03 February, 2010

Finding a Home on the Island

Lost has been perhaps the only material constant that I’ve had in my adult life. As the final season begins, I look back not only on the show and its multiple arcs (and realities, apparently), but also upon where I’ve gone through this show. I’m not going to comment on these characters or not, as this is a little more personal than that, and those are beyond my control. Indeed, the visceral thrill of watching this show wouldn’t be the same if I had any sort of say over the characters (though I would never have introduced Nikki and Paolo); it would not be as high of a quality if I, a nonprofessional writer at this moment, chose to direct the flow of a multi-million dollar franchise to its rightful conclusion. Rather, I would prefer to reflect on the events in my life and how they have coincided with this show. 

While watching this show, I have lived in four different states and in four different apartments, worked at three different universities, been in two serious relationships, got a new car, bought a condo, and tattooed my body with an image from my favorite band. I’ve quit (buying) comic books, smoking, fast food, driving to work and class, and a good deal of my alcohol consumption. I’ve started biking, eating healthy, drinking tea, and growing the gray hairs I’ve earned through grading, writing, and presenting at conferences, with a set of publications hopefully imminent. All this has been done ever since September 2004, with much of my life truly taking flight in 2007. I have lived with this show long enough to miss it whenever it’s gone, and welcome it back with open arms like a member of the family. I’ve grown up with it, and placed myself in a position where I will be a better person at the end of the show (though not because of it, although that’s an arguable point).
There are not many shows that we as a viewing public can do that with anymore, and it’s frustrating for some people. My parents grew up with Gunsmoke and M*A*S*H, and I can remember coming home from school to catch animated shows like Batman and The Simpsons, living through my adolescent torment with Friends and Seinfeld, and quickly eschewing them like snake skins for brighter lights on 24 (very hit-and-miss), Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Yet none of them compares with Lost for me. Yes, 24 (and later Alias) had all the requisite action and production values of the show, while Buffy and Angel featured characters that I would gladly follow across the planet with dialogue that stung. But I missed out on Alias, Buffy, and Angel when they began, catching up through DVD; yes, I experienced it with the characters, but I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat praying for a whole year to go by to get back to the story and characters and action. Lost is the synthesis of that for me, combining those three elements with a unique narrative (non-linear) that forced me to question exactly what I had seen, and I followed it along through its inception to its final note. Nothing came too easily on this program, and it helped educate me on what quality writing and production could accomplish. It’s hard to go back to those old shows now when the lush greens and blues of the island call forth, and it’s made me demand more from my television experience. It’s probably the last time I’ll be able to make those demands on a broadcast network.

It’s also a show I came into and experienced with different groups of friends while going through some of the best and worst times in my life. The show began as I was dating one girl, got engaged by Season Two, and broke up with her after Season Three, moving back home to work a crappy job if I could find one because I didn’t have a backup plan for this. My own sense of disorientation had clouded my life, and I didn’t know where I was going. In some respects, Lost was in the same position since the writers had no long-term agenda for the show beyond making money, and ABC (the network where Lost plays on Tuesdays 10pm/9 central, JUST SAYING) obviously wanted to milk the cow for all it was worth. The writers were able to negotiate an end date for the show, and the story picked up and moved forward in incredibly exciting ways. Around that time, I too found myself back on my feet and able to move forward with my life. Of course this can’t be attributed to the show’s trajectory, but it does feel nice to know that a show I loved fought adversity at the same time I did, and both of us came out the other end leaner and better for it. Now, I still don’t know exactly where I’m going to end up (no one does), but I know that I will enjoy the ride there more than ever, and the feeling is mutual with the show. When it ends, I will know that the time is right, and I will move on to find other shows that I love and watch obsessively (I’m looking at you, Mad Men and Friday Night Lights). But this season, I plan on enjoying every bit of information and misdirection, wondering exactly where I will end up when this show ends its run in May. Believe me, there is a plan, you should just stick around to see what it will be.

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