Monday, May 31, 2010

Finding a way to fill the gap

As I posted on my blog last week between 9PM last Sunday and 11 PM last Monday, we lsot three of the most signifcant shows in Television history--- Lost, 24 , and Law & Order. I feel it's now in my interest to recite a little eulogy.

For one hundred and seventeen episodes (I may be counting wrong; I'd appreciate it if someone checked my math) Lost was one oft he most brilliantly written, superbly acted, and masterfully composed series in television history. The final two hours will probably stand as the most polarizing moment in the history of any medium, probably for decades. The very fact that so many people are disappointed or up in arms over it (and I'm one of them, let me be clear) just goes to show what a niche in our world that this show has left us with.

Let's be honest. No matter what Damon and Carlton wrote for the final episode, somebody was going to be upset. I am reminded of the dismay that millions no doubt felt with Stephen King completed the final book of his Dark Tower series. In a sense Damon and Carlton were telling us the truth when they said that the answers were never going to be fully satisfying. Cause it always is about the journey and not the destination. I'm upset, not because of what we finally learned about the sideways world, or that the island's secrets never were truly revealed (though I am) but also because I'm never going to see John Locke or Desmond or Hurley or any of the two dozen memorable characters that were created. These people had a place in our lives for six years, and we're going to miss them no matter what we saw of their fates. I watched the final episodes with tears in my eyes before the ending, and even though I did feeled a little cheated, the tears were genuine regardless.

I don't know what Nikki's opinion of 24 was (probably not high enough if it wasn't posting on her site) but in many ways, I thought that it's departure was ironically a little more satisfying. Were the final few hours as preposterously unbelievable as just about everything else that happened during the eight days we watched CTU and Jack Bauer? Of course they were. They gave up plausibility years ago. And considering the political implications of the series (which I found silly, I'm on the complete opposite of the political spectrum than many fans, and I found it appointment television for eight years) I imagine it's appeal has certain limitations. But it was always fascinating to watch the byzantine plots unfold, the tension held within the corridors of powers, and the always spot on work of Kiefer Sutherland, who now may be considered the Clint Eastwood of this generation. Didn't matter how horrible the threat, you could count on him to come through for the good guys. Lost may have had things done in a gray area more then any other series, but 24 got there first, and in many ways, did it better.

And now that they're gone, I suspect we will no longer any attempts to duplicate the idea of serialized mysteries. Which in it's own way is a pity. I may not have liked everything about Invasion or Flashforward or The Nine, but at least these were stories that seemed determine to twist the limits of imagination. I'd rather have that then a dozen more spinoffs of CSI. But all of these series failed. ANd not that the inspirations are gone, I seriously doubt will ever see another series like them. And that's a real blow to TV no matter what you thought of them. We need more series that task the mind.

I may have mocked Law & Order to just about everybody, I may have thought that their last seven or eight seasons were basically examples of cutting and pasting headlines into a formula, and I may not be happy that we keep getting spinoffs that greatly dilute from the original, but that doesn'[t change the fact that for nearly a decade it was one of the most brilliant shows on TV. There may have been so many cast changes that the actors may have seemed irrelevant, but I'll always remember certain aspects of the permormers--- Chris Noth tormented Mike Logan's calm approach to talking to criminals, Jerry Orbach's bitter sarcasm, the way that the cool Michael Moriarity cross examined suspects using 'sir' to show his complete disdain for them, Steven Hill's quiet dignity as he tried to negotiate justice and politics watching his ADA's run rampant. This show was about underplaying, a skill that one now finds mainly on cable Telvision these days, and the cast were masters of it from top to bottom. Should it have been on as long as it was? Probably not. Did it deserve a much better treatment from NBC than it ended up getting? Definitely.

This a great era for television. There are at least a dozen series on TV that feature some writign and acting that is among the best it's ever been. I wouldn't call it a golden age, but silver--- definitely. But these shows were among the benchmarks for what could be achieved when you had all that talent in the right places, when things fired on all cylinders The voids these series left will no doubt be filled with time. In the meantime, we should give a moment of appreciation for these series and what they did for all of us.

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