Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lost Is Back + Eli Stone

Well, Lost has returned, and the first two episodes look very promising. As the show enters its fourth season, it is entering a mature phase which allows it to do some very interesting things, story-wise. In the early days of the show, it used to surprise people with how much every detail seemed planned to fit into a larger pattern. Something that seemed insignificant in episode 1, like Locke wiggling his toes on the beach, took on much greater significance a few episodes later when we learned he had been in a wheelchair before crash-landing on the island. And soon, viewers were scrutinizing every single detail to figure out what it might come to mean later.

Now the show has several seasons of material to echo back on, so that we might notice a detail and say, "Oh that's a call-back to a season two episode," without realizing that it is also foreshadowing something else we don't even suspect yet. I think some of that happened in the season four opener, which was Hurley-centered. The episode raises all sorts of questions:

If Hurley sided with Locke on the island, against rescue, how did he end up being one of the Oceanic Six who ended up back in civilization?

Who are the other three members of the Oceanic Six?

Is Kate living with Sawyer in the third season finale, or has she started a new life with someone else?

Are the other characters still on the island, or are they dead?

Was Hurley the one whose death prompts Jack to tell Kate "We have to go back" in the third season finale?

Who is Abaddon, and does he really work for Oceanic?

Why is Hurley having visions of Charlie? Is Charlie simply a hallucination, like Hurley's friend Dave from the mental hospital, or is he a manifestation of the Black Smoke reaching all the way to the continental U.S. (or something else like it)?

Enough questions for now. One scene I really liked in the season opener was the moment where Hurley closed his eyes and counted to five to get rid of the Charlie-vision; nice call-back to Kate doing the same thing in the pilot, upon Jack's earlier advice.

After Lost, ABC has started running a new show titled Eli Stone. It's funny and entertaining, but it must be one of the most intellectually dishonest shows I've ever watched. The show itself is Ally McBeal with a sex change (and with a less entertaining senior partner), but the thing that really gets my goat is that it takes on hot-button topical issues with either a populist or liberal slant, then throws in a disclaimer to keep from offending the half of the audience whose intelligence or politics they've just insulted.

For instance, first episode: a mother suing a pharmaceutical company because she claims her child became autistic after receiving a vaccine. Now, the link between vaccines and autism is not proven, and even if it were, the cost/benefit of vaccinating and becoming autistic versus the chance of dying from whooping cough or something is a complex issue that can't be sufficiently debated in an hour-long dramedy. The show's solution: demagogue the issue by having a jury find in favor of the link between a vaccine with a fictional preservative, but throw in a couple of lines of dialogue stating that the link is not, in fact, proven, plus a disclaimer at the end.

Second episode: poor Mexican immigrants suing a pesticide manufacturer. Evil chemical company making poor people infertile, how dare they? But they can't prove it, so the poor people lose. Evil big-city lawyers working for deep-pocketed corporations! Even worse, turns out the poor Mexicans are illegal immigrants who snuck into the country in a truck, then paid a con man to help them become naturalized. He pocketed the money and filed no paperwork, so now the poor, poisoned, infertile people are going to be deported. Solution? Eli gives an impassioned speech about how illegal immigrants love America more than people who are born here, so we should give them a pass, although "no one's saying illegal immigration isn't a problem."

The writers try to have it both ways: yes, we acknowledge that some people might think this is a problem, but our solution is to just pretend it isn't.

Bad enough the show is a clone of a better show. Worse is when it preaches without conviction. Worst of all, it's just entertaining enough, in a time slot where there's nothing better on, that I'll probably keep watching.


Paul Marquard said...

I need your new email.

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited to have just listened to the Astromonkey! podcast. Who is your agent?

TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...

I don't have an agent. You don't need them to sell short stories, and I'm not ready to shop for one with "Hero Go Home" yet.