers were. Now I know that's no longer possible. The numbers don't mean anything, Alison Janney was a throwaway guest appearance for an Emmy nomination, and Juliet really did die in that explosion.
Lost showed us the possibilities for the medium of television - how it can undertake themes more complex and sophisticated than the abbreviated length of feature films. It can show us really changing, instead of simply portraying the illusion of change. Being separated from it feels like missing an arm, or a penis. I don't want all my friends to go away, but I'll try to make new ones.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find his previous recaps of Lost here.