When I started watching Lost, I raved about it. There was so much to love not only in its mystery and tense, tightly scripted storylines, but also in its character-driven elements (I’ve always rated good characters higher than a good story). We had a host of apparently one-dimensional characters who, we gradually discovered, were far deeper than their surface suggested as each episode delved into the backstory of a different person. Half a season in, the whole thing began to lag seriously. Although there were forty survivors, it was clearly too large a cast to focus on in equal depth. As a result we ended up with a core group of around a dozen major players with extraneous people who were expendable at the writers’ whim. This meant that before the first season was complete, we were already revisiting the same character’s history twice or more.
Indeed, much of the problem with Lost stems from the length of an American TV season. In Britain, eight to ten episodes is considered a very respectable number; in the States, anything short of twenty implies serious financial difficulty. Crafting a suspenseful mystery is all well and good, but the scriptwriters seem to think that this can be achieved by constantly injecting new questions for 24 episodes without ever answering the old ones: what this actually creates is something that feels more like an hors d’œuvre platter of plot holes. It’s not a momentum that can be maintained for such a duration. The season finale has to have been one of the more underwhelming I can remember. Sure, dynamite is fun and I like fiery explosions as much as the next pyromaniac, but the truth is that I was just bored of this particular jungle by that point. That said, the opening to Season 2 injected some much neeeded energy back into the proceedings and has pushed to the story forward considerably, so it may not be too late. If nothing else, I’m still intrigued enough that I keep watching, so I certainly can’t claim it’s failed entirely in its aim.
Meanwhile I’d strongly suggest checking out Prison Break, a new show that deserves to be a big hit. With a similarly claustrophobic feel to Lost, given a cast of characters confined to a prison, it manages to broaden its range of sets with a conspiracy gradually unfolding outside the prison walls. Great dialogue and tense storytelling combine with a critical social commentary on the prison system and its corruptibility into something that often feels like a modern Shawshank Redemption.
Speaking of things that got lost, My Vitriol have almost disappeared since releasing the double-CD version of their debut album Finelines. Seemingly knocking around in the studio forever, creating the follow-up they jokingly (I hope) referred to as “17 Movements in the Key of D Minor”, they’ve released a couple of decent tracks through MySpace, which they’re now using as an interim website. Disconcertingly the album is labelled as “Chinese Democracy”, the name of the much awaited Guns N’ Roses album which never surfaced. Let’s hope that’s their idea of a bad joke.
A review of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is up, with more to come soon.