20
Jan
2012
Civilized Discussions Between Reasonable People
Chris vs. Alex: A Successor to Lost?
Chris and Alex
Chris

While watching Fox's Promotional campaigns for J.J. Abrams' new show Alcatraz, I started thinking back to a conversation we were having a few weeks ago about the current state of television and network television in particular. Specifically, that it has been quite some time since Network Television boasted an appointment-tv, water cooler, blockbuster show. In past years, there were many: Lost, 24, Heroes, even Battlestar Galactica to an extent (even though that was Cable) immediately spring to mind. And while the overall quality of some of these shows is definitely up for debate, it's hard to deny the certain mass appeal and excitement factor they possessed, and that this quality seems in short supply among most of Network and even Cable's prime time line ups. Could it be that the day of the television equivalent of the popcorn movie has ended? Replaced by the Network procedural, and smarter, more critically acclaimed yet more niche shows on Cable? What do you make of the current state of television Alex? Am I on to something or are these the delusional ramblings of a guy who really misses Lost?

Alex

I think this is as good of a time as any to, yet again, take a moment of silence for Lost.



Thank you. Regardless of what you thought of the ending, the fact that Lost ended has left holes in many hearts. Every network has tried to emulate the success found by Lost ever since the first season of the show, some more successfully than others. The problem with many of the television shows and movies that try and jump on a bandwagon is that they didn't understand what made Lost such a runaway hit. It was a perfect storm of mystery and intriguing characters played by pitch perfect actors. The shows that tried to emulate it only had one or two of these things and they would be lucky if half of their cast was as good as Lost's. It all comes down to what you want out of your movie-style television shows. Do you want to be able to talk to almost anyone on the street about the show or at least make it have that kind of mind share? Or do you want a high quality show that is a running story? If you want the latter, then you don't need to look any further than The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. The shows that deserve discussion and dissection aren't gone yet, you just need to dig a bit to find them.

Chris

That was a nice moment Alex. And I agree with you, there are an abundance of high quality shows airing right now. And while the fact that most of them are airing on Cable does not come as a surprise, I have to admit I'm a bit sad to see that Network can't keep up anymore. I wouldn't even try and attempt to argue that the kinds of shows I'm talking about can stand up to Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones in terms of quality, or that I would prefer the former to the latter. They don't and I wouldn't. However I think the best way I can describe it, is the sort of communal enjoyment you receive from watching a film in the theater. In some ways the experience is just enhanced through the act of sharing, even if that sharing is a discussion around the water cooler, watching social media blow up, or even an overheard snippet of conversation on the street that you have to restrain yourself from joining in on and looking like a crazy person. I guess in answer to your question of whether which kind of show I want, I would have to be selfish and say I want both. I agree with you that Lost may have been the perfect storm and a lightning in a bottle type moment in television, as try as they might, fantasy and sci fi has been a quagmire for Network Television, partially because they eschew one or more of the elements that made Lost so great leaving a soul-less emulation in it's wake, and possibly because of a perceived need by the network to dumb things down for their wider audiences. Perhaps the blockbuster shows themselves even soured the very audience they once captivated. Lost polarized fans with its ending, Heroes drove fans away in its subsequent seasons faster than it drew them in with its first, and 24 ran on to the point of growing a Chuck Norris-esque mythology of parody. The deck does seem stacked against a second rise of the Network TV blockbuster, at least for the foreseeable future. Do you think there are any shows airing currently, or on the horizon that have the potential to grow into this role?

Alex

I would have to say no. I don't see any shows that, at the moment, look like they could grab a wide audience and inspire discussion like Lost, especially on Network television. They want ratings and what gets them the ratings that they want are shows like Two and a Half Men and American Idol/X Factor. As Lost went on I heard more and more people say that they didn't feel like they could watch it even if they wanted to because of the nature of the story. Even as a Lost fan, if I saw an old episode of Lost airing on TV, it would have to be one of my favorite episodes for me to want to watch it. I can't even remember the last time I saw Lost on a TV schedule. Right now, I think the closest things to Lost we have on Network TV are Fringe and Alcatraz, obviously because of J.J. Abrams involvement. Fringe is much more of a cult following kind of show and Alcatraz hasn't been out in the wild long enough to really tell what it's going to turn out as. Terra Nova finished their season and has been universally panned by critics, and from first hand experience I must agree. Even with Spielberg attached, Lost-esque mysteries, and more painted Nerf guns than I can shake a stick at, I don't think it deserves a second season. Hell, it didn't deserve a second episode. Maybe it's only J.J. Abrams who has the secret behind compelling TV shows that bring people together, while sometimes simultaneously tearing them apart. Rumblings from the new Kiefer Sutherland show Touch makes me think it has the chance to become another 24, but I can see it very easily dropping down to Heroes stupidity very quickly. Are there any shows you can think of that I missed? Why is it that these shows being on Network television is such a sticking point in this digital age when you can watch any television show online a day or so after it's been on TV?

Chris

Perhaps it's not the outlet that matters as much as it is the idea that Networks still believe there is life in the TV Drama outside of the procedural. And while I think we're safe for the time being what with shows like Fringe, The Good Wife, and perhaps Alcatraz populating the air waves, it's hard not to wonder if a certain golden age has passed. Maybe it wasn't a golden age for quality, but I think it was definitely an age of fun, where big bold and unconventional ideas ruled the day and mass followings of fans rearranged their schedules and piled uncomfortably close on limited couch space to share the experience together. In the end, the lack of a true successor for Lost probably doesn't effect the TV landscape one iota. Mine could just be the pointless musings of a an overly nostalgic fan. And while I am beyond happy to have so many high quality alternatives on cable right now, I do really hope that Network finds it's footing again at some point, if for no other reason than I'll take great TV from whatever source I can find it, and that I would love to see outlets with money to spend like the major networks taking more chances on big, exciting, and at-least-of-some quality ideas because I think it add to the overall health of TV as a storytelling medium. As for a show that has the potential to take on that mantle in the foreseeable future, I think Awake looks a bit too dark to truly have a mass appeal following. And while Alcatraz certainly has potential, I tend not to get too attached to anything on Fox, at least not until it has run for a season or two. Fantasy seems to be a genre growing in prominence but I haven't heard a great deal of buzz positive or otherwise regarding Once Upon A Time and Grimm. This is still a ways off (and I hate to sound like the comics guy here) but considering the boon they have been for Hollywood, I do think there is potential for Marvel and DC's impending forays into the world of television to fit the kind of model we've been discussing. Although given what we've seen of the aborted Wonder Woman pilot from NBC I remain skeptical at best.

Alex

I remember it wasn't but five or six years ago that I looked at the television landscape and said to myself, "My god. There are no good children's shows. My kids are going to grow up watching shitty television." Then a couple years ago a little show called Phineas and Ferb came out. And it's fantastic. Then I saw Adventure Time. And it's a spectacular show. There are some other good shows, but they don't have the consistent quality that I think Adventure Time and Phineas and Ferb have. I'll still argue that Phineas and Ferb is one of the cleverest shows on TV today. (Now allow me to go all new age for a moment.) That's when I began to think that there is an ebb and flow to TV just like the ocean and the cycle of the moon. There will be times when the TV landscape is prime and you can't imagine it getting better. Then it will start to lose its luster. But then, just when all hope is lost, an amazing TV show comes out and surprises you and faith is renewed! While it hasn't happened yet, I think that some day, maybe 2 or 3 years from now, there will be a show that takes the world by storm. I have to agree with you on the Marvel/DC television front. Mostly because Guillermo Del Toro is working on a Hulk TV show at the moment. I have an unrelenting love for most anything that man works on so I'm on board with anything he's involved in (e.g. my enjoyment of Puss in Boots as discussed during the Globes.) And for the sake of a tangent, Once Upon a Time is not a great show, but there are some saving graces for it: Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin and the fantasy world half of the show. The half of the show that takes place in "our world" is boring and that kid that's almost the center of the show is insufferable as most children in TV shows are. If you want to take a chance on Once Upon a Time just watch the episode Desperate Souls, as it has Rumplestiltskin's back-story so you get the most Carlyle for your buck.

Chris

I'm glad you reminded me about checking out Adventure Time and Phineas and Ferb as this isn't the first time you've intrigued me with such high praise. I think that's a good point about the ebb and flow, and I do really hope you are right. I guess if I think hard enough I can't even remember what was Lost before there was Lost. In the end there is so much good television to enjoy right now that the lack of a Network TV Blockbuster is easier to shrug off.



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