10 Year Lost-iversary

Ten years ago, I stayed up past my bedtime to witness the unprecedented premiere of the most provocative drama to ever grace network television. Lost, the story of strangers who are brought together by a series of traumatic, yet compellingly fated circumstances, taught me so much about life and the human condition. Sure, there were unanswered questions about polar bears and smoke monsters, time travel and immortality, but if you take the time to see past these plot points, you’ll uncover a host of thematic devices that rival anything you’ll read in your English classes.

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In a show that’s all about constants and variables, remember this: The island is real, the island is present, and the island is there when you need it most.

Thank you, Lost. I will surely see you in another life.

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Goodbye, Walter White

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Sunday night, we bid farewell to Walter White, a beloved husband, father, brother-in-law, teacher, mentor, defamed drug lord, and archetype-shattering anti-hero. Over the course of the show’s five seasons, we have seen one man’s descent into the tantalizing void of greed, leaving no victims unscathed. In the Season Three finale, we see the magnitude of Walt’s decisions, as two commercial airlines crash over his home because Jane’s father, an air traffic controller, couldn’t focus on his job after learning of his daughter’s overdose – something Walt witnessed and could have stopped.

While some are sad to see the drug lord’s story laid to rest, others are happy that the show ended on top, snagging the Best Drama Emmy last week. Some notable shows that audiences agree ran their course far before their finales are Lost, Heroes, Dexter, and, currently, Mad Men.

Fans were also pleasantly surprised at the amount of loose ends Executive Producer Vince Gilligan was able to tie up in the final two episodes, especially the well-deserved bow-out for the druggie fan favorites Badger and Skinny Pete.

Breaking Bad played with our emotions during the hour-long finale, replaying clips from Season One as Walt’s conscious becomes flooded with guilt. For once in his life, Walt confesses to Skyler that everything he did was for him – not the family. “I liked it,” he manages to say. “I was good at it.” If that doesn’t scream character arc, then maybe his selflessness in the show’s final moments will make you change your mind. I’ll leave you there without spoiling too much of the tale.

As for the legacy of Breaking Bad? It will become a textbook example in all categories – writing, directing, cinematography, and, of course, acting. Without Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, and the rest of the amazing cast, the show wouldn’t be the success it is. They made the strange place of Albuquerque, New Mexico feel like home. They made us apart of the White family. Heck, they made cooking meth into an art, let alone feasible by your favorite chemistry teacher and his dead-beat student.

So here’s to you, the great Heisenberg. And to many A-1 Days to come.

Flashback: Three Shows Gone Too Soon

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Eli Stone

Network: ABC

Duration: 2008-2009

In Eli Stone, the title character, played brilliantly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a San Francisco lawyer who develops a brain aneurysm, which gives him visions of God, who speaks through the one and only George Michael. Like an adult version of That’s So Raven, Eli’s visions act as his moral compass in working his various cases.

Eli confides in his acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who is able to facilitate Eli’s darkest memories – particularly those of his abusive father.

His once secure job under supervision of his fiancé’s father becomes compromised when the couple calls off their marriage. The tension in the office only grows with Eli’s newfound gift.

The show is in the ever-evolving comedy-drama genre, with quirky musical/fantasy sequences to the tune of George Michael songs, making Eli Stone one of a kind. The cast is supported by veteran film actors Loretta Devine (Crash) and Victor Garber (Titanic), which gives the show’s side stories real depth, without ever lagging.

In the final moments of the second season (right before it’s cancellation) Eli’s nose begins to bleed a dark red, hinting that his aneurysm had ruptured, but did God have other plans for him? Did the writers? All I know is that ABC, for sure, killed him off too soon.

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FlashForward

Network: ABC

Duration: 2009-2010

Riding off the coattails of Lost (and borrowing some of its actors, too) comes the second show gone too soon: FlashForward. The show follows the FBI investigation of a worldwide human blackout, which gives people a brief vision six months into the future. While many try to make their lives fit the ominous prediction, others strive to change their fate. But those who see nothing, like Agent Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), worry that they will meet their demise before the fated day.

The investigation gets heated when the FBI discovers footage of a hooded man walking out of a baseball stadium during the two minute and seven second blackout.

With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Sonya Walger (Lost), the show surely should have lasted for a second season.

Like Eli Stone’s ambiguous cliffhanger, FlashForward ends with the world blacking out yet again. The vision we see is that of the Agent Benford’s daughter, Charlie, who receives a phone call saying that “he” has been found. The “he”? Possibly her presumed-dead father. And possibly not.

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Person’s Unknown

Network: NBC

Duration: 2010

While the first two shows actually received some buzz in their short-lived runs, NBC’s summer flop Persons Unknown was kind of my guilty pleasure show, full of countless plot holes and terrible acting. Regardless, I would have liked to see it renewed for another summer slot.

The show follows a group of strangers who wake up in a ghost town with no communication to the outside world. They receive a series of tasks from the many monitors planted across the town. Soon, the castaways become restless and a mole is revealed.

After the strangers unite and rebel against the system, they are all placed in a new setting, called Stage Two. The show closes on the castaways opening the door of their new hotel to discover they are now on a freighter in the middle of the ocean. I want to watch Stage Two, please.

Rekindling My Love for LOST

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Yesterday, G4 played a marathon of the first six Lost episodes. Needless to say, I was occupied for those six hours, reliving the show that thrilled audiences like no other during its run from 2004 to 2010.

Regardless of whether you liked the ending (or the time-travel twists starting in Season 4) or not, there is something to be said about the show’s beautiful cinematography and lurid characters. Each of them provides an interesting vantage point on their past lives and on the moment of the plane’s fated crash.

Many shows and films in the post-9/11 world became very sensitive to race and religion, but Lost tackled the cultural barriers head on. From Sawyer accusing Sayid of being a terrorist to Jin commanding Sun to cover up in the presence of the other survivors – particularly Michael, a black man. (Also, I love the scene in Season 2 when Rose is reunited with Bernard and everyone is shocked that he’s an old, white guy).

The series also reinvented the “musical montage,” as the most powerful moments of the show were free of dialogue and acted brilliantly by the characters’ movements and facial expressions. In the show’s third episode, “Tabula Rasa,” the castaways finally take a breather after a few days of panic and chaos following the crash as Hurley listens to “Wash Away” by Joe Purdy on his walkman. Another great montage opens Season 2 and follows a mysterious man, who we learn to be Desmond, as he works out to the musical stylings of Mama Cass’ “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” The last notable montage opens the third season, and again it follows a mysterious character, who we learn to be Juliet, as she prepares for her book club while listening to Petula Clare’s “Downtown.” 

Again, I don’t care if you liked the ending or not (I personally loved it), but there is no denying that the Seasons 1-3 are some of the greatest achievements in television. Period. If you’ve yet to witness this amazing show, be sure to check out all six seasons on Netflix or the occasional G4 marathons!

Rob’s Book Club: THE LEFTOVERS

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Kind of like Oprah, I thought I’d start my own book club. Kind of not like Oprah, I’m the only person in my book club, which is kind of better, in a way, in that I don’t have to sift through half-assed posts about the novel or some irrelevant theories with no substantial textual evidence.

Anyway, the first book I chose was Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, a five-part drama set in the small community of Mapleton, after a Rapture-like event causes the disappearance of millions of people worldwide. Quite simply put, the citizens feel like nothing but leftovers from this (un)godly act – idly waiting to be plucked from the fridge and finished off like the rest of the people from the previous meal.

The novel is something of a surreal feat; a dystopian society that seemed to only hiccup on October 14th as family and friends disappeared before their loved-ones’ eyes.

Perrotta sets his book three years after what has been deemed “The Sudden Departure,” and the world is still not quite back to its old self. Sure, Congress is still in session and the MLB is back in full swing (pun intended), filling the holes in their line-ups with minor leaguers and retired all-stars, but the people are still grasping for answers.

At the center of the story lies the Garvey family. Kevin, the town’s mayor, is left to care for his bright, but troubled daughter, Jill, when his wife, Laurie, joins the Guilty Remnant – a cult draped in white that takes a Vow of Silence in forgiveness for not being taken on October 14th. Kevin’s son, Tom, has discontinued his studies at Syracuse University to follow the Holy Wayne, a sweet-talking figurehead of the Healing Huggers. Soon, Wayne is arrested and Tom is entrusted with one of his many under-aged wives; one of them, Wayne preaches, will birth the Miracle Child that will save all of humanity.

Another figure in the town is Nora Durst, also known as The Woman Who Lost Everything, whose husband and two children were victims of The Sudden Departure. Nora struggles to find meaning in life, while trying not to feed into the town’s pity for her. Oddly enough, she finds peace in religiously watching and re-watching episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants and documenting the deeper meanings on a notepad.

While this novel doesn’t have the suspenseful elements of a thriller or a traditional rising action/climax/resolution format, I still found it to be quite the page-turner. I would best describe it as a psychological character study – and a pretty accurate one at that – of how people would react to the disappearance of millions around the world.

Now, you may be thinking, “Rob, I thought this was a TV blog. What gives?” And, my response would be that HBO has picked up the pilot. It’s writer and executive producer? Lost and Star Trek writer/producer Damon Lindelof. Needless to say, I am beyond excited for how the show (or movie/mini-series) will pan out.

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So far, the casting is scattered and uncertain. Justin Theroux (American Psycho) will be playing Kevin Garvey, Broadway star Carrie Coon will play Nora Durst, and Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) will play Meg, a beautiful, yet timid Trainee for the Guilty Remnant.

The release date will hopefully be sometime in 2014, which gives you ample time to be a hipster and read the book first!

Flashback: GAME OF THRONES Seasons 1 & 2

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Whoa. Wow. Gee wiz. These are among the many interjections I use to describe the amazing and captivating HBO series, Game of Thrones. People have been telling me over the past two years to watch it, but someone definitely should have sat me down and forced me to see this one-of-a-kind television phenomenon.

Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the show follows the separate stories of the various Houses of the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos. And I just read that Martin drew much of his inspiration for the series on one of my favorite historical events: The War of Roses, in which the House of Lancaster and the House of York each make a claim to the English throne during the fifteenth century. Notice, if you will, that Lannister greatly resembles Lancaster, much like Stark resembles York. You go, George R. R. Martin.

The show follows the ambitious Daenerys Targaryen (aka Dany, aka Daenerys Stormborn, aka the khaleesi, aka “Mother of Dragons”), who is forced to marry the leader of the Dothraki, named Drogo. As cool as she is in season one – jumping into fires, hatching dragons, and all – she kind of becomes a broken record in season two.

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Much like Emilie de Ravin’s character Claire Littleton in Lost, Daenerys spends the second season screaming about how no one’s going to take her dragons, but once they are taken from her, she continues to scream about getting her dragons back. Just replace “dragons” with “baby,” and she’s Claire!

The feud between the Lannisters and Starks turns to a war after SPOILER Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King, is murder for treason he did not commit in the wake of King Robert Baratheon’s death.

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The new king, Joffrey of House Lannister, is a total jerk and no one likes him. I mean, if I had three bullets and Hitler, Stalin, and King Joffrey were in front of me, I’d probably shoot Joffrey all three times. Just saying.

All the while, Jon Snow, the bastard son of the late Ned Stark, is off with the Night’s Watch doing (Old) God(s) know(s) what. What I do know is that the White Walkers are back after thousands of years and they intend to kill, like, everyone.

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Meanwhile, Arya Stark, Ned’s youngest daughter, escapes from King’s Landing, but becomes enslaved by the Lannisters in an attempt to return to the North. She disguises herself first as a boy, then as a mason’s daughter and becomes the servant girl for none other than Tywin Lannister, the head of House Lannister. She has a pretty cool storyline, good for her.

However, her sister, Sansa, has a shitty storyline. She’s being held captive by King Joffrey, who intends to wed her – which no longer makes sense now that House Stark has fallen from grace after her father was murder for treason and her brother, Robb, has started a rebellion against the crown. Regardless, Sansa’s story is boring.

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While you’re not supposed to like the Lannisters, Tyrion Lannister, played by Emmy-winner Peter Dinklange, gives the House its only shred of humanity. He prides himself in caring for “cripples, bastards, and broken things,” as he, himself, is a dwarf (others call him “The Imp” or “The Half-Man”). He’s well educated and uses his wit to compensate for his lack of physical presence on the battlefield – just like he does at the end of season two with the magical “Wildfire” that sets the bay outside of King’s Landing aflame, engulfing Stannis’ rebellion fleet in flames.

I could go on and on about the various characters, but I think you get the point. If you’ve yet to see Game of Thrones, I suggest you re-evaluate you life and sort out your priorities. With only three seasons of ten episodes, each about fifty minutes long, you’re looking at less than thirty hours. One a day and you’ll be done in a month. Ten a day, and you’ll be done in three days. Thirty in a row and you’ll clock in at just over a day. Totally doable and totally up to you.

Flashback: Shows I’ve Dropped

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Once Upon a Time: From Adam Horowitz comes this reimagining of our favorite storybook characters, conveniently living in the isolated town of Storybrooke, Maine. While I enjoyed its first season and its writers many allusions to their previous work on Lost (the clock being stuck at 8:15, the Apollo candy bars, etc.), the second season was a runaway train from the get-go. The writers added too many characters to a show – and since they decided to combine the fairy tale realm with all literature in general, their options were seemingly limitless. I did, however, like the introduction of Captain Hook, who brought a nice spin on the infamous character. However, by writing characters like Mulan and Lancelot into the plot, the writers overstepped their “fairy tale” boundaries. In the last episode I saw, ABC decided to give Jorge Garcia, a Lost alumnus, another job as the Giant. The special effects were just too ridiculous and I finally came to realize how bad of an actress Jennifer Morrison is on this show – her talents were much more appreciated on House, M.D.. From what I’ve heard, the show had a great season second season finale because of another mind-bending cliffhanger, but I don’t think I have it in me to watch twelve more episodes of uncomfortable mother/daughter moments between Snow White and her same-age daughter, Emma.

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Bates Motel: In my opinion, this show has the greatest ratio of most hype to biggest flop that I’ve ever experienced as a television viewer. Promotions for this Psycho prequel were everywhere – in newspapers, on billboards, and even in movie theaters. Where show runner Carlton Cuse, another former Lost writer, went wrong was making this prequel modern. When you think about the original Alfred Hitchcock film, the majority of the fear generated from the film comes from its grainy, black and white lens and its haunting soundtrack. The A&E show has neither. While Vera Farmiga plays the part of Norma perfectly, Freddie Highmore lacks the necessary acting abilities to compare to his counterpart, Anthony Perkins. At least he isn’t becoming one of those reckless child stars, like his contemporary Amanda Bynes.

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Da Vinci’s Demons: I think I made it through two and half episodes of Starz’ newest period drama before realizing I didn’t care for any of the characters, whatsoever. Where this show went wrong was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. On any given day, you can find a special on the Renaissance or da Vinci somewhere in your local listings, but this show tried to over fictionalize the prominent historical figure to the point that he just could not have done all the things he does (i.e. two-handed swordfights while solving an age-old mystery…while intoxicated). Also, if I had a nickel for every time Leonardo got high in the two and a half episodes I saw, I would be able to buy many packs of gum…like, many packs.

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The Killing: Although I made this my Netflix Pick last week, I just finished the first season this morning and I do not feel confident in my ability to see the second season through. I am getting sick of the pointless red herrings and even sicker of the Larson family crying about their dead daughter. Again, I get where the show is trying to go with showing a side of a murder that most shows ignore, but it’s a bit much after seeing Mitch cry every five seconds. Also, I cannot comprehend why the badass Linden would even want to marry her fiancé in Sonoma. He’s a total sketch ball (and I thought he was going to be Rosie’s killer). On that note, I don’t even know if I know who the killer is or not. I mean, I think we’ve all established that the Councilman did it – he did use the screen name Orpheus after all – but the final scenes of the finale make you wonder if it was him or not. I did not sign up for “Who Killed Rosie Larson? A Two Season Saga,” I thought it was one and done. Now, I guess, critics are raving about the third season, as Linden and Holder get assigned to a new case. Maybe I’ll just pick up from this season so I can get rid of the Larson family once and for all.

Have you dropped any shows? Comment below on which one and why! Maybe you can even make a joke out of it – your call.