Thursday, May 11, 2006

TV: Lost

Spoilers for last night's episode.

Few network shows seem to vary as wildly in quality and entertainment during sweeps as Lost.

During non-sweeps months this year, Lost has mostly slogged along with average episodes. I'm still a big fan of the show, and to me, an average episode of Lost is still better than most anything else the networks have to offer. But it's obvious that during non-sweeps months, we mostly get episodes with unrevealing flashbacks, character pieces that don't advance the overall plot, stories that retread what's come before.

There are some notable exceptions -- the map on the blast doors was in March, for example -- but mostly the big stuff comes during sweeps: the great "The Other 48 Days" episode, and the one where Ana-Lucia kills Shannon, not to mention Jack and Kate's first kiss, were all in November, while Henry Gale first appeared in February (which is a much less important sweeps month than November or May, but still). During non-sweeps months, the show tends to fall back on Charlie, Claire, Jin, Sun, and Hurley, as well as the "tailies," who (and I say this despite Hurley being my favorite) are definitely second-tier characters (or lower, like Rose and Bernard -- and hey, what's with them getting a flashback episode, but not poor Libby? She only gets a cameo in a Hurley flashback, and then BANG! Dead!). There are generally things of interest in each of those episodes (like that Libby cameo), but nothing that blows your mind, the way this show does at its best.

Then, come May -- whammo! First episode of the month -- Michael shoots Ana-Lucia and Libby! Ana-Lucia dies! Michael shoots himself! He's working for the Others!! Holy CRAP. Second episode (last night) -- Henry Gale escapes! Eko and Locke discover another hatch! And another Orientation tape! They learn (finally) that the numbers and button-pushing in the original hatch are meaningless! Libby dies! (I really did not expect her to die -- I thought she'd linger around in a coma or something until the season finale, at least, or that, since the episode's flashback was all about a supposed resurrection miracle, she'd come back to life at the last second. And as for that Orientation tape -- you have to wonder about the people who would take their "important" task of monitoring the video feeds seriously, when they've just been told that everything everyone is doing is completely unimportant.) Now that's good stuff. Which means it's time to pump up those ratings, and it's almost time for the season-ending cliffhanger.

Same thing happened last year. A whole lot of nothing down the home stretch, then a bunch of cool stuff in the last few episodes. Not to mention the many, many hiatuses we've had to deal with. Two weeks on, one week off. One week on, two weeks off. Hell, after November sweeps, the next new show wasn't until January 11. That's five off weeks between new episodes.

That's just the way of the beast, and I can't get too worked up about it. You save your best stuff for when it counts. But it just seems so blatant on this show.

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