Wednesday, October 10, 2018

NEW ENDING

Author Maria Robinson wrote, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

It is very difficult today to do a show like LOST: a large cast, remote location shooting outside Hollywood studio gates, and a long run to develop and execute a complex story structure. Today's audience is not as patient. We live in a world of instant gratification and quick swipe destruction.

Traditional American TV networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) have lost their grip on the vast majority of viewers. Current network shows are recycled sit coms and spot dramas from the 1980s and 1990s (medical, cop shows, family comedies like Roseanne). Networks do not have the time or resources to re-invent their shows towards a younger audience.

The younger audience does not sit in front of a television set in the family living room. They are mobile, independent loners. With an internet connection, they can search and find their own amusement. The top landing spot is YouTube, where people nearly their own age have their personal channels doing goofy things teens would do if they actually went outside and played in the school yard.

As the networks got bulldozed by cable operators offering a hundred diverse channels, cable itself has also run its course. You may have a hundred channels ported into your cable box, but the choice is becoming more limited as specialty channels can no longer find sponsors. And channels co-owned or operated by major media conglomerates have started to run the UHF business model of re-runs of very old shows to fill time slots.

Cable operators last gasp was the rebellious nature of original programming at HBO or Showtime. But those outlets have now been muscled out of critic's circles by the economic power of the new platform: the streamers like Netflix and Amazon whom are pouring billions into their own original shows. Netflix's model is to run a new series maybe for a season or two, then it vanishes. The idea is to keep subscribers tuned in to "new" shows and movies. It is a disposal approach for a growing disposable society.

Just as LOST was unable to get a syndication deal because each episode was not a stand alone story, current creators have to maximize revenue streams in order to survive the next pitch meeting. It is doubtful that a show like LOST today would be green lit for no more than 12 episodes. Could LOST have been compressed into a 12 episode season? Perhaps, as the tangential filler would have to be discarded and a clearer, tighter premise on the science fiction part of the program would have been the foundation for climax and conclusion. It would have been less character driven and more story driven series. For example, Jack could have been killed off in the pilot (as the original pilot script called for), but he could have appeared throughout the show as a trapped ghost (like Michael at the end). But that presupposes that the show runners would actually make a decision on whether the island was purgatory or time-space pocket of abnormality.

But even in today's smartphone world, YouTube content creators are yesterday's news when SNS feeds are the way to get more followers that social media marketers covet. Twitter and Instagram are the current hot platforms for quasi-entertainment (or more apt, time killing). It seems there is more ambiguous to celebrity wannabe status on those feeds which must strike a chord with Millennials.

If you are a studio head or even a guy sitting in his basement with his laptop, you have to wonder what is the next bit that will be a long term trend. It is like chasing a cat in a cornfield. There will be more misses than hits. But in the current climate, some viewers really do not care. And that could be the end of highly complex fictional storytelling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

RETURN TO K-DRAMA

Kim Yun-jin is set to make her first appearance in a Korean TV series in nearly 20 years, according to the Korean paper Chosen Ilbo.

The star of the U.S. hit series "Lost" appears as a detective in the crime thriller "Ms. Ma, Goddess of Revenge," which is slated to start airing early next month.

"I have appeared both in U.S. TV series and Korean films and dramas, but few people recognize any Korean TV series that I was in. So I hope this will be it," she said.
In the Korean adaption of the popular "Miss Marple" series by British author Agatha Christie, Kim plays a woman who is falsely accused of killing her daughter and embarks on a journey to prove her innocence.

Kim said the shooting for the Korean drama was more intense. In her US TV series, she would shoot 10 scenes a day. For the k-drama, it was double. In South Korea, dramas are filmed in a "live" production schedule. It means that actual series shooting begins before all the scripts are completed. In fact, with instant SNS commentary, some shows will actually change direction or character choices as the series is being shot. It creates a more stressful and overworked situation.

Kim moved to the U.S. when she was young, and debuted in Korea with a TV series in 1996. She shot to fame with "Swiri," a Korean hit film about North Korean spies, in 1999. After that, she was cast in the hit ABC series "Lost" and starred in another ABC series, "Mistresses," from 2013 to 2016 in the U.S. Most Korean actors would like to be in a Hollywood blockbuster. But as diverse Hollywood claims to be, it is still a closed company town. The rare example of risky full diversification is "Crazy Rich Asians" movie.

It is rare for Korean movies to have large releases in America or Europe besides the film festival circuit. In Asia, Korean movies are fighting for recognition against larger budgets and mainstream production studios in China, Hong Kong and Japan.

But k-dramas have an international audience. Besides being popular in Asia, Korean dramas are popular in South America and the United States as the internet and translation portals have spread programming throughout the world. Netflix has started some original programming with native Korean actors, such as the original variety/mystery series "Busted."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

ANOTHER LOSTY SERIES

Another season, another network, another LOST-like television series.

This fall, according to the preview and Deadline Hollywood article, the NBC show MANIFEST begins "when Montego Air Flight 828 lands after a turbulent but otherwise routine flight, the 191 passengers and its crew learn that while only a few hours passed for them, the rest of the world has considered them missing—and presumed dead—for over five years. As the passengers try to reintegrate themselves into the world, some of them experience strange phenomena, leading them to believe "they may be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible."

It seems like the LOST pitch without the crash landing on the island.

The showrunners have set themselves up for a high standard of mystery and mythology to pull off a reasonable sci-fi explanation of how a jet plane goes missing for 5 years without crashing or passengers aging. 

It is assumed that the show has to whittle down the main cast from 191 passengers in crew to a hand full of focus characters with the "strange" events surrounding their new lives post-flight. What is strange, what is supernatural, and what is there "new greater purpose" in life seems to take bits of the island guardian and castaways fight to "save the world" from something bad to the main land and the ordinary lives of regular people. 

MANIFEST may or may not be worth watching. The TBS satire, Wrecked, was a train wreck from the start. It was a bad parody and extremely unfunny. It failed on all cylinders.

MANIFEST's producers include Hollywood movie veterans so the quality of the filming could be great, but even the best production values cannot save a poor script or plot.

MANIFEST premieres in late September.

 


Friday, August 3, 2018

TAKING LIBERTIES

Evangeline Lilly made her break-out career role as Kate in LOST. However, she recently stated that there were difficult parts during filming the series, according to an interview in a recent podcast (and reported in the New York Post.

Lilly played a strong, spunky, wild child character who would get a second chance to erase her past on the island. But since this was her first credited role as an actress, she did not have the clout on the set.

She said that being new to Hollywood meant that she was not comfortable enough to speak up when she felt pressured, and that led to some very upsetting shooting conditions.

“In Season 3, I’d had a bad experience on set with being basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked, and I felt had no choice in the matter,” Lilly said on the podcast. “I was mortified and I was trembling, and when it finished, I was crying my eyes out and I had to go on and do a very formidable, very strong scene thereafter.”

That wasn’t the last time Lilly was forced to undress on camera against her wishes. “In Season 4, another scene came up where Kate was undressing and I fought very hard to have that scene be under my control and I failed to control it again. So I then said, ‘That’s it, no more. You can write whatever you want — I won’t do it. I will never take my clothes off on this show again.’ And I didn’t.”

Losing control of her bodily autonomy wasn’t the only thing she didn’t like about LOST as the show progressed and started to focus more on a love triangle between her character Kate and the male leads Jack (Matthew Fox) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway).

“I felt like my character went from… having her own story and her own journey and her own agendas to chasing men around the island and that irritated the shit out of me,” said Lilly. She added that she “did throw scripts across rooms when I’d read them because I would get very frustrated by the diminishing amount of autonomy she had and the diminishing amount of her own story there was to play.”

In today's #METOO environment, one would assume most of the directors would be less pushy in putting actors into uncomfortable positions. On the other hand, Hollywood has been for centuries a cesspool of power plays and taking advantage of actors.

It is also interesting to note, that she states that her character's story changed during the series into a love triangle story line which she did not like. It is another piece of evidence that the show runners and writers had no direct, clear path of the main story lines. They would change on the fly to meet the demands of the network or ratings. Some fans wanted to see a romantic element between the main leads. But did that really improve the story?

Lilly believes it diminished her character's story which was one of running away from her family problems, the lack of responsibility in her life and her manipulation of men for her own means. Her character never got truly punished for her misbehavior. Her cuteness was a defense. She used it to her advantage, but not as a means to find love. Even her marriage to the Florida cop was more a convenient cover than true love. She was lost because she grew up without unconditional loving parents. All of her relationships ended badly. Why would she want her character to change midway through the series to become a cliche fluttering heart girlfriend?

UPDATE August 6, 2018:

Creators and executive producers JJ Abrams,  Damon Lindelof, Jack Bender and Carlton Cuse issued a joint statement apology for the alleged problems on the show, which ran on ABC from 2004-2010.
“Our response to Evie’s comments in the media was to immediately reach out to her to profoundly apologize for the experience she detailed while working on Lost,” the statement read. “We have not yet connected with her, but remain deeply and sincerely sorry. No person should ever feel unsafe at work. Period.”

Saturday, June 30, 2018

FLEETING FAME

Yahoo News reported a bizarre incident involving a LOST cast member.

Evangeline Lilly was en route to do press for the new sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, in which she shares equal billing with Paul Rudd  when the encounter occurred.

“I was walking onto the plane and this talent scout was like, ‘Oh my God, for a minute there I thought you were Julia Roberts. Does anyone ever tell you you look like Julia Roberts? You could be a model. You could be an actress,” recounted Lilly. “I’m like, ‘Oh, well, that’s very nice of you.’ And she’s like, ‘No, that’s what I do. I’m a scout. I manage talent. And I think you have potential. I’m telling you, you could have a career if you wanted a career [in entertainment].”

Lilly never let on that she did already, in fact, have a very successful career in film and television  “I had to delicately turn her down and tell her I wasn’t interested in the industry.”

The talent scout, meanwhile, may never know that she had tried to recruit a Marvel superhero. Lilly, in her mind, could be the one who got away. “If only I could have signed that girl, I could have made something out of her. Instead she’s just gonna wallow away in her tiny life,” Lilly laughed. “[She’s] never gonna know she could’ve been the first title female character in the MCU.”

Friday, June 8, 2018

LOST AS A TERM OF ART

In a recent WIRED article, the writer uses the LOST franchise as a term of art.

The reviewer of HBO series "Westworld" said his problem was not that thw show would not be enjoyable, but that it was that it’s the kind of show that invites obsession. The kind that presents Big Questions—that never get answered. - - -   essentially, that it was going to be the next LOST.

LOST began to get viewers to deep dive into episodes to find clues. Apparently, Westworld was trying to accomplish some of the same tricks of the old ABC series. It started with logos . . . do they mean something else?

In the episode, "The Riddle of the Sphinx,"opened with a montage: James Delos (Peter Mullan) is in a finely appointed modernist apartment. He walks through what appears to be his morning routine: drinking water, smoking a cigarette, getting in a few minutes on a stationary bike. All the while, he’s listening to the Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire.” If the scene felt familiar, here's why: It's just about exactly how Lost introduced Desmond at the beginning of Season 2. (Yes, Season 2! The same season in which Westworld currently finds itself.) In that montage, Desmond made a smoothie, typed a series of numbers into a computer and pushed “the button,” and got in a few minutes on a stationary bike—all while listening to another 1960s hit: Cass Elliot's "Make Your Own Kind of Music."
The reviewer reminds those that don’t remember,  LOST ended almost exactly eight years ago, on May 23, 2010. And, after six seasons of giving its audience diamonds-in-the-sand clues involving hieroglyphics, philosophy (there’s literally a character named John Locke), flashbacks, flashforwards, smoke monsters, and 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 (aka “The Numbers”), most of those hints led exactly nowhere. The ending was satisfying in its way, but most fans still to this day throw up their hands in frustration when asked what it all meant. (Seriously, if you didn’t watch and want to feel good about all the time you saved not doing so, Google “unanswered Lost questions.” It was a lot of setup without a lot of payoff and was frankly a little annoying. 
The reviewer concludes with "But.

 That show also changed the way a lot of us watch TV. It taught people to look for clues, to not take everything at face value, and to not always assume that narrative answers would be spoon-fed to them. And in that regard, it was revolutionary.

So LOST has now become a turn-of-art meaning, its own genre in the televisions universe. When a show that does not want viewers to passively "follow" the story as presented, but challenge the events seen in real time to see if they make sense or mask some hidden meaning. As a story telling template, LOST will endure as a quirky, frustrating, roller coaster of tangent plots, red herrings and Machina moments that will drive obsessive viewers crazy. And maybe in an era of instant smart phone gratification and a ten second twitter attention span, TV needs obsessive shows in order to survive.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

FATE WORSE THAN HELL

One of the theories about LOST and its quirky sci-fi story line inconsistencies was that the characters were not "living" in a real world environment, but part of some grand experiment or alternative world (through technology like networking brains of coma victims).

Science may be catching up to some wild fiction.

The Daily Mail (UK) reports the scientists have kept alive pig brains outside of the body for the first time as part of a controversial new experiment. The radical experiments could pave the way for human brain transplants and may one day allow humans to become immortal.

The report suggests to ethics experts that any experiments to reanimate dead brains could lead to humans being locked in an eternal "living hell" and enduring a" fate worse than death."

That's according to Nottingham Trent ethics and philosophy lecturer Benjamin Curtis who made the comments in light of controversial experiments on pig brains.

"Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allow us to experience and interact with the world,' Curtis said. "In the best case scenario you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company.
'Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact to external reality it might just be a living hell. To end up a disembodied human brain may well be to suffer a fate worse than death."

Last month, Yale University announced it had successfully resurrected the brains of more than 100 slaughtered pigs and kept them alive for up to 36 hours.

Scientists said it could pave the way for brain transplants and may one day allow humans to become immortal by hooking up our minds to artificial systems after our natural bodies have perished. 

In LOST, viewers were conflicted about who, what, where and how the main characters were interacting with each other on an island that was not an island (where the laws of physics and smoke monsters roamed). Immortality was seen through Jacob, who shipwrecked as a baby on the island during Roman times. The Man in Black appears as an immortal smoke monster savagely imposing judgment on humans. Even the character of Michael appears to be trapped as a "whisper" on the island as a soul that cannot move on in the after life.

The idea that LOST could have been merely a network of reanimated brains now has a thread of truthful basis in current science. And the nightmare of being trapped on an island hell is what Mr. Curtis alludes to in his criticism of the experiment's potential outcome.