Tag Archives: Lost

Loving ‘Lost’

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My name is Keith and I was a “Lost” fan.

I say “was” because I watched every episode of the series and – like many, many viewers – loved a lot of it at the time.

And – like many, many viewers – I was frustrated by the final episode that reassembled the Oceanic Airlines crash survivors years – in some cases – after their deaths for one final churchy hugfest.

By the wayside fell most of the mysteries, from the cryptic symbols to the puzzlers about life, time and space.

But while the show was on, it was a hell of a ride.

Rewatching the pilot lately, I was taken by how simply but effectively the show was set up. Airliner crashes on island. Survivors struggle to stay alive. Fantastic elements are introduced a few at a time.

The flashbacks to their earlier lives.

The smoke monster.

John Locke and his journey.

The Others.

“Not Penny’s boat.”

They’ve taken Walt!

Sawyer’s nicknames for the rest of the survivors.

The French woman.

Ben Linus!

The show was a victim, in equal parts, of viewers’ expectations and the producers’ failures, both magnified by intense online scrutiny that helped build excitement and anticipation.

Ultimately, “Lost” was a satisfying experience tempered by frustrating moments. The producers could never have solved all the puzzles they put in front of us. Never could have brought all those characters’ stories to satisfying conclusions.

Wish they had, though.

You say you want ‘Revolution?’

Ever since “Lost” was a hit, network and cable TV has been trying to find the next addictive serial drama. “Flash Forward,” “Alcatraz” and others came and went.

It’s easy to see why. While “Lost” had its problems – weak episodes where the show seemed to tread water early on, promising more than it could deliver in terms of its mythology and the final episode, which still ticks me off a little bit – it’s easy to see why its success has been hard to duplicate.

“Lost” had a fairly miraculous mix of premise, writing and cast – really, can you think of a show that cast even bit players so well? – and moments that lived on in the minds of viewers well past the finale of the show: Last night, a friend of mine saw a photo of my son with something written on his palm and quipped, “Not Penny’s boat!”

“The Walking Dead,” returning in October for a third season, is one of the few genre shows that has captured the imagination of viewers in quite the same way as “Lost.”

So now, from NBC, executive producer J.J. Abrams and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau comes “Revolution,” which debuts Monday night.

“Revolution’s” pilot, which is available online through Hulu, opens with a frantic conversation between two brothers. One tells the other, cryptically, “It’s about to go out and it’s never coming back.” A moment later, the power goes out. Cars quit running, cell phones stop working, planes fall from the sky. The premise of the show is that electrical energy is sapped from the entire planet.

Fifteen years later, society has long since fallen apart. Governments and corporations have crumbled and dictators, supported by brutal militias, have taken over. Cities have fallen into decay. Neighborhood cul-de-sacs are small farming towns.

Apple is no longer the world’s most valuable company. (Actually, there’s a reference to Google, and I’m looking forward to the episode that shows us how the present-day lords of Silicon Valley have turned into future Roman emperors.)

The mysterious General Monroe has dispatched his enforcer, Captain Neville (the wonderful Giancarlo Esposito), to find Ben and Miles, brothers who apparently hold some kind of key to what made energy disappear and what might bring it back.

Ben gets killed by the militia and his daughter, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), and son, Danny (Graham Rogers) are separated. Charlie sets out for Chicago to find her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke from the “Twilight” movies, bringing some much-needed sarcasm to the show).

Not surprisingly, the ending of the pilot indicates the show’s over-arching mythology will revolve around what caused the blackout and what might reverse it.

I liked a lot of “Revolution” and will probably tune in to the series. But a few things came to mind while watching the pilot:

Many of the buildings in big cities are overgrown with wild vegetation just 15 years after the end of energy. This seems unlikely to me, frankly, unless kudzu pushed pretty far north fairly quickly. I think the makers of “Revolution” were watching “Life After People” on fast forward.

Likewise, “Revolution” shows a rusted-out car body used as a planter. Again, after only 15 years, a car would be totally stripped of paint and covered in rust? There’s a car outside my house that’s been out in the elements, year-round, for longer than that and it doesn’t look like a rust-colored flower pot.

I know Chicago was a big part of the plot and showing an overgrown Wrigley Field was too good to pass up. But it seems ironic that a ballpark that didn’t have electric lights for most of its existence is shown as an example of what happens after the power goes out.

The young leads are cute as can be, in a “Hunger Games” kind of way, but I’ll be waiting for every scene with the wry Burke and the wily Esposito.

 

‘Buffy,’ ‘Angel’ and modern-day cable

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” ran seven seasons and its spin-off show, “Angel,” ran a too-short five. Both aired on what were considered “mini” networks, The WB and The CW, but networks nonetheless with obligations to meet the standards of broadcast networks and bring in some semblance of traditional over-the-air ratings.

But we can only dream about how those Joss Whedon series as well as his “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” series might have faired if they had aired on channels that were decidedly off-network.

I’m thinking of TNT, FX, USA, AMC and A&E, channels – not networks, since networks are networks of stations, while cable channels have no physical presence out in the real world – that schedule, carry and nurture high-quality episodic drama.

Can you imagine “The Shield” or “Mad Men” or even “Falling Skies” on network TV?

I can’t. I can’t imagine those niche shows pulling enough viewers to stay on the air. “Firefly” sure didn’t.

I can’t imagine the networks allowing the creators of those shows to produce as few as 10 or 12 or 16 episodes per season, something that’s become routine with shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”

There seems to be less pressure without a 22-episode, big network season. Less expectation of Super Bowl-sized ratings. Less expectation of quickly meeting the 100-episode threshold for syndication.

With those shorter seasons, you can weed out the deadwood episodes. Okay, some of us were a little impatient with how long last season’s “The Walking Dead” spent on the farm. But it didn’t have to be that way. Look at last season’s “Mad Men” as an example. While the season had its critics, I thought almost every episode was riveting. Would that have been the case if the creators had been compelled to turn out twice as many episodes to fill out a network season?

Who doesn’t think “Smallville,” for example, would have been better with about a half-dozen fewer episodes per season and a little less filler? How about “Lost?”

There are some drawbacks. Out of sight, out of mind. “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” took their time and sometimes a year or even more passed between seasons. It was torture but it made us look forward to their return even more. That trick wouldn’t work for every show, however.

And admittedly, there’s still less visibility on cable, at least for some audiences. We live in a world where the biggest ratings are still garnered by standard network fare like cops-and-robbers procedurals. We can take solace in knowing that we’re cooler because we know all about “Justified.”

So in my alternate reality TV word, “Buffy” and “Angel” and “Firefly” are still chugging along, well  into the double-digits in years on the air. They’re just airing fewer episodes and every episode is greeted with a sense of anticipation and celebration.

Classic TV: Nikki and Paulo of the ‘Lost’ episode ‘Expose’

In the tradition of Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch” — unwanted characters added to a hit TV show — we present Nikki and Paulo, the attempt by the producers of “Lost” to add some fleshed-out background characters during the third season of that series.

According to Internet legend, the producers of the show — about airline crash survivors fighting to survive mysterious happenings on a Pacific island — were asked about the mostly nameless other survivors of the crash, usually seen in the background as the major characters play out the storyline of the week.

So they added, gradually at first, Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro). Extremely easy on the eyes — even among the good-looking cast of “Lost” — the couple seemed like a good way to add some depth to the cast.

But even though fans had asked for more about the background characters, turns out most people didn’t like the modern-day equivalent of elevating “third red shirt from the left” on classic “Star Trek” to supporting character status.

Backlash on Internet sites was quick and brutal. Santoro in particular had the misfortune of being dubbed “Takes A Shit Guy” on Ain’t It Cool News in reference to a scene in which he comes out of a bathroom, flushing sounds behind him, in one of the secret science stations discovered on the island.

So the producers made a funny and canny move: They explored, through trademark “Lost” flashbacks, the backstory of Nikki and Paulo … in the same episode in which they killed them off.

Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz,” “Expose” — the 14th episode of the third season — revealed that Nikki was an American actress who had been working on a TV show called “Expose” in Australia before boarding the flight. Paulo was the chef of the show’s producer.

The two — led by the ruthless Nikki — poisoned the producer and stole millions of dollars in diamonds before boarding the Oceanic Air flight home.

As the episode revealed, Nikki and Paulo were desperate to find the diamonds, hidden in a suitcase that was dropped somewhere inland when the plane broke up over the island, and had spent much of their weeks and months on the island looking for it.

Since it’s well known there is no honor among thieves, the two ended up meeting a harsh end. In the opening minutes of the episode, Hurley, Sawyer and the others find the two paralyzed — they assume they’re dead — and proceed to bury them. And they do bury them — alive, unknowingly.

How’s that for harsh? If “The Brady Bunch” had Cousin Oliver skateboard in front of a moving van, it still might not have topped this.

I loved “Lost” pretty much right up until the final episode, when it seemed obvious the producers were not going to pay off on many of the nifty teasers and red herrings they had planted through the show.

But I have no complaints about their handling of Nikki and Paulo, and “Expose” is one of the most clever ways of getting rid of unwanted characters I can imagine. Viewed years after the fact, the episode is a time capsule and love letter to the series, bringing back characters who hadn’t been seen since early in the series, “previewing” characters in flashbacks we hadn’t yet met and providing great lines to characters like Sawyer, whose attitude about the two summed up the feelings of many viewers:

“Who the hell are Nikki and Paulo?”

 

‘Alcatraz’ developing key mythology?

True fans don’t have to be reminded, unfortunately, of TV series that loaded up on their own mythology only to disappoint fans before the end.

How bizarre was it that “The X-Files” — once one of my favorites shows — spent several seasons establishing that FBI agent Mulder’s sister had been taken by aliens … only to throw all that out the window with a late-in-the-series revelation that Samantha Mulder was kidnapped by a plain old human killer?

How inexplicable was it that “Lost” — once one of my favorite shows — spent several seasons laying out what seemed to be an intricate backstory for the island and its occupants … only to ignore most of it, explain the rest away and, most mind-bogglingly of all, prove its early Internet critics right by declaring in the final episode that the characters we had grown to love had been hanging out in limbo after all.

So upon watching “Alcatraz” tonight, I found myself hoping that the series’ makers really do have the key to the mystery they’re developing.

If you haven’t watched this show, which aired its fourth installment in three weeks tonight, the basic plot is that more than 300 prisoners and guards disappeared from the island prison of Alcatraz in 1963. They’re reappearing in modern-day San Francisco, they haven’t aged a day and most seem to be on some kind of quest. Not to mention that they’ve returned to their old habits of bank robbery, kidnapping and murder.

Tonight’s episode, “Cal Sweeney,” introduced a bank robber whose objective seems to be an old-fashioned key. It’s the second of these keys that have shown up. Now they’re in the hands of federal investigator Hauser (Sam Neill) running the inmate recovery project.

I’m really hoping there’s some meaning to the keys, just like I’m hoping there’s some meaning to investigator Rebecca Madsen’s (Sarah Jones) discovery that her grandfather was a convict and is now roaming the present.

As for researcher Diego Soto (played by lovable “Lost” grad Jorge Garcia)? I’m just enjoying his amiable presence.

The show is teasing us with several little mysteries, including characters who seem to be represented in both time periods.

But if those keys mean something now … they damn well better mean something later.

Or Samantha Mulder’s ghost just might step out of that flying saucer and open up a can of suspension of disbelief.

‘Alcatraz,’ ‘Justified’ have strong second weeks

What a fun feeling when two TV shows — one a returning favorite in its third season, the other brand new out of the box — start off strong.

I’m playing catch-up here, but I wanted to mention this week’s installments of “Justified,” airing Tuesdays on FX, and “Alcatraz,” airing Mondays on Fox.

In the second week of it’s third season, “Justified” continues the compelling story of Kentucky’s small-time crooks and the federal marshals who must deal with them, particularly Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) respectively.

In Tuesday night’s episode, Givens was reunited with an old partner — and an old flame, from the sexual tension on display — named Karen Goodall. The inside joke here is that Goodall is actually Karen Sisco, a federal deputy previously played in the movie “Out of Sight” by Jennifer Lopez and — in a TV series a few years back — Carla Gugino. Like “Justified,” Sisco’s stories are drawn from the works of author Elmore Leonard.

Gugino returns to the character in “Justified” — she’s apparently signed for a few episodes — and it’s fun watching her and Olyphant kind of circling each other, particularly since Goodall/Sisco returns just as Givens is about to settle down with his ex-wife, Winona.

Tuesday’s episode — dealing with the murder of another marshal — wasn’t as strong as last week’s season premiere. But you can’t beat any show that features Olyphant, Gugino, Nick Searcy as Chief Deputy Art Mullen and Goggins.

There’s also a good introduction of Mykelti Williamson as a new character, a bad guy who is as menacing as he is folksy.

As for “Alcatraz,” I think this week’s episode, “Kit Nelson,” was my favorite so far.

If you haven’t seen “Alcatraz,” the show’s mythology is that, in 1963, the San Francisco island prison wasn’t shut down because all the prisoners were transferred. No, it was shut down because 300 prisoners and guards disappeared.

Now, a half-century later, those prisoners are reappearing, and a crew of cops and experts is pursuing them. Sam Neill, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia make up the solid cast of investigators.

This week’s show teased us with a little more mythology of the show. Remember Dr. Beauregard, the unseen medical officer of the modern-day prison in which Neill’s character is lodging recovered prisoners? This week’s episode revealed that Beauregard is not only Neill’s medical shaman in the present but was also the sinister doctor at the prison in the 1960s. And he hasn’t aged a day.

That little revelation, plus the beginning of a mystery involving Jones’ grandfather — a convict on the loose in modern San Francisco — and tidbits about the traumatic past of Garcia’s character are enough to allay my worries that the show might too easily fall into the “escaped prisoner of the week” trap.

And since the show is from “Lost” producer J.J. Abrams, I had to laugh when, out of nowhere, the show introduced a hatch in the middle of the woods from which a kidnapped boy escaped.

I’m not surprised to be enjoying “Justified” this much. I am a little surprised — pleasantly surprised — to be digging “Alcatraz” so much.

 

‘Alcatraz’ a breakout hit? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

So this is what we knew about “Alcatraz” going into tonight’s premiere:

It’s a new Fox show from producer J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” the new “Star Trek” movie series).

It stars Jorge Garcia, who played lovable Hurley from “Lost,” and also stars Sam Neill and Sarah Jones.

It’s about a generations-spanning mystery and coverup: The 300-plus inmates and guards at Alcatraz, the island prison off San Francisco, didn’t get transferred when the prison was shut down in 1963. They all … disappeared.

And now they’re coming back.

Here’s what we know after seeing the first two hours:

Not a lot more.

“Alcatraz” might — just might — be the kind of show that I’ll watch every week for years, like “Lost.” It might be the kind of show I’ll wish I had watched every week, like “Fringe.” There’s enough sci-fi goodness, enough mystery, enough conspiracy and enough likable characters to make me give it a try for a while longer.

Jones plays a cop who gets drawn into the Alcatraz mystery when one of the long-missing prisoners shows up, not a day older, on the streets of San Francisco and begins killing people. Garcia is the author of several books about the prison and its history who, needless to say, didn’t know about the mystery and coverup.

Neill is … kind of a mystery, and maybe the best one about the show so far. He’s now a government agent, but back in 1963 he was a young cop who discovered the island prison was empty. In the years since, he’s been waiting, apparently, for the inmates to begin reappearing. So far he’s mum on just what he knows and how he knows it. A conspiracy is pretty well indicated: The prisoners, as they start showing up, have been outfitted with money and guns and in some cases given missions, including, in one case, the recovery of a mysterious key.

Neill’s character is also interesting because we can’t quite tell yet if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. When he head-butts one recovered prisoner and shoots another in the hand, the actions seem somewhat gratuitous if not a little uncalled for.

But when he lodges the recovered inmates in a new, middle-of-nowhere prison that replicates, in gleaming style, the old Alcatraz, he seems pretty keen on torturing them.

“We’ll see how you enjoy a visit from … Dr. Beauregard,” Neill says, or something like that, smiling slightly.

Okay, makers of “Alcatraz.” I’m in for a bit longer, for several reasons, including the appeal of Garcia and Jones as an unorthodox crime-solving team, the mystery of Neill’s character and the intriguing premise.