Tube Talk: The fun of getting ‘lost’ in a good television show

My sister called the other day and asked, “What do you think about Lost?” Mid-way through my rambling list of superlatives, she realized I kinda like it. A lot. Her boyfriend, who works Wednesday nights, was thinking about downloading season one to his iPod. Never having seen the show herself, my sister couldn’t tell him if it was worth the trouble.

I thought the cinematic scope of Lost would be, well … lost, on such a tiny screen, so I suggested renting the DVDs and watching them on a real TV. But he went ahead and downloaded the pilot, and another convert was made.

ABC happened to be re-broadcasting the pilot episode later that week, so my sister decided to wait and watch it in high-def. She even asked me to remind her when it was about to come on. I’d already seen the pilot twice, but decided to watch it along with her, despite our being in different cities.

I tried to imagine myself watching it for the first time, but instead focused on all the clues about what was to come. When Kate pretended she didn’t know how to use a gun (just before telling Sawyer he didn’t know any girls exactly like her), I wondered how surprised my sister would be to learn why Kate was on the ill-fated plane. During a commercial break, I called to see if my sister was enjoying Lost. She was.

That’s when I realized what a pleasure it can be to go back and watch a series from the beginning. Remembering how the whole thing started can make you appreciate how far the characters have come (or with some shows, how stagnant they’ve become).

I had a similar reaction watching old episodes of 24 on A&E and WGN-TV. Granted, I tuned in hoping to catch some hidden glances or subtext I missed the first time around in some of the earliest Tony and Michelle scenes (the sparks between those two kept me watching 24 during the show’s darkest hours—like when Kim was facing down the mountain lion). Then, who do I see working at C.T.U.? Lost’s Jin (Daniel Dae Kim). I remember him for recurring roles on Angel and ER, so how could I forget that he used to be on 24, too?

Be it through syndicated repeats, DVDs or downloading episodes onto your iPod, it’s nice to re-immerse yourself in a series—even one that’s still on the air—and see that maybe, just maybe, the writers knew what they were doing all along. In other cases, you can see how much the writers have learned since the old episodes first aired. And there’s sure to be a familiar face cropping up to say, “If you didn’t remember I was on this show, who knows what else you forgot?”

DVDs and downloads have the advantage of eliminating commercial breaks and watching several episodes in a row, but syndicated repeats are free. My sister’s boyfriend says he discovered an added benefit of downloading: He burned off 700 calories by watching Lost at the gym.

Programming notes

Lost airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC. New episodes of 24 air at 8 p.m. Mondays on Fox; past episodes air several times a week on A&E and WGN-TV.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy Magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.

From the March 29-April 4, 2006, issue

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