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September’s A Long Way Away

…and a very, very long time to wait for a new episode of Modern Family. Even though it’s only been two days since the finale, we don’t blame you if you’re in MF-withdrawal. Since September’s a long time to wait, hopefully this video of Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Mitchell”) covering Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” will be able to give you a quick fix:

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Looking at Lost: The Literary Connections

Sure, Lost may be regarded as one of TV’s most well-written shows, but it should also probably be crowned television’s most well-read as well. For a show that’s mostly known for its confounding mysteries and flawed characters, its packed in more literary allusions than almost any other show in TV history. Sure, some of these references have been blatantly obvious (such as Sawyer reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down early in the show’s run), but many more have gone under the radar and been left up to viewers to discover. Here are our favorites (there are way too many to include every reference):

Desmond's Odyssey. via Flickr

The Odyssey by Homer
In one of the most famous epics of all time, Greek poet Homer tells the story of Greek warrior Odysseus. After fighting in the Trojan War, Odysseus embarks on an epic journey across the Mediterranean to return home to Ithaca, and his patient wife, Penelope. In the process, he gets shipwrecked, encounters mythic monsters, and is manipulated by the Gods of Mount Olympus. Similarly, Lost tells the story of a man named Desmond (oDYSseus/DESmond?), who embarks on a journey, only to get shipwrecked, encounter monsters, and be manipulated by Jacob and the Man In Black in a long attempt to get home to his patient wife, Penny. Coincidence? (While I’d love to pretend I thought of this, it was actually TIME’s James Poniewozik who made the connection for me in this great article about Lost‘s cultural significance)

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Carroll’s psychedelic tale about a girl who falls down a rabbit hole has been widely interpreted in pop culture. Its veiled references to drugs, history and politics, and mathematics are all steeped in urban legend. Lost has used Alice extensively throughout the shows run, evening naming two of its episodes “White Rabbit” and “Through the Looking Glass.” In the aforementioned season three finale, we also see Dharma’s underwater Looking Glass station for the first time. The station’s logo? A rabbit with a watch – another direct reference to the novel, in a scene where Alice first encounters the White Rabbit looking at his timepiece. Along with these references and many more, the show’s manipulation of space and time is a theme that Carroll constantly explores in his work.

The Bible – by ummm…
I almost didn’t include this because pretty much every great piece of art and literature has in some way been influenced by it (even when they advocate otherwise). However, since its been referenced so many times, it’s probably necessary to include. Besides the obvious episode titles (“The 23rd Psalm,” “Exodus,” “Fire + Water”, etc.), character names (Adam, Eve, Jacob, or the blatant Christian Shephard), Lost has also used biblical imagery continuously throughout the show. During season 6, young Jacob even appeared to the Man in Black with his arms outstretched and bleeding (“The Substitute”). Hmm, wonder who that could be referring to…

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
For a while, many people thought that the Island was merely another version of “Narnia” or “Oz.” That’s been pretty clearly disproven over the years, but he connections to C.S. Lewis’ seminal saga are still interesting nonetheless. The most obvious link? Doomed anthropologist Charlotte Staples Lewis…or should I call her “C.S. Lewis?” Also, of all the Dharma Initiative stations that we’ve seen over the years, one is unique from the rest in its site off the island. The Lamp Post station, run by Eloise Hawking, is a direct reference to the lamp-post in Narnia that marks the point which links the imaginary and real worlds together. In Lost, the Lamp Post is the real world location that tracks the Island’s position (imaginary world?).

Island by Adolus Huxley
This one is a little more obscure. In the first part of Huxley’s novel about a cynical journalist who gets stranded on an island, the protagonist is “Lying there like a corpse in the dead leaves, his hair mattered, his face grotesquely smudged and bruised, his clothes in rags and muddy, Will Farnaby awoke with a start.” Sound familiar? It’s exactly how the first episode began, with our cynical protagonist, Jack, in the middle of the jungle. I know what you’re thinking…but unfortunatley, I don’t know if Amazon’s express delivery will get you the book (and last chapter) before Sunday’s finale.

Lost's Lamp Post. via Lost-Media

Finally, Lost has been riddled with different philosophical references over time: David Hume (Desmond Hume), Rousseau, John Locke, Anthony Cooper (historically, he was John Locke’s philosophical mentor, in Lost he was John Locke’s father), Jeremy Bentham,  and even Zen-master Dogen.

For a show that has posed so many questions over the past six years, it’s a good thing we know its creators are well-read. Whoever said TV rots your brain? They were clearly lost. And while we may all be looking for some final answers and closure from Sunday’s finale, if history is any indicator, we’ll likely be asking questions for hundreds of years to come…ok, that may be an exaggeration.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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It’s Hard to Say Goodbye: TV Most Memorable Series Finales

Just like dating, watching a TV show is about keeping up a relationship. Over the years, you grow up with the characters and experience the same things they feel. The only difference? While they may let you down from time to time, they can never fight with you – making it a thousand times better than a real relationship. After so many years with 24, Lost, and Law & Order, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. Let’s take a look at some other series finales that we still remember after all this time.

The Cosby Show – April 30, 1992
After so many years on top of the ratings, Bill Cosby’s seminal sitcom had to fall from its throne at some point. By 1992, it was clear that America was ready to say goodbye. In the last episode, Theo graduates from college and Cliff Huxtable reminisces on the past years – flashing back to scenes from the pilot. In the last scene, Cliff finally fixes the family’s doorbell (a recurring joke throughout the series), and break character by walking off to thank the audience for a long run.

M*A*S*H – February 28, 1983
Bringing this seminal series to a close was probably not easy, but the show’s producers managed to do it while attracting 121.6 million viewers to join in the 4077th’s closing party after the last cease-fire of the Korean War was signed. This episode held the record for most watched telecast of all time until it was broken earlier this year by Super Bowl XLIV.

The Sopranos – June 10, 2007
I don’t know where the time went, but three years have passed since The Sopranos signed off TV for good. For a series known for its graphic violence, often unexpected plot twists, and willingness to kill off characters both large and small, the finale was dramatic mostly for its simplicity. After playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” (and inspiring countless imitations…ahem…Glee), the show cut to black – leaving the ending completely up to viewers’ interpretations.

St. Elsewhere – May 25, 1988
This is the finale that has stirred the most discussion over the years. Whether an cop-out or a fitting end, the series ends when a father puts his autistic son, Tommy Westphall’s, snow globe of St. Eligius on a TV set and call him to dinner. Imagine that! After six years, it all ended up being a figment of a kid’s imagination. There’s probably nothing scarier to a Lost fan than this scenario. Unfortunately, the dream/imagination ending is somewhat common – it was also used to wrap up Roseanne, Life on Mars, and Newhart.

The Wonder Years – May 12, 1993
This is one that I honestly can’t watch. I tear up every time it’s on. While most family drama finales have happier endings, Kevin & the Arnold family had a sadder one than many viewers were expecting (albeit – probably a more realistic one than most other shows). After experiencing the radically changing world of the 1960’s with the Arnolds, Kevin signs off. In his last narration we learn about the fate of the family we came to care about so much – and how they all grew up after their “wonder years.”

The Golden Girls – May 9, 1992
After seven seasons, how can any ending be a fitting thank you for being our friend for so many years? While Dorothy’s departure to begin her new married life in Atlanta splinters this fearsome foursome, it ends up not being the end for this sitcom – a short-lived sitcom entitled The Golden Palace tried to relive this show’s glory, but was quickly cancelled.

ER – April 2, 2009
After 331 episodes, it was finally time to say goodbye to the doctors of County General. May of the show’s former cast members came back to pay their respects and honor the longest running cast member, Noah Wyle (who played Dr. Carter). After they performed some last life-saving techniques and shared some final emotional moments together, the show ends just as it begun – showing doctors in their typical routines during another typical day of life at the ER – and revealing the hospital’s full exterior for the only time in the entire show’s run.

With nearly 35 years of television combined between them, Lost, Law & Order, and 24 have a lot to live up to.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Link It Up: 5.19.10

One of Chicago’s top chefs is introducing LA to…Mexican. Huh? [via Eater LA]

Ugly no more, Vanessa Williams will be moving to Wisteria Lane next year. [via Deadline]

Remembers the Dodgers sucking earlier this month? Have things turned around? [via LAist]

The DWP is changing things so our streets won’t be sewers again this summer. How nice of them. [via LA Times]

Sunny days are here again...until June gloom. via Flickr

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Looking at Lost: The Five Best Risks the Show Ever Took

Yesterday, we presented you with the five worst decisions in Lost history. There are few words I think any fan of the show likes less than “Nikki” or “Paulo.” So, let’s let them rest in their sandy island grave and move onto happier topics. Let’s recap some of the best decisions the producers of the show made, and how they turned Lost into a show that has become the pop culture sensation that is it.

Who knew we'd want to go back to the island so badly? via Metroactive

THE BEST DECISIONS

5. Revealing John Locke was once in a wheelchair – Early in its first season, Lost demonstrated that while the island may be the show’s setting, the series’ heart laid in the character’s different stories. Until the episode “Walkabout,” the flashback had only been used to show some back story on the flight and explained how the survivors ended up on their island. This all changed in one of the show’s most monumental moments – revealing that off the island, John Locke was restricted to using a wheelchair. While this revealed new mysteries about the island, it also proved we had a lot to learn about the characters we had just met.

4. Desmond – While Lost‘s first season may be considered by many to be its best, it’s surprising that it could be as wonderful as it was without ever featuring one of the show’s most beloved and important characters, Desmond Hume. Since he was quickly introduced (only to vanish for the rest of the season), Desmond has become central to both the secrets of the island as well as the show’s story as a whole. Clearly, he has some special traits (resistant to electromagnetism? super powers? Who knows) that will somehow tie the sixth season’s two timelines together…and with that, bring the close to a conclusion.

3. Bai Ling – While she may have been the worst cast addition Lost ever made, she probably ultimately saved the entire series. With fan criticism of the show’s creativity (and lack of direction) simmering, Bai Ling providing the rallying point fans needed to bring it to a boil. After such a glaringly pointless episode, the show’s producers finally got the example they needed to convince ABC that Lost would only work with a set end-date (and three seasons to tell their story). Locking in a series finale date singlehandedly restored faith to viewers that the show was heading to a definite conclusion, free from the fear of an early cancellation (Twin Peaks) or a never-ending storyline (The X-Files, Alias). (Bai Ling also makes our list of worst Lost decision ever made as well)

2. Introducing Ben & Juliet – We first learned of the existence of the Others from Danielle’s cryptic warnings and Ethan’s hostile kidnapping plot in season one. For almost two years, the Others were merely a shadowy tribe of islanders we knew little about, but were sure to be fearful of. That changed with the introduction of Ben at the end of season 2, and the introduction of Juliet at the beginning of season 3. Ben and Juliet became the faces through which we met and learned the important history of the “hostiles”/”others”/”natives” or whatever else they became known as. And after a while (and some compelling storylines), Juliet became a character that many held dearer to them than some of the first survivors…making her death at the beginning of season 6 one of the hardest for fans to come to grips with.

1. Flashforwards – If Lost has transformed one thing about television the most, it’s the way the show has told its story. And although the plot has had more twists and surprises than almost any show on television, it had seemed to settle into a routine formula by its third season. Each episode would focus on an individual, show a bit of their back story through flashback, and then the end the story with yet another cliffhanger. In season 3’s finale, “Through The Looking Glass,” that formula was destroyed and fans found themselves asking more questions than ever. Since that monumental first flashforward, lost has presented us with flashbacks, flashforwards, flashsideways, and flash-who-knows-what. That first flashforward proved an important point: just when you think you know what’s happening on Lost, expect everything to turn on its head.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Next Year’s TV Now

This is the week many have waited for in Hollywood. In their annual display of wasteful pomp and circumstance, broadcast networks will be announcing their fall 2010 TV schedules to advertisers, in the grand tradition known as “upfronts.” What does this mean if you aren’t an advertiser, writer, or network executive? That you get to find out when your Tivo will be in overload now, so you can strategize your prioritizer all summer long.

All in the (new) family. via Flickr

A reporter from The Hollywood Reporter broke into the tech rehearsal for NBC’s presentation over the weekend, and divulged the details of their fall lineup early, ruining the surprises they hoped would generate some positive press for them this week (what a year…this after the disastrous Leno-Conan war, the cancellation of half of their lineup, and a highly rated Olympics that somehow lost them money…oy).

While it will take all week for all the schedules to fully be revealed, there are some general trends that are making headlines:

  • The Sitcom Strikes Back – Although people have been griping about the decline of network sitcoms for over a decade, these half-hour “situation comedies” have somehow made it through countless critics’ eulogies. Sure, they aren’t the water cooler shows that Friends, Seinfeld, or Will & Grace were (for all those too young to remember, NBC once had shows people talked about), but few shows outside of American Idol, Lost, or Dancing with the Stars are today. These “event” shows are the ones most resilient to DVR-ing, and thus, most appealing to advertisers. However, this season, broadcasters have a ton of sitcoms in the pipeline. Could a full-fledged renaissance be underway? If ABC’s Modern Family is any indication, these shows seem poised for a big primetime comeback.
  • Changing of the Guard – While every spring marks the end of a couple long-lasting, beloved shows, this year has been a bloodbath. This year, we’re saying goodbye to 24, Lost, Law & Order, Heroes, Ugly Betty, and Scrubs. We knew that Lost & 24 were probably expected, and the others were guessable after years of declining ratings – but Law & Order – really?! This is the clearest sign yet that NBC is shutting the door on the past and trying to relaunch itself into a new era.
  • Fallen Idol – While it’s bound to be America’s most watched show yet again this year (and with 6 years on top, break All in the Family’s record of 5 seasons at #1), American Idol is starting to look weak. Ratings are down, fan criticism is up, and Simon’s out. Could next year finally be the year that another show steal’s Idol’s ratings crown?

While networks announce their grand plans to boost their ratings next year, we’ll be enjoying the last few episodes of the shows still on this season. It’s really a shame you can only fast forward and skip through commercials on TV, and can’t just jump past upfronts as well.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Looking at Lost: Five Bets the Show Shouldn’t Have Made

TV’s history is littered with tons of examples of different risks that have played out in many ways. A singing competition with a sometimes-cranky British judge? Good idea. Jay Leno at 10:00PM? Bad idea. With Lost about to sign off, speculation has reached a fever pitch about how the finale will play out and whether it will give justification for many of the plot points the producers have asked us to believe based on faith alone for the past 6 years. The jury is still out on how the flashsideways storyline, Jacob/Man in Black connection, and lots of other unresolved plot points. However, we can certainly evaluate the risks the show has taken in the past 6 years and decide which worked and which didn’t. Considering we don’t have much else to go on, it may be the only indicator of what we can expect from “The End.”

No one cared about their "Expose" via Tubular

THE WORST DECISIONS

5. The Dharma Initiative (?) – Right now, this is simply ranked at #5 because it’s still pending. Beginning with the discovery of the hatch at the end of season 1, it became clear that the island’s past would be the key to the castaway’s (and the show’s) future. Some of the most thrilling moments in Lost history came from the slow revelation of details about the Dharma initiative (remember watching the Swan Orientation film for the first time?). However, as the show increasingly reveals that the true heart of the series is the relationship between Jacob and the Man in Black, the Dharma back story has fallen to the wayside. If they are the real heart of Lost, why did producers distract us with Dharma for four seasons and not even introduce Jacob until season 5? What a waste of time.

4. Bai Ling – Season 3’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” may be the show’s ultimate nadir of fan morale. After a choppy seven-episode run in the fall, the show returned in February after a long break. As expected, fan anticipation was high for the show to regain its mojo. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t come until later in the season and we were forced to sit through pointless storylines such as Jack’s flashback romance with Thai prostitute Achara (unfortunately portrayed by “actress” Bai Ling). Both Jack and the show hit a true low point that night.

3. Going out of control with time travel – With so many storylines, flashbacks, flashforwards, and characters existing at different points in the island’s history, viewers knew the show would eventually have to explain the island’s past to tie the plot together. How did it do that? By sending the castaways on a confusing, frustrating, and (still) semi-unexplained trip through time. When travelling back on Ajira flight 316, why did the survivors end up at different points in time? Why did they get nosebleeds from the time travel? And why did a donkey wheel somehow stop this all? Those are all good questions, and ones the show probably didn’t ever need to create.

2. Introducing Nikki & Paulo – Season 3 was truly a dark time for Lost. I guess one of the difficulties of telling a story about castaways on a lost tropical island is that you can’t really introduce many new characters too organically. Sure, it’s easy to kill them off, but once they’re gone, Lost doesn’t really have the benefit of a revolving cast door like other shows do (Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Law & Order). So, when fans were expected to believe that new cast additions Nikki and Paulo had been on the island all along, but never seen in seasons one or two, things didn’t quite click. Viewer reaction was so negative that producers killed them off before the season even ended.

1. Killing Danielle, Alex, and Karl – One of Lost’s most enigmatic characters is Danielle Rousseau. As the sole survivor of a French expedition that crashed on the island in 1988, she survived 16 years on the island in search of her abducted daughter, Alex. In season four, Danielle is finally reunited with Alex in the show’s fourth season. Very shortly afterwards, Danielle and Karl are killed in a gun battle, leaving Alex alone (only to die later in the season). While other characters have had some resolution in their stories, this plotline was cut short way too early and will probably never be clarified.

Check in tomorrow to see the five BEST decisions Lost has made.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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