Everyone has pet peeves. For fans of most TV shows, a few tired clichés can ruin a whole story arc the way a few crumbs can ruin a comfortable bed. Pet peeves are neural pathways that have frayed like old telephone wires. Every time two contentious office mates almost share their first kiss only to be interrupted by a door opening, a baby crying or a Blackberry buzzing, little sparks just shoot out of those frayed wires somewhere up in my noggin and my teeth start grinding all by themselves. It's just spooky.
That’s what happened Wednesday night on Lost when typically brilliant producers David Lindelof and Carlton Cuse tried to draw on a little island magic to make me forgive them for stepping right on top of my biggest TV pet peeve. Sure, I can forgive my dad for always leaving the tab popped out of the slot on top of the cereal box. But this is the same pet peeve that turned me off of one-time favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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I always knew that John Locke was going to continue to be a character. I mean, sure, I might have been gullible enough to open that Yahoo! message entitled “Did you get my last email? It’s urgent that I talk to you.” But I’m not dumb. For one thing Terry O’Quinn’s contract wasn’t up and he wasn’t doing interviews about what a wonderful experience he had. Here’s where I got duped. The show has flashbacks, flash forwards, visions and ghosts. I thought they might actually take Locke’s character in a completely unexpected direction. It’s not like Lindelof and Cuse didn’t take their time setting this old rug pull gag up.
First they showed us the Locke In The Box. Like a random audience member at a magic show Jack walked all the way around the box, tapped on it, the whole routine. Once an entire fall and six episodes past without John coming up for air we knew he wasn’t holding his breath in there. There was a suicide note, an airport screening. We even went back and saw him swaying from a noose. The man was gone, solid gone. Right?
Here's the thing: I hate it when writers kill off characters - or make it look as though they died - just to bring them back. I stopped watching 24
because Jack Bauer appeared to die at the end of every single episode. Every time he would get shot, fall off of a three story building, turn his head and gasp I would just say “Exactly how stupid do you think I am? He’s Jack Bauer. It’s the fourth episode of the season. I’m sure he’ll live.”
Maybe it was no worse than the 1960s Batman
where Adam West would appear to get turned into a giant snow cone or crushed by the paws of a giant kitten clock at the midpoint of every two part episode but that was always in the spirit of fun. When my dad used to watch that show as a kid my grandfather would hold up the evening paper and say “Batman actually died this time. It was in the paper.” But I think my dad was the only one who really fell for that gag. For some reason I always feel like the executive producer of 24
, Joel Surnow, is insulting my intelligence.
Don't even get me started on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. I love Joss Whedon. Joss is brilliant. But I was shocked - tears in my eyes, mouth hanging open - just absolutely floored. I don't know if I've ever been so moved by a television episode as I was by “The Gift.” That inscription. “She saved the world… a lot.” And then in the next season premiere - just one episode later - one bloody episode - Whedon brings her back from the dead like it's no big thing? All I know is this. At the end of Season 5 Buffy was my favorite show. I still haven't seen the final episode. I think it was "The Gift."
No, I’m not going to stop watching Lost. Fans who cry that every time their favorite producer forgets to put the cap back on the Coke bottle sound a bit silly. Lindelof and Cuse have earned a lot of good will over the years by refusing to adhere to that old network production maxim that fans are like milkshakes – a bit thick. However, here’s where they really got cute: They pulled the same trick just last week when Jin greeted everyone on the beach. They almost did the same thing a third time by showing Locke get into a horrible car accident and slump over with blood pouring out of his forehead. Three times in about 43 minutes of show? I’m not afraid to say it. That’s just lame.
How about this? What if the Bentham box had nose dived out of the plane and planted itself in the sand, Jack and Kate had buried it and everyone had held a touching service. As Locke - excuse the word - decomposed he would have become a part of the island itself. If he'd then shown up as a part of the island - the way the Smoke Monster or the polar bear or the time distortion are part of the island - that would have made perfect sense to me. In fact, you could ever have convinced me that had been the producers plan from the beginning and that it explained why Locke had always had such a special relationship with the island. They just would have had to commit to making him a supernatural or shadowy presence.
At the end of the day, it's Lost. If you expect David Lindelof to play by a clear and predictable set of rules you're going to be disappointed. The man may be setting himself up as the biggest goat in the history of television if we get to the final episode and it still doesn't make sense. Bigger than Donald P. Belisario. Bigger than David Lynch. Bigger than David Chase. You sensing a pattern here? They're all D names. But until that happens the only sane thing to do is sort of shrug when stuff like this happens. Lindelof and Cuse are acting like they can get away with stuff because they’re the clever, special kids in ABC’s classroom. But like most people who do stuff that’s beneath them because they think they’re clever enough to get away with it they’re probably right. They just shouldn’t expect a puffy Snoopy sticker for sloppy work.
-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of ABC)