Tuesday, October 18, 2005

At last! Life beyond Big Brothers!

Lost and the dream of a Casual Employee Academy on TV

The success of television series Lost is consolation for those who had resigned themselves to an entertainment industry increasingly confined to weak storylines, effortless plots, one-fold characters, and more and more dumbness. And that is happening in America, home of the recent success of top-of-the-bland Desperate Housewives and Sex & the City, easy, straightforward fodder to a public that is always presumed undemanding and with an extremely unsophisticated mind.

is showing instead that we’re not all brain-dead: it is possible to produce extremely commercial television together with some intensity and an astonishing level of character development. That also brings some fresh air to the UK audience. In this country, even the sociologist of Big Brother 1 was deemed too clever and sophisticated and was duly done away with lest the product end up being too boring!

So in a world dominated by Big Brothers, X-Factor, Celebrity Island and the lot branded as “reality-TV” (How about a Temping Idol or Casual Employee Academy…get the audience to decide who gets a permanent contract, so much for “reality-TV”!) you’d wonder how the premise of strangers stuck on a desert island could possibly sustain a weekly series. And yet creators J.J.Abrams and Damon Lindelof came up with an intriguingly textured concept that is proving a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic.

For the first time in a generation of TV series (Twin Peaks now a distant memory), all characters appear as if they actually hailed from this world instead of having that monotonously superficial out-of-this-world gloss typical of US-generated TV entertainment. This time there’s so much room for subjectivity, so many layers and emotional components that you get right into it from the word go. In Lost it doesn’t matter if Jack & co. originate from Wall Street or Beverly Hills: each single character can barely shake off their deep flaws and insecurities, whether it’s their cryptic past they’re concealing, their inscrutable psyche or childhood fuck-ups.

And the success of Lost is to be attributed to a straightforward factor: we all find ourselves stranded with emotional baggage throwbacks and memories you’re trying to leave behind. You try and find yourself again, it’d be more like crashing into a desert island.

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