On the weekend of August 18th, 2007, our godson and his good friend (who we count as a good friend as well now for many years) visited us in NYC. I commemorated that weekend with five posts in a row. For me personally, the highlight was our accidental (and serendipitous) discovery of Girlyman on August 19th at Joe’s Pub!
We all had a total blast (on the off chance that you couldn’t tell that from the posts themselves).
To thank us for the weekend, they bought us the DVD sets of Lost, Seasons 1 and 2. Of course, we were thankful for the gift and the recognition of our effors to create a memorable weekend. That said, we didn’t expect that we’d enjoy Lost all that much.
A number of times, I’ve mentioned that on some things, I’m a huge laggard. It took me forever to buy a standalone DVD player. I had a few DVR’s, so I didn’t see the need to play any DVD’s.
Lois, being a collector/archivist/gatherer (pick your own noun), was buying DVDs that interested her, long before we had a machine to play them on. When the choices started to include wide vs full screen, I encouraged her to buy wide screen, even though we didn’t own a wide screen capable tv!
Anyway, we eventually bought a DVD player for the house and the apartment. We also finally got a wide screen (HDTV) for the bedroom in the house, though everywhere else is still an old analog tv.
That background aside, the reason we didn’t think we’d enjoy Lost is that we had zero interest in watching it when it first came out. We don’t like any kind of horror movies. We don’t watch any reality shows either. Somehow, this felt like the combination of the two (at least from the buzz).
We had it on the shelf for two months, and I could feel Lois itching to at least try it, so that we could honestly give our feedback and say thanks (again) for the gift. A little over a week ago, with only reruns on regular tv anyway, we started season one. We’re obsessive types to begin with (I’ve mentioned that a number of times as well), so we averaged at least four episodes a day, every day. Each DVD has a maximum of four episodes on them, and there are six DVDs per season, plus one bonus DVD.
It’s interesting from the beginning, but for us (remember, our tastes probably aren’t normal), the first three episodes were also quite choppy, some excellent moments, and some mind-numbing stupidity. We hesitated pushing on. We are both 100% sure that if we had watched it on regular tv, with commercials, waiting a week between episodes, there is no chance that we would have watched after the third episode.
Thankfully, watching on DVD, with zero commercials, and the ability to watch as many episodes in a row as you can stand, and with the additional motivation of not wanting to tell our benefactors that we gave up, we kept watching.
We got totally hooked. We just finished season two this morning.
Here are a few thoughts on the show, without giving away anything whatsoever.
There are two separate themes in every episode:
- What is happening to the group, in terms of their predicament
- What is happening to individual characters, in terms of their former lives, and how it has shaped them and somehow becomes mirrored in an island interaction
The general story line is incredibly inventive, and often brilliant as well. There are things that happen that you simply can’t imagine how they are going to explain, without some magic. Often though, many episodes later, they explain it in a way that simply feels completely right and natural. Kudos to the writers for delivering that kind of experience so masterfully.
The other thing that is done nearly flawlessly are the flashback scenes where you learn about each character. The depth of the back stories is amazing. They show scenes that all by themselves would make for a compelling show, rather than just trying to explain why a particular character acted in a particular way on the island. Considering how many different characters get detailed back stories, I can’t even comprehend the talent of the writing staff.
For the vast majority of the cast, the acting is also flawless. There is one notable exception. For us, the star, Matthew Fox, is wooden at best. On rare occasion, he can deliver a scene in a believable manner, but not often.
For me, season two was better than season one (which was excellent). Again, there was an episode or two that didn’t live up to the rest, but nothing like the first few in season one where you just scratched your head wondering if they just lost their way.
So, is it a perfect show? Not even close. In particular, to me, they don’t really know what they want to do with Jack (the Matthew Fox character). Lois got so annoyed at me yelling at the screen “No way he could be that stupid!”. She finally asked me to zip it, and that she got it already.
The writers might respond that it was their exact intention to engage me, but if that’s true, I say hooey! Characters can have a twist, but they should be understandable, and hopefully even explainable. Too many times, he simply appears stupid.
Is it a great show? To me, the answer is an unequivocal yes! We have already ordered season three on DVD, but we won’t get to watch it until mid-January given our crazy schedule. The timing just worked out perfectly for us to plow through two seasons in roughly one week. One of the reasons was unfortunate. Lois was quite sick for the past six days (she’s still sick, but hopefully on the mend), so she didn’t slave away at the computer as much as she otherwise would have) and that made her mellow enough to watch for hours on end.
So, is there a difference between a great show and a perfect one? Of course. Would I ask a rhetorical question if I didn’t have the answer? To us, Burn Notice is a perfect show. We can’t wait for it to return this coming summer!
On to the extras. On many of the DVD’s, there is a Bonus Features section. In addition, there is a seventh DVD in each season’s package, that is only bonus stuff (behind the scenes, interviews, how certain things were done, etc.).
The vast majority of the bonus features on the bonus DVD are well worth the extra time to watch. For me, who knows zero about how movies are made, it was a blast to see how they do things (including getting the plane on to the island, etc.).
One of the bonus features on the first season DVD was the audition tapes of many of the actors. Interestingly (to me) was watching Matthew Fox read the part of Sawyer (most of the male actors read the Sawyer part to begin with). He was horrible. Even people that could never pull off the current Sawyer from a believability perspective, at least read the parts believably. Fox didn’t. I had already formed my opinion that he played his part weakly, but wondered whether they wanted him to play it that way. Watching the auditions convinced me that he just doesn’t have the talent that the rest of them do.
During season one, we were more interested in not breaking the rhythm of watching the episodes, so we didn’t watch a single bonus track on the non-bonus DVD. However, when we finished the first DVD of season two (four episodes), we decided to watch the bonus feature on that DVD. It was really interesting, but, amazingly, they (I assume accidentally!) gave away a key secret that didn’t get revealed for another two or three episodes! I couldn’t believe it, and now I won’t watch any of the bonus features on a regular DVD until the season is over.
One of the underlying themes in the show is the interconnectedness of the various characters (the six degrees of separation). They do it well. That said, it’s still in the over-the-top phase for me (though I enjoy it thoroughly!), since we don’t yet (even after season two) have a clue as to why it’s all happening.
Lois made an insightful comment last night. We both saw the movie Babel (with Brad Pitt), and thought it was incredibly stupid and poorly done. Of course, it too was themed on interconnectedness and six degrees of separation. She commented last night that Lost achieved this goal whereas Babel failed.
Anyway, while I’ve probably lost every single reader by now, the bottom line is that if you haven’t seen Lost yet, get the DVD’s, and don’t give up before you finish at least the entire first DVD, perhaps even the first two (even if you are tempted!).
Thanks guys, this one really hit the spot, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving, in that it lasted well over a week and will continue when season three arrives!