It is one thing for a television program to be thought-provoking or challenging to watch. It is another thing to be deliberately obtuse under the guise of creating pseudo-intellectual programming.
The LOST premiere airs in a week, and we find out why six passengers begin new lives outside the confines of their island, but the central problem existing in this year’s season is not about the destiny of the Oceanic Six. The question is: why should we care about them?
Somewhere in Season Three the writers and creators of the show began to populate their episodes with more and more people. People jumping off of helicopters, people hidden in cabins with eye patches on, people who run companies in distant cities and then shoot the daughters of their competitors. All of this just to explore the post-island life of the Oceanic Six?
New characters made it impossible to address the character-driven plotlines of Jack’s battle with addiction, Sayid’s Faustian bargain with Ben, and, lest we forget, Kate’s love life. I was too busy tracking freighters at sea and watching Charles Widmore play Citizen Kane to follow my favorite personas as they began to shape a life beyond the island.
LOST may challenge us to unravel mysteries, but it cannot make us invest in characters if distractions persist. The distractions come in the form of overpopulation. Too many characters equals too many divided loyalties among viewers. Why should we care if Ben can move the island while we’re too busy memorizing names of Freighters and watching Nikki and Paolo get buried alive?
I'm a strong advocate for thought-provoking television, but the direction of LOST has created unnecessary crowding in my mind, the kind of crowding that results when a teacher tells her students to memorize all of Shakespeare’s kids’ names but isn’t that concerned with the motivation behind King Lear’s decisions.
I urge the creators to streamline its cast so that we may once again view the show with an eye dedicated to recognizing psychological motivation. The pilot’s opening shot in which we delved into Jack’s eyes via extreme close-up comes to mind when remembering why I loved the show in the first place.
My problem and chief complaint is that now we don’t know which eyes to follow, and there are too many to track with any semblance of empathy or fascination. I can’t possibly juggle Sun’s point of view on her pregnancy with the revelation of just how horny Alex’s boyfriend is.
Thinking is one thing. Busy work is another. I believe LOST has given us worksheets and drills rather than posing discussion questions worthy of the water cooler on Thursday morning.
But perhaps Season 5 will be different. The bad news is that more new characters are being introduced this year. Perhaps the concept of the Oceanic Six should be altered. How can we possibly focus on six people when sixty characters roam the island? This show may be the first program to garner support for artistic birth control.
Ask us to think. Don’t ask us to memorize. Better yet, don’t test us at all. I still don’t understand how that slave ship landed in the middle of the island, and I have no clue what the statue of the foot with the four toes is supposed to represent. What makes me sad is that now I don’t even care. I’m too busy listing character names in a spreadsheet.