TV Q&AAsk Matt
(from the Ask Matt
column at TVGuide.com
)The Lost Season Finale, Plus Veronica Mars and On the Lot
By Matt Roush TV Guide
critic Friday, June 1, 2007Question:
I seem to recall a certain TV critic saying that Lost would essentially be over the moment they got off the island. After the amazing season finale, what are your thoughts? Do you think the show should go back to the island? Obviously there is something left there for Jack to want to go back to. DanMatt Roush:
Never has eating my words felt more delicious. I never would have believed they'd move the story this far forward so soon, but now that they've done it, I'll be on pins and needles until February or until Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse give us a better picture (without giving too much away, I trust) of how the stories will be told from this point out. I'm thinking this is far from the end of the story that Jack's desire to get back to the island means there are more adventures in the future as well as in the middle, piecing together what happened during and after the rescue to get these characters to this point. Who knows? This twist really does change everything, and in a potentially good way. I can't remember being more exhilarated at the finale of just about anything.
A public service announcement to the reader: Much of this column, no surprise, will deal with various aspects of the Lost finale. Indulge me. It's going to be a long wait between seasons.Question:
I just finished reading your review of the season-ending episode of Lost, and I couldn't agree with you more. Everything about the episode was phenomenal. I was on the edge of my sofa the entire two hours. I recently read that the producers and ABC had agreed that the series would end in 2010 and that for the next three years, they would be airing 16 episodes uninterrupted from February until the end of each season. Speaking as an extremely dedicated fan, and particularly after viewing the season finale, having to wait until February borders on cruel and unusual punishment. The producers have indicated that they can wrap up the story within the next 48 episodes. A normal season order for a drama series is between 22 to 24 episodes. It therefore stands to reason that the story could be wrapped up in two years instead of three, particularly if ABC agreed to broadcasting 24 episodes uninterrupted starting in January, just like Fox does with 24. While I applaud both ABC and the producers of Lost for their commitment to bring the story to its intended conclusion, stretching the series to three years (by airing a reduced number of episodes) serves no valid purpose. The fans are forced to wait an extremely long time in order to view their series. Meanwhile, the network has to plug "filler" series to take the place of Lost until the new episodes start airing. Please tell me that this programming decision by ABC and the producers is logical and not simply an attempt by the network to milk the popularity of a series longer than normal while asking the fans to suffer through the resulting delays. Mark S.Matt Roush:
If it were up to ABC, I'm sure they'd love to run all 48 of the remaining Lost hours concurrently without any break. It's hardly a case of "milking" a show's popularity when you risk stalling its momentum with such long breaks. The reality, though, is that nothing is easy where Lost's production or scheduling is concerned. Have you even watched the show? Can you imagine what it takes to pull off something this complicated and with such incredible production values? Allowing the producers more time to make a more limited number of episodes per season essentially gives them more control over quality, as opposed to the usual assembly-line approach to churning out American TV that results in so much mediocrity and sameness. From this point on, I think it's most helpful to look at Lost the way we do many cable series. They air a limited number of episodes and are off the air for long periods, but when they return, it's an event. That's certainly going to be the case when Lost comes back after this jaw-dropping finale.Question:
I wanted to get your opinion about a sinking feeling I've had since the Lost finale. Like you, I think it was an incredible two hours of television: gripping story, incredible performances. But the final scenes left me deflated about the long-terms plans for the story. Primarily the hopelessness that seems to face the castaways' heroic, even if flawed, leader Jack. One of the things I love about Lost is the running theme of hope hope for redemption and rescue, where occasionally you feel that there are good things ahead for the Oceanic survivors, even if they're still confined to that island home. But the final reveal left me feeling nothing but sadness for Jack and what the survivors apparently had to go through after the events near the radio tower (unnamed as of yet, but clearly ominous). Do I really want to watch the next three years, assured by this season's finale that there is such unhappiness ahead, at least for Jack, once he has achieved the rescue he promised the survivors? I'm such a fan of the show that I can't imagine abandoning it for this reason, but I can honestly say part of me is dreading what's ahead. I'm hoping to read in interviews from the producers that the new "flash-forward" concept is malleable, that maybe we'll learn the future is not set in stone. I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on this. Suzanne K.Matt Roush:
You're right to be nervous. Nervous isn't such a bad thing. This is the best kind of a cliff-hanger, an emotional one that leaves us not only wondering but truly fearful about what's next. As I noted in my first response, I'm not convinced that what we saw in this episode is the end of the characters' story, far from it. And tragedy has been an element of Lost from the start, though also leavened with hope (as illustrated most brilliantly this season in the Hurley episode and his drive in the van, which was nicely echoed in his thrilling rescue in the finale). Who's to say that everyone ended up as badly as Jack? We don't even know how many got off the island at this point. So many questions, good and meaty ones, too (unlike the smoke monster). And given that Jack's impulse is to "go back" as the episode went to black, I didn't see it as hopeless at all. Don't lose faith. Not yet anyway.Question:
I'm really surprised that you and so many people seemed to love the Lost finale and the whole "game-changer." I've been a devoted fan from the beginning. I defended the first half of this season, rejoiced in the brilliance of the second half and was expecting the best finale yet. But to change things up by showing what happens to Jack after he gets off the island feels like a cheat. Don't get me wrong, I loved the rest of the episode. It was incredible and still the best thing on TV, but it just left me with such a hollow feeling at the end. It reminded me of the season finale of Alias when Sydney woke up two years later. I felt cheated out of seeing the progression of the characters and seeing the pivotal moments, and the subsequent season fell well short of making up for that. I know there are several ways the next three seasons can go from here, but if it focuses too much on this dim future, I will be heartbroken. Leaving the island so quickly just feels like someone read me the last page of a really great novel while I was only halfway through. Kimberly C.[Matt Roush:
Another justifiable fear, though I caution anyone from turning against any show just because another show that took a similar leap (in this case, Alias) ultimately blew it. Much as I loved Alias, it's no Lost. Going back again to the first question, one critical perception that I will maintain throughout the life of the show: The island is the franchise. Lost is about what happened to these fascinating characters on the island. This flash-forward just gives us a new framework from which to tell those stories. I think.
This does, however, prompt me to share this observation, from Barry C.: "Thank you for your comments regarding the Lost finale. As I was reading them, the phrase from Jack, 'We have to go back,' all of a sudden reminded me of the scene near the end of Brigadoon where the two guys are back in New York in a bar and decide that they have to go back to Scotland to find Brigadoon. Not sure why, but that just sort of jumped into my head."
Not just Brigadoon, but the Shangri-La of Lost Horizon (the book, the film, even the hilariously awful musical). I love the fact that there is literary precedent for this sort of fabled retreat, and no one can question that there's magic on this island. (Even the title of the finale, "Through the Looking Glass," evokes Lewis Carroll's vision of a wonderland.)Question:
I am saddened and angered about the way that the Lost producers chose to end Charlie's death story line. They mentioned in interviews that they felt his death would be the best way to end Desmond's premonitions and that the fans would be cheated if Charlie didn't die. What about those of us who feel cheated that they killed Charlie, those of us who hoped that Charlie could overcome his fate? What about the feel of the episodes of "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" and "Par Avion"? Looking back at those episodes makes me feel depressed as opposed to the hope for Charlie that I felt before. What kind of message are they sending? That fate trumps free will? That we are all destined to do something, and we have no say in it? They also mentioned in one of the interviews that they felt that there wasn't more to say or do with Charlie. I disagree wholeheartedly. Charlie is more than just a character who overcame his heroin addiction. They could have shown Charlie being reborn after his incident in the hatch and the Looking Glass. He could have finished the church that he started with Eko. His relationship with Claire and Aaron could have been further explored. They could tell us what happened to his mom, and why his dad invoked so much fear in the "Fire and Water" episode, his codependency issues, explained the deal with being able to swim or not, etc. Killing him was just a sign of being uncreative. The producers also mentioned that with Charlie's death they are saying to the audience that no one is safe. I disagree. Everyone expects characters that do not have that much screen time to die. If they really wanted to shock the audience, they should have killed someone on the A Team (Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer), and not one of the characters whose death we have been told about for months now. Killing Charlie was just anticlimactic, to be honest. Charlie brought a lot to the show that others do not. His relationships with other characters and the way he always wanted to be involved with the goings-on on the island made Charlie a much better character than any of the dreaded A Team and their love triangle of doom. They did a great disservice to the fans, and I hope that they get what they deserve because of it. SabrinaMatt Roush:
Oh, chill. I appreciate how strongly you obviously feel about this, but "I hope they get what they deserve"? Give me a break. I'm aware of the "save the junkie" movement that got underway after Desmond first predicted Charlie's death, but as I noted in my postfinale Dispatch (and I'm sticking to it): "When a beloved character dies on a show, the payoff had better be worth the risk. In this case, it was." Set aside ridiculous nit-picking about whether Charlie might have been able to swim through the window; this was an elegant, heroic, beautiful way to go. I'm tired of fans always accusing shows for being "uncreative" and "anticlimactic" (the latter doesn't even make sense) any time a popular character is written off. It so doesn't apply in this case. The fact that Charlie wasn't killed the previous week, in an episode that was a tribute to his character, made his sacrifice in the finale even more moving. To me, anyway. The die-hard Charlie fans were never going to be happy about this decision. But Lost's producers are adamant that the sting of death will continue to affect this show and its characters. Personally, I was more worried about Bernard, Jin and Sayid on the beach. I expect more casualties before the series is over, perhaps even among what you call the "A Team," but I hope we can deal with each one like adults when the time comes.Question:
There's no two ways about it: Lost's finale was fantastic. The acting, writing, direction, everything was near perfect. But I do have one gripe: the hype over the so-called "game changer"/"snake in the mailbox." I love the idea and I'm glad they're doing it, since I grew tired of the flashbacks a while ago, but I think that specific aspect of the finale was overhyped and not what was promised. Ever since you discussed the idea of flashing forward in your column, it's what I expected would eventually happen. The thought that that was the "game changer" never even occurred to me, and I'd have been more annoyed if the reveal of Naomi's boat had been spoiled than I would have been over the format change. This is hardly something that's exclusive to Lost, so my question is this: What do you think of the hype these shows receive? And do you think instead of trying to raise people's expectations by making promises, the writers should just let the story sell itself? Kane C.Matt Roush:
In a perfect world, which this most certainly isn't, shows could exist without hype. But being in the media (which is to say, hype) business, I'd be disingenuous if I didn't say that there's value in the tease as well. It's part of the fun of watching shows like this, not to mention writing about them. Yes, it can be overdone, and the danger in pumping up expectations with phrases like "snake in the mailbox" is that it often leads to disappointment, though I still can't fathom how anyone could be let down by Lost's ultimate twist, even if you believed the show would eventually jump forward in time. I often think the networks are their own worst enemies in the way they promote shows' cliff-hangers and "someone's going to die" story lines, but on those rare occasions when a show lives up to the hype, I can find myself in an unexpectedly forgiving mood. Bottom line, though: Don't judge a show by its hype. Enjoy a show for what it is, not for how it's being sold to you. You'll be much better off.Question:
This is in response to a letter someone wrote about on-screen chemistry. First you said that Juliet was the best thing to happen to Lost since Season 1. I've got to disagree. While I enjoy Juliet a lot (and I'd put Desmond ahead of her), at the top of the list of great things to happen to Lost is Ben. Michael Emerson is a revelation. As for chemistry, I'd submit another "couple": the Hurley-Charlie-Jin friendship. From some interviews it seems that Dominic Monaghan, Jorge Garcia and Daniel Dae Kim are friends in real life, and this translates to the screen as one of the most authentic friendships on TV. In the midst of all the drama and horror on Lost, it's good to be reminded, as we were in "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead," that real joy is also possible. Seeing Jin, Hurley and Charlie whistling the theme from Bridge on the River Kwai and telling ghost stories around the campfire at the beginning of "Catch-22" was a great gift to the audience. In a media world where most relationships are either romantic or antagonistic, it's great to remember the simple joys of friendship. JeffMatt Roush:
No argument here. Thanks for pointing out that not all chemistry need be sexual, or fraught with tension. And for the reminder that, once again, there's not an ensemble cast in all of TV that compares to this wildly diverse and captivating tribe of castaways.Question:
What did you think of the Veronica Mars finale? I've seen a lot of anger from fans since it did not wrap up the series neatly, but I really loved it. The Castle mystery was dark and personal, just like Lilly Kane's murder in Season 1. Veronica was once again an outcast at school, and her personal decisions once again affected everyone around her, including her dad. The final shot of her walking in the rain alone illustrated perfectly the noirish aspect of this show. In Veronica's world, things would never get wrapped up perfectly. Veronica could never get married and live happily ever after in the finale. The privileged and corrupted would always be in power, and Veronica and Keith would always have to fight the good fight to bring justice to the little guys. I'm so happy that I discovered this little show through your recommendation. LukeMatt Roush:
Because of my most insane May ever, I had to leapfrog over several episodes to get to the finale, which I watched about a week late. (Had to prioritize between season finales and the first wave of the summer-TV glut, and a dead show rarely comes in first.) But when I did watch, I liked what I saw. I agree with pretty much everything Luke says here. The episode was solid, if a bit busy, and a tidier finish wouldn't have suited the Veronica I know. Life is messy, and not all endings are happy. Yes, it was a bit of a downer to think that her exploits helped cost Keith the election, but I like how the show got back to the outside-underdog vibe, and the final rain shot (in San Diego?) was a nice, if bittersweet, noir moment. Again, no way to satisfy all (if any) fans with an episode like this, especially in light of the imminent cancellation, but it left me respecting the show more than I had in a while.
On another Veronica Mars matter, here's this from Lee H.: "I do agree with the majority of your comments in the May 25 column [link] on the late Veronica, but I do have a question to ask in response to your most recent words on the show. Looking back at the promos the CW gave each episode, do you believe they really gave it a fair shot in that regard? It seems to me they never really knew how to promote the show. Mars' best ratings this season came with "Spit and Eggs," the only episode of Season 3 to have ads with that "noir" feeling. The rest all seemed to try to disguise it as the next big teen drama. Shouldn't the C-dub have learned from the ratings hit of "Spit" and tried to capitalize on that?"
Promos are unlikely to make or break a show. Veronica in particular was a show whose tone cynical yet romantic, dark and twisty yet funny, and smart is especially hard to capture in a promo or even a marketing campaign. In this case, it boils down to being the wrong show on the wrong kind of network, the CW being a network that does better with the Pussycat Dolls than with a character who'd most likely mock their very existence. Going back to last week's discussion, Veronica Mars may not have been too smart for the room, but it was probably way too cool.Question:
Have you been watching On the Lot? I have never before seen a show do such an unfortunate 180. What the hell are they thinking? Last week it was a unique and interesting competition with a lot of promise; this week it's an American Idol wannabe: same tedious recaps of the judges' comments, same irritating "after the break" setups, and an even more annoying host. We don't get to see the filmmaking process anymore, and we don't get to know the contestants' personalities. It's like they took all the worst parts of American Idol, changed the "log line" from singing to directing and threw it at the wall to see what would stick. Ugh. I know the ratings have not been very good, so is that why they made these changes? Or was this the direction they'd planned to take the show from the start? I really expected more from Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg, but then again, this is a Fox show. Do you think there's a chance they might turn it around again? I feel like the victim of a bait and switch. Toni M.Matt Roush:
I'm also thrown by the live-audience component of this show, whose launch was hampered in part by premiering too early before the season had even ended and scheduling the first live-competition screening for the Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Sorry, even TV critics have a life! (I watched both episodes this week on Tuesday.) This format appears to be the way the show was conceived, not as a reaction to the low ratings. On the Lot also blundered by starting with way too many contestants, and I'm not sure any reality show besides Idol (and maybe So You Think You Can Dance) can afford to waste so much time on the cast-selection process. This show should have just jumped in with the first challenge, team or otherwise. But still, way too many people to keep track of right now. The show may possibly improve, though probably not in ratings, as the talent pool tightens. I like the idea of the competition, and am reasonably entertained by the wide range of short films they produce. But that host is the worst ever: abrasive, the opposite of genuine and pure poison. And I agree that I'd like at least a little more of each filmmaker's process as they tackle the challenges. That's a lot more dramatic than watching them sit in directors chairs for two hours.
Robert wrote in to wonder, in light of On the Lot's "lackluster ratings and so-so reviews, do you think Fox will cancel the show midway through its run, or let it actually play out and then can it?" Late Thursday it was announced that beginning Tuesday, June 5, On the Lot will air only once a week, on Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET, for the rest of its run. The one-hour episodes will include the film screenings as well as weekly voting results. It's still unclear right now whether these episodes will be live or taped. My guess is that with the big names behind this show (Spielberg and Burnett, who I'm sure Fox would not want to burn), Fox will let it play out through the summer, perhaps hoping that by continuing to promote it through the network's bigger summer reality hits, Dance and Hell's Kitchen (which I loathe), it will eventually attract a modest audience. But clearly, this is not going to be the next big thing in the world of reality, so I doubt there'd ever be a sequel.Question:
To be fair, you should know that I am cynical of reality shows. While not arguably original (it comes close to plagiarizing HBO's Project Greenlight), I was intrigued by On the Lot, since it could offer the minority of us who embrace independent films a chance to see gifted aspiring directors who can "think outside the box." My complaints are not with the candidates but about the host, Adrianna Costa, who seems to be Ryan Seacrest with some anatomical differences. Her approach to telling the contestants who will be eliminated is eerily similar to Seacrest's. Next and probably even more alarming are the results of the voting. My consternation is not because my selections did not completely concur with them, but because none of the eliminated filmmakers were American. I don't want to believe that that is a result of xenophobia, but the result of not having a "constituent base" in the U.S. What do you think? RandyMatt Roush:
Politics aside, I wasn't surprised by two of the three who were bounced. I was more alarmed that three women were almost rejected in the first round, making me wonder yet again at how hard it can be for women to garner votes on shows like these. If only she'd made a better movie with a less revolting punch line, I thought the wacky Italian might have stuck around for a while based on her sheer outrageous personality. One thing to keep in mind is that the "independent" vibe may not get these contestants very far, since the whole thrust of the vote is for "box office," to gauge who's got the most commercial eye, which is why the special-effects whiz is probably going to stay a front-runner. Popularity (as in cheering on the redneck who made his movie's nerd victim look retarded) is going to be the point here, which may soon make things even more irritating. Makes me wonder if this shouldn't have gone more the route of the Project Runway-style reality competition, where the judges have the final, and actually only, say on who stays. Full disclosure: It's weird for me to analyze this show because I just finished participating as a judge for a show with a similar theme but a far different approach: TV Guide Network's America's Next Producer, which premieres in mid-July.http://www.tvguide.com/News-Views/Co...px#01losttwist