"Lost" and "Community" are this week's picks.
We hanging in there? We good?
I hope so. The past month has been indescribably hard on everyone, myself included, and April is looking like it will be just as hard. I know this isn't new information to any of you, but I didn't know how else to lead into this when there's only one thing on everyone's mind. It sucks, but I hope Binge Blog can take your mind off it for a few minutes, or for many hours, if you take me up on my picks.
I had a cool theme month planned for April, but I'm going to postpone it for now. I think it's more important to provide people with things that are either humorous or full of hope. We have one of each this week.
Keep on keeping on, y'all. It's all we can do.
Hulu, TV-14, six seasons (118 episodes), 89 hours of content
I mentioned last week that “Chuck” was the second show I fell in love with as a serious media consumer. “Lost,” created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, was the first and is probably the reason I still care as much about the medium as I do today. You’ve probably seen it, or at least heard about it, if you were alive back then.
For me, watching “Lost,” the drama about plane crash survivors stuck on a mysterious island with secrets abound, was more than a one-dimensional experience. I was a frequenter of internet message boards dedicated to the show, like The Fuselage, where people would try to find clues to the show’s plot and meaning and dissect every morsel of information. The sites were a precursor to Reddit and other modern platforms in a lot of ways (with fewer toxic opinions). I stayed up late into the night reading theories in lieu of doing homework.
Fan theories for high-concept shows are everywhere now, so much so that some theory posited is going to be right about each one, and then everyone gets to complain about how the shows are “so predictable” just because one person figured it, out and then thousands of others shared it. It’s becoming bad for TV. In an effort to “fool” the internet, writers are creating storylines that twist without a reason to twist, sacrificing good plotting for “gotcha!” moments (Hi, “Westworld”). Back then, though, show-specific communities struck the perfect balance between being detectives and letting the show surprise them.
This gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, but “Lost” also had incredible characters in addition to the whole science fiction element. My favorite was always Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan), the addiction-battling, joke-cracking rock star who turns out to be a pretty great guy, but if you don’t like him, take your pick: Do you relate to Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), the doctor with daddy issues who is the leader of the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors? Maybe Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly), the woman who spent years on the run for a mysterious crime, is more your speed? Or perhaps that's Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews), the former Iraqi Republican Guard member whose bad side you do not want to trigger. Then, of course, there’s John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), who… man, how do you explain John Locke in one sentence? You can’t, really, and that’s the sign of a great character. I could keep going; the show has like 20 main characters over the course of its run, after all.
While we’re here, this has to be said: The ending of “Lost” is good. Actually, no, it’s great. It was reviled at the time by about half the fanbase, but I’m convinced those people either didn’t pay attention to the show’s themes or only watched the final season to be part of the cultural moment. I won’t ruin it here for any first-time watchers, but rest assured the ending isn’t the disaster it’s made out to be and in fact serves its characters well while hitting an appropriately emotional note.
If you’ve never watched “Lost,” there’s no better time than now to fix that error. If you have, there’s no better time to lose yourself in the show’s magic once again.
Jack said it best, after all: “We have to go back.”
Netflix, TV-14, six seasons (110 episodes), 40 hours of content
Now that all six seasons of "Community" are in one place on Netflix — and because the cast has been dropping hints about a long-awaited movie recently — it's worth revisiting the series as a whole because the first three seasons of "Community" are some of the smartest, most ambitious commentaries on society and pop culture ever created.
The show, centered around a community college study group, was a palette for experimental writing, sometimes bordering on the absurd. There’s an episode about a secret trampoline on campus. There’s multiple episodes about paintball fights shot like Michael Bay movies. There’s an episode about pillow and blanket forts that is somehow a parody of Ken Burns documentaries. There’s a spoof of “My Dinner with Andre” in there too. Seriously, someone thought it was a good idea to spoof a movie from 1981 that is just two characters talking to each other at a restaurant — and they were right. It’s fantastic.
It also tackled more conventional plot ideas — romantic triangles, cheating scandals, college kids raging against the machine — but always in its own idiosyncratic way. There was truly nothing on TV like "Community," and there still isn't. What other shows could turn an episode about a literal game of "The Floor is Lava" into an emotional wrecking ball?
The show was also the big break for multiple huge stars, including Donald Glover (“Atlanta,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Childish Gambino), Alison Brie (“The Disaster Artist,” “Glow”), Gillian Jacobs (“Love,” “Life of the Party”) and Joel McHale (“The Joel McHale Show,” “Ted”), and it featured the legendary Chevy Chase. John Oliver, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash also make frequent guest appearances. It was a stacked cast all around, and the actors were game for whatever bonkers script the writers threw at them.
Season four is when things started to go downhill. Show creator Dan Harmon left the project, as did Chase, and although the episodes aren't a full-on disaster, the magic of the first three seasons was gone. Even the cast admits it. Harmon returned for season five, and the first few episodes of it are classic, ingenious "Community," but Glover left the show halfway through the season to become the hottest star on the planet. Despite a few highlight episodes in the season's second half, viewership tumbled. The show was left for dead by NBC and picked up by Yahoo! for season six, which almost felt like a different show entirely, though it, too, has some great episodes, including the series finale.
Watch the whole thing, or watch until Glover leaves, or just watch the first three seasons, but watch it, regardless. "Community" wasn’t appreciated in its time, and it deserves to be now.