How Harry Potter Ruined 'Lost'
Lost started out as a happy accident. Originally conceived as a dramatic Gilligan's Island, the powers that be brought in some script retoolers. Those young dudes added a bit of hocus pocus because right now weird sells. It sold enough to earn an Emmy, countless spinoffs and legion websites. There is now, for those of you who can't get enough, a a bi-monthly magazine covering the show in excruciating Tiger Beat detail. Many of us who have tuned in from the first roar of the now-forgotten beast are now puzzled over the non-events in Button Down The Hatch and seriously wondering how many colonics it takes for J.J. Abrams to write this show. Why are we so picky? Why are we not sitting back and enjoying the ride?
I blame Harry Potter. There are now six books in that series, and readers everywhere (Brittney, what are you waiting for?) have fallen in love with them. The first time you read the books you're definitely surprised by the amount of forethought and structure J.K. Rowling gives them. A character who barely rates a mention in the first book becomes an integral part in subsequent books. What may seem like a mere decorative element in one story line will--three or four books later--turn into the lynchpin which drives the series. This intricate plotting and investment in story arc is a longstanding literary construct. It has its roots in Judaic folklore and can be seen in works as diverse as The Arabian Nights , Tom Jones** and Les Miserables. However, it seems to be a dying art in postmodern American fiction. My initial excitement over Lost was largely because that was what Abrams et al were promsing the audience. (I certainly don't keep tuning in for the CheeseKate glimpses of Evangeline Lilly in wet shirts and towels.) They've flirted with the idea of a detailed continuity and Moebius-strip arc many times. TiVos across the country are worn out with the task of spotting the "look, here's Hurley in Sun & Jin's Flashback" moments. How many of us were glued to the screen hunting for the tattoo on the shark's arse? Yet I can't help but feel this trail of breadcrumbs leads...nowhere. Maybe before Harry Potter we'd all have been fine with the smoke and mirrors. Now we're spoiled for finely woven fabric.
Which you'll get if you flip the channel over to Veronica Mars. There is hope for the arc-driven show. If only I could still hope for Lost.
**As far as I'm concerned, Tom Jones is the finest piece of English literary fiction ever written.