I normally don’t watch TV dramas or procedurals. They are dull and predictable. I started making exceptions for supernatural sexy teen angst shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but really the entire series is silly.
I have done some binge watching of TV shows — I once watched 20 episodes of Lost in 26 hours. That show is well-executed and produced, and I really don’t mind the supernatural aspects of the show even though the flashbacks are mostly dull. Recently I’ve started re-watching episodes of Lost — skipping through the flashbacks and taking notes on what worked well and how the show managed to be what it became. There’s a lot to hate about the story, but for certain scenes, I just think the writers must think TV watchers are idiots.
Take this example:
Season 3 opener features a group of scientists doing all kinds of suspicious research (medical and otherwise) on an island. They hear and see a jetliner heading for an inevitable crash on the island. Under these circumstances, how would the scientists react? Do they:
- send out some of their people to the crash scene to offer assistance?
- ignore the crash entirely and return to their normal business?
- Send out some of their own people to pretend to be crash victims so they can spy and report back?
If you chose option 3, congratulations! You have the limited imagination of a TV writer.
Even if you assume that these researchers from the Dharma Initiative are semi-evil or hostile or reluctant to socialize, having them pretend to be crash victims is pretty much the dumbest thing you can do under the circumstances. Yet it’s necessary for the plot. It makes me realize that the show I’m watching is essentially silly and manipulative and that hours of Bergman and Sembene Ousmane are still waiting to be watched.
I sometimes enjoy escapism and shallow conflicts and characters. I just want it to make sense.
Can you imagine the same Lost show if 1)there were no guns, 2)all the main characters were uglier and older, 3)people weren’t always dying at someone else’s hand? and 4)people weren’t always trying to remove bullets with silverware or their hands? How strange that we watch such silly shows when our own lives are already packed with turmoil and frustrations. Don’t underestimate the dramatic or comic potential of our mundane lives.
It’s unfair to compare a book to a TV show, but being stranded on an island offers a lot of drama already. How do you find food and water? How do you handle health and hygiene? How do you not get depressed or bored? How do you use your creativity or ingenuity to fix things and come up with stopgap solutions? That is exciting stuff– and that’s why Robinson Crusoe was such a great read.
Contrast that with Lost where you have to throw in evil scientists, psychotic killers, imaginary predators, time travel and the fact that everyone is boinking everyone else as indiscriminately as a porn film.
Later, I will try to explain the things about Lost which actually work well. For now though, let’s marvel at how gullible most TV shows think we are.