I have to admit that I only tuned into Lost’s season premier because most of my friends on Facebook were so eager for the Wednesday night “event” (as ABC calls it) that I caught the fever and did something I haven’t done in five years.
I set the timer on the VCR. (Hey, I’m old school. I haven’t invested in TiVo yet.)
When I rewound the tape and watched the program, what impressed me most were the generous efforts of executive producers and writers to let us in on their secrets and invite us to enjoy the adventures with the characters, all with full (okay, maybe partial) knowledge of what was happening.
The highlight of the first hour came, of course, from Sawyer, whom I shall now assume is supposed to represent Everyman. When physicist Daniel Faraday refuses to tell him what’s going on as the stranded castaways find themselves traipsing through the jungle once again, the redneck from Tallahassee (sans shirt) gets fed up with the condescension and the cryptic replies and does something we’ve all been yearning to do since the second season. He slaps Faraday. Hard.
Faraday cries out in indignation, “These things would be hard for me to explain even to an advanced member of my academic field! How can I possibly explain them to you?”
Sawyer refused to accept that excuse, and so did we. And then something extraordinary happened. The physicist told Sawyer what was going on. And if you're a fan of the story of Flight Oceanic 815, you know this is a very big deal.
Faraday became what on some shows is the most annoying character: "Exposition Guy."
You all know who “Exposition Guy” is. He doesn’t get a cool cape or a superpower. He usually dons glasses or walks with a limp. He’s the scholar or commander or surgeon on the show who tells the intern what the complicated procedures mean as the camera follows him dutifully through his library or the corridor.
As educated viewers I shouldn’t have to remind you that this technique dates back to Shakespeare and earlier — a writer inserts several servants gossiping about the “state of things” in Act I so that we, the audience, can realize the central premise of the coming conflict and get prepared.
Sometimes “Exposition Guy (or Girl)” goes overboard. Sometimes we feel like he or she is being condescending or patronizing. We might even change the channel or refill the potato chip bowl as the character “holds forth” for a good five to seven minutes, explaining exactly what the nature of the disease or, in the case of sci-fi programming, what the monster’s weakness is and how dangerous it will be to defeat it. We, in our pop culture bubble of knowledge, don’t want to feel like the producers think we’re stupid.
But then Lost aired on ABC, and after three years, I wanted the writers to remember that I didn’t have a graduate degree in physics.
Okay, okay, I admit it! I need Daniel Faraday. I am not annoyed by Daniel Faraday. I want to hand Daniel Faraday a medal and thank him for acknowledging that I… oh dear, this is embarrassing, but here goes… don’t know exactly how the space-time continuum operates when it begins to “slip” from its linear progression. I don’t always want to race to the Internet (see Popular Mechanics’ blog titled “Lost for Dummies: Your Must-Have Science Glossary on New Island Mysteries!”) for explanations on wormholes in order to enjoy an hour of television.
By letting Sawyer know the truth, we were able to have fun without throwing our hands up or begrudgingly seeking some online forum to explain to us why their camp or the hatch disappears and then reappears.
Call me a simpleton. Call me lazy. But I champion the producers and writers for letting us all experience season five together. For not building an ivory tower of scholarship around the central questions of the show and then telling the guy from Tallahassee he isn’t smart enough to hear the answers.
And this week that’s change I can believe in. Thank you, Lost, for letting some us be found.