In a recent interview, Joel McHale, the host of The Soup on E!, said, “Our mantra is that 90 percent of all television is bad, and ten percent has never been better.” I couldn’t put it any better. While the worst shows on television used to be unfunny, yet harmless, sitcoms, we now have shows like Tila Tequila, the Kardashians, The Moment of Truth, etc. However, while the nadir of TV has never been depressing, the cream of the crop has similarly “never been better.” It seems that, finally, networks and TV writers have figured out that television provides a unique opportunity for long-form serial dramas. The Sopranos, The Wire, 24, The Shield, Heroes, Lost and others have taken advantage of the serial format in ways older series never even attempted. Despite the overwhelming amount of crap currently on our airwaves, it is a great time to be a TV fan. One of the big reasons for this is Lost. With The Wire and The Sopranos off the air, I can confidently say that Lost is the best drama on TV, or at least the most ambitious. Film school students will be studying Lost for decades; never has a show experimented more with structure, broken formula, and used their rebelliousness in such a flawless manner.
While a lot of episodes of Lost stay true to a similar formula (on-island action, then flash back or forward to off-the-island), the show has gotten away from that more and more as the series has gone along. The Desmond episodes, the introduction of the Tailies, the Sun and Jin dual flash back/flash forward; the list goes on. One of scripted television’s little secrets is that 99% of all episodes of the same series will follow the exact same format. Beat by beat, commercial break by commercial break, it’s a well-worn formula, whether it’s CSI or Two and a Half Men. Or, at least, that’s the way it used to be. TV writers, on the best shows, are experimenting. Lost has been a leader in this revolution, toying with the intricacies of its formula on a weekly basis. It’s done this since the beginning and, even if you haven’t noticed it, it’s kept the show fresh.
This lengthy introduction has a point: Lost now faces its greatest task yet, thanks to where the story left off in the season 4 finale. It will have to reinvent itself, the way it structures episodes, because they’ve painted themselves into a tricky little corner. Whereas every season so far has had one major timeline to jump off from into flash backs and flash forwards, season 5 will have two. In seasons one through four, Lost had the constant of having all of the survivors on the island. Now, as we look forward to season 5, Lost has two sets of timelines, more than two years apart (it could be three years, but I’m leaving open the possibility that the island jumped ten months into the future, like Ben).
There are those remaining on the island, mainly Locke, Sawyer, Juliet, Charlotte, Miles, the Others and (maybe) Dan and Jin. Then, in the future, we have Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley, Sun, and Ben. Inferring from interviews with Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, it’s clear that there will still be flash forwards and flash backs, meaning that we’re going to see stories in an additional timeline to the two already noted.
It’s a confusing mess. The “present” on Lost has always been the action on the island. The season 4 finale gave me the feeling that the new “present” may be Jack and Ben attempting to get the Oceanic 6 back to the island. Will the action we see from the island next season become the “past?” It’s a conundrum, and there are multiple ways in which Lost might go about solving it. I’ve come up with what I believe to be the five most likely options. Click below to take a look.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of ABC)