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Our love can never be, etc.

April 6, 2010 Leave a comment

INT.  COFFEE SHOP — LATE AFTERNOON

An ordinary, Starbucks-esque coffee shop, with late-afternoon light flooding through the windows. Fashionable young men and women drift from the door to the counter and then back, a continual ebb and flow of customers. ZACK and ZOE sit at a table by the window, talking.

Zoe seizes Zack’s hand and stares deep into his eyes.

ZOE

You mean that all this time–

ZACK

Yes.

ZOE

And you never–

ZACK

I couldn’t.

ZOE

But why not?

ZACK

I just couldn’t.

ZOE

And now, after this, after you finally tell me this, you have to go to Tasmania?

ZACK

Yes. I’m sorry.

ZOE

But why?

ZACK

Somebody has to farm the Tasmanian chinchillas.

ZOE

Let someone else do it. Let someone else farm the chinchillas so that … so that we can be together at last.

ZACK

We can never be together, Zoe.

ZOE

But why? Oh, why?

ZACK

Because with no obstacles to our love, no one would have any reason to keep watching this third-rate TV show, season after season after season.

ZOE

They’d need a whole new plot.

ZACK

Nobody in television has the guts to jump off the money train for the sake of satisfying drama.

ZOE

Damn those writers. The bastards!

ZACK

Also, I have to inform you that you have terminal cancer.

ZOE

What? Why?

ZACK

You should be more careful what you say about the writers.

Categories: screenwriting, television

Lost continues to suck

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

… the earth continues to spin on its axis, kids continue to believe they know everything, and the almighty continues to look down on his idiot children in a state of baffled melancholy. In a world where technology renders itself obsolete minute by minute, it’s comforting to discover these touchstones. Some truths are eternal.

The degree to which Lost continues to suck is easily demonstrated by the fact that my post on that subject — a post entirely parenthetical to the actual interests of this blog — continues to be my top attractor of traffic, and the fact that said traffic peaks on Wednesdays, following each episode.

I’m not sure how I should feel about this. Perhaps, if you buy a copy of my novel this fall, Lost will suck less? I’m willing to believe that if you are. But enough with the shameless plugs.

Why does Lost suck? Lost sucks because it has become evident, and grows increasingly so, that they are making it up as they go along. Lost sucks because the only way they can cut their way out of the plot tangles they’ve created is to add further tangles. Lost sucks because they killed so many interesting characters, and then tried to sustain the show using Sawyer, Jack, and Kate. Lost sucks because we’ve tumbled to their game and know full well that they don’t dare knock off one of those three. Lost sucks because that dramatic tension is gone.

Who is that frigging kid in the jungle, you ask? I ask, why should I care? This kid is not a character; he’s a plot device. What is the connection between those numbers and those characters, you ask? I ask, is this not simply a cheesy way to explain something that they, themselves, really don’t know? What will happen next, you ask? I ask, where did I put my fingernail clippers? I can’t find them anywhere.

Lost sucks because they keep milking their cash cow with no respect for what the cow must eat to produce milk. Lost sucks, above all, because the producers have lost sight of the very things that made it work in the first place: episodes grounded in their characters’ struggle for redemption.  Lost sucks because, after viewing any given episode, reasons for giving a shit about the characters themselves will no longer be foremost in your mind.

It’s all about the big mystery now, and as far as mysteries go, I’m more compelled by those missing fingernail clippers.

Categories: television

Why Lost sucks

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s like waking up and rolling over in bed one morning to the clear-eyed understanding that the two of you have really just been going through the motions for far too long now; that is to say, it is a truth one is loathe to admit. Lost sucks, as it has sucked for lo these many years.

But, just as in that clear-eyed morning you can find no-one to blame for the fact you’ve grown apart, so it is with Lost: it’s not Lost‘s fault that it sucks. It’s the medium. Television has an ineluctable drive towards a state of what we in the business call crap.

Good drama is dynamic; it moves. Even in stories that shy away from epiphany, the end arrives with a sense of finality; if change is denied, the end arrives with the sense that it will ever be so. Drama moves inevitably from A to B.

Television loves stasis. A television drama is like the stupidest possible particle of quantum physics: it sits in its base state until an inciting incident excites it, and then it jumps up and pretends that things could change, before lapsing back into its  base state, ready for the next episode. Television’s instinct is not to finish the story, but (to channel Hunter Thompson) to ride that strange train down the shallow plastic money trench until it hits the wall.

The show is a hit, people. We don’t know why it’s a hit, so let’s not fuck with it too much. Let’s just spin this thing out as long as we can … this is the instinct of the television writer. And since they don’t know why the show is a hit, they usually play up all the wrong things.

In its first season, Lost was one of the most interesting things on television: character-driven and spooky, it forever raised more questions than it answered, but it remained about its characters first. In the second season, the mystery began to overwhelm the characters, but it was still their reaction to the mystery that counted. Lost was still good.

In the third season, the wheels fell off, because to sustain the thing for four more years, the producers realized that they’d have to keep throwing more balls into the air: new characters, more mysteries, more plot twists. And they forgot who their own characters actually were: Locke warped into a kind of maniac, Sawyer’s childhood became less important than the love triangle, Hurley became comic relief, and so on. It was all about sustaining the plot, an ongoing juggling act involving an ever-increasing array of chainsaws, burning torches and scimitars — which is all very well for a few minutes, but quickly becomes boring when you realize the juggler isn’t going to accidentally cut his own arm off.

And as the final season begins? More plot twists, more mysteries, more bullshit. We’re driving towards the end now, but it no longer matters. The audience fled in droves during the third season for one simple reason: this was no longer the same show. It had lost everything that made it good. And the idea that the mysteries will all be answered? I don’t care. It was more compelling when when it was still mostly about the possibility of redemption — back when nothing had to make sense.

Categories: television
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