I admire Lost because it always seems to achieve the effect it’s going for. That’s not to say every episode or every scene is good, just that there is always a feeling that the impact of a scene is more or less what the creators want it to be. This is another difference between Lost and its imitators. Lost doesn’t make a lot of sense a lot of the time, but it seems to be confusing because it wants to be confusing, because part of its appeal has to do with enabling us to argue over the meaning of what we’ve just seen.
By contrast, when Lost clones make no sense, it seems to be because of bad execution. I’m sure Heroes or Flashforward want to confuse us in the same entertaining way that Lost does, but for the most part they can’t. To get away with making no sense, you have to have perfect, confident execution; otherwise the show will be indistinguishable from shows that don’t make sense because they’re just bad. We know that when Lost confuses us, it’s on purpose. What Conrad L. Osborne once wrote about Stravinsky could apply to Lost: “Here is technical command that invariably nails down the effect it goes after; here are scenes that are recognizable as polished theatrical entities, not simply rough drafts with an exploitable core.” Without the technical command of Cuse and Lindelof, honed by working for years on fine but very different shows like Nash Bridges, there would be no Lost, just a collection of vague and perplexing gestures.
Anyway, Josef Adalian has a good “recap of recaps”, sort of a roundup of reactions to the Lost premiere by Lost-ophilic critics.
I’m also very fond of Maureen Ryan’s list of parallels between Lost and Supernatural.
And since I don’t want to post spoiler-y clips for people who haven’t seen last night’s episode yet, here’s the only clip I could find online of another TV show that makes no sense: “Mary’s Incredible Dream.” (An example of how a show can intend to make no sense but not have good enough execution to make that approach work, I guess.) It’s the only clip I could find online, and since it involves flooding, floating in the ocean, and Biblical references, it’s sort of appropriate. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to see The Manhattan Transfer turn up on the Island?