Everything Bad is good for me

So after reading Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You a few months ago I’ve been feeling less guilty about watching TV. Johnson, whose counterintuitive thesis argues that pop culture is making us smarter is a gem of a book – especially for those looking for some fun, but interesting, non-fiction summer reading. One example he uses in his chapter on Television is Lost, a show characterized by a complex network of relationships and an opaque narrative that dares viewers to try to guess the show’s premise by weaving together the nuggets of information it reveals to them. According to Johnson, the shows complexity makes it brain food.

Brain food or no, this is the first time I’ve found a television drama really engaging. Not bad for a medium getting its butt kicked by the internet… isn’t it great how competition creates better, and smarter, content.

Anyway, since we’re on the topic I can’t resist sharing some thoughts on the Lost Season Finale (spoilers included!)

  • I’m betting the boat Jack Shepard calls for a rescue via satellite phone is operated by the Dharma Initiative who’ve been busy scouring the ocean trying hard to locate island they lost contact with after Ben killed their team.
  • Colleen W. suggested that, after their rescue, the castaways start to die. This is why Ben yells at Jack to not “make the call and kill 40 people.” It also explains why Jack believes they weren’t supposed to leave the island, accounts for his suicidal behaviour and is an excuse for why no one attended the funeral.
  • People may note that Richard Alpert, one of Ben’s right hand men, has not aged a day since encountering the teenage Ben escaping from the Dharma Initiative camp. We’re all familiar with the island’s restorative powers, perhaps in addition to preventing illness it also stave’s off age? Also, in a move that would imply some nice kharmatic balance in the island universe, maybe if people can’t die they also can’t have babies? That would certainly eliminate any population problems an ageless island-bound might create.
  • As an aside, this season finale completely makes up for the show’s aimless and disastrous, mid-season.
  • More importantly, the deal struck by the producers with the network, to give the TV show a specific amount of time (3 years – 100 more episodes) with which to complete is story arc is a major turning point in North American television. As my friend Dawn R. noted, American television may finally be learning from British television, in which good stories are allowed to be told, but aren’t flogged to death or extended beyond the their natural narrative arc. An important part of a good story is knowing when to end it.

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