It was so close. I almost didn’t start watching Lost at all. How nearly identical things might have been. The thought of a glossy drama about a bunch of whiny Americans trapped on an island didn’t strike me as my thing. However, having recently finished Robinson Crusoe, and also just returned from being stranded in the Pacific for a number of months following an ill-thought out mutiny attempt, I was in a desert island kind of place mentally, so thought I’d give it a try. However, as a backup plan I also played Scrabble with the wife, so if it was crap I hadn’t wasted the evening.
Luckily it takes very little of my mental power to beat Debbie, so I was able to follow the initially formulaic and lacklustre plot. That was until the polar bear appeared. A momentous polar bear, it marked the moment when American TV decided to embrace its slightly insane side. Or at least, when one show did, and then was quite successful and slavishly copied by everyone else.
As well as the increasingly intricate and ludicrous mysteries the show also had an innovative structure whereby interspersed with all the running around the jungle you get a little flashback story about one of the characters and the crazy things they got up to back when they had different hairstyles. This meant that you got a good mix of ongoing developing stories, and self contained little vignettes, something you don’t see so much these days.
And all was well and good and Boon died and that was even better. However, when it came to the second series the makers took the controversial decision to make it just really dull. The running around the jungle that was innovative and ground breaking in the first series now looked tired. Every other episode seemed to focus on Dr Jack, an actor with a face so dull it couldn’t really be said to have even one expression. When the momentum seemed to dip either they’d find another hatch or Sawyer would take his top off again and look angry.
When this dampish Smallville of a season reached its end the shock news came through that free telly people would no longer be showing it, and it seemed like a natural time to give up on the whole thing. I believe a number of people went through a similar testing of the faith, but most of them failed like the disappointing idiots that they are. However, I was able to start viewing the third series in the format that fits it best, badly recorded video tapes. The first three episodes probably contained more excitement than a whole season of Britain from the Air.
The third series on DVD, along with the American Office series 3, got us through the hard first few months of parenthood, whilst the fourth series got us through the slightly less hard but no less lethargic recent couple of weeks. And whilst one of the most fun parts of it, discussing it with co-workers the next morning, has been Lost, at least I have the comfort of knowing I have seen series 4 whilst Neill hasn’t.
Admittedly the whole thing is little more than ‘what’s in the box?’, ‘oh, it was a monkey in a hat, that’s slightly disappointing. But look, here’s another box. What could be in this?’ etc. Etc. But as Scooby Doo knows, mysteries are cool and distracting and help you fill up the wasted hours being working and sleeping. And that’s what Lost does. And if strange magical islands don’t rock your world there is an incredible assortment of humorously bad accents to laugh at, many of them inexplicably done by people who hail from the very area that the accent belongs to.
Buy Lost - The Complete Fourth Season  on DVD from Amazon now! Then you too can lord it over Neill in an irritating fashion!
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