I meant to post this earlier, but forgot. In his column a couple of weeks ago, Steven Grant lead with this bit of news about my (formerly) favorite show of all time, Lost:
“Word came down last week that ABC’s former hit series, LOST (Wed 10P), one of the handful of shows credited with turning the network’s fortunes around a few years back, is in trouble. Seems viewership, already down this year, dropped off badly for the return episode two weeks ago – it was supposed to be calculated to bring everyone up to date and jumpstart interest, and generally got good reviews from TV critics – and lost about a quarter of that audience by last week, prompting open if unofficial suggestions from ABC that all mysteries might be wrapped up by season’s end, with the implication it could also be the series end as well if things don’t start looking up.”
He then goes on to lay out this concise analysis of what’s been turning fans off about the show:
“Too many storylines, too many questions, too few resolutions.”
That, in a nutshell, is why I’ve become quite disillusioned with the show as well. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pan the show because it’s still light years beyond the majority of the crap on TV. The creators deserve a lot of credit for concocting an amazingly intricate and fascinating mystery, a fantastic cast of multicultural characters with rich back stories, and just really solid, skillful writing. But the show has become a victim of its own success. In order to keep it on the air for years to come, they’ve fallen into the The X-Files trap of stretching out the main storyline infinitely, constantly introducing new plot elements, but never answering any of their audience’s questions.
“Structurally, here’s the problem with stories like LOST. It’s what I call the “Master Of Kung Fu” concept: catch or kill Fu Manchu, and the series’ reason to exist ends. Don’t catch or kill Fu Manchu, and the protagonists ultimately come across as impotent, whatever minor victories they might achieve. “
If the ratings drop really is accurate, and there’s any truth to the rumors that the show might be winding up by the end of this season or the next, then I’d welcome that as real good news for the fans. Because frankly, I’d rather have a planned exit, tying up all the loose ends and bringing the story to its intended conclusion, than an unceremonious cancellation or worse yet, a painful decline into irrelevance, a la The X-Files.
By the way, Steven also writes a bit about the “parabolic arc” nature of a story, using Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow as an effective analogy. Good stuff, especially for you writer types.