Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Could Get Pregnant Today and Still Give Birth Before Lost Returns. What Gives?

It’s a difficult question to answer: when a project disappears from the airwaves for nine months, how do you make sure that everybody tunes in upon its return?

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are attempting to field that question as we speak, working with ABC execs to make sure that the Lost buzz doesn’t die out in its extended hiatus.

Their answer comes in a variety of marketing. A Lost video game is expected to street later this year for PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, and PC. (Apparently, us Mac users will have to hit up our Wii-owning friends. Or convince our dads that they’re ready to part with their PS2s. I’ve been trying to do that for years now.) They’re also touting these “mobisodes,” Verizon-only mini-episodes that show new shorts featuring our favorite characters.

I have to say, I’m excited about both. I have really excellent hand-eye coordination, and while I’m not exactly an avid gamer, I did kick my best guy friend’s (Pete’s) ass at car racing on Xbox. That said, I’m a little confused as to how a Lost video game is supposed to work. I mean, they do an awful lot of walking. Is it going to be sort of first-person shooter, letting us take on some hand-to-hand combat with the Others? More strategy-type escape-the-island business? Will I get to pick my character and be Kate and just make her sit next to Jack for hours and hours? Will there be cheat codes that let me make Hurley do ridiculous little dances? Can I let off a little steam by attacking Michael and Walt?

Anyway, I’m excited. But I don’t think I’m excited because the video game will “tide me over” until the next season premieres. It won’t. It’ll be fun, but no computer graphic can replace the real Jack Shephard for me.

So the mobisodes sound like a great idea. Real content, never-before-seen, with, Damon promises, our favorite characters. I’ve never been so happy to be a Verizon customer. I mean, I thought I was happy when I found out that I get service in the D.C. Metro, or that Verizon was building a cell tower on top of the science building on my campus, but this really takes the cake. Verizon, you have officially redeemed yourself for making it incredibly difficult to make “Cosy in the Rocket” my ringtone. (I had to make the ringtone in Audacity, then email it to my Dad, who then text messaged the Grey’s theme to me from his Blackberry. It was way too involved.)

Lindelof said at a recent electronic media conference: "Nobody wanted to see two people sitting on a beach that we've never heard of talking and saying, 'Hey, did you hear what Jack and Kate did today?' You want to see Jack and Kate. It's taken us three years to get those deals in place.”

First of all, the fact that Damon always uses Jack and Kate as the example lets me know that the ultimate Lost goal is absolutely, undeniably lots of Jabies. For the record, yes, Damon, I do want to see Jack and Kate.

Real content is basically ideal. Last summer, I relished in The Office’s webisodes, featuring the accountants. It was thirty minutes spread out over ten weeks, but those were seriously the most fun three minutes of the week. Plus, I trust the Lost team to make these mobisodes count for something. It’s not just throwaway, keep-Lost-in-the-news content with these people ever. They’ll matter.

Last summer’s vacation plan for Lost involved The Lost Experience, an intense online project that required participants to basically turn internet-searching into a full-time job. There were phone calls and weird website passwords and decoding Navajo and binary code. At some point, you had to call in Marshall Flinkman for an assist. I tried to pick up on it, but I just couldn’t keep up with that insanity. Several people did take on the challenge, and they ultimately uncovered…something… I don’t think it’s become relevant on the show yet, but maybe someday it will. If you disagree with me, or if you want to explain TLE to me (even the Lostpedia article on it confuses me), email me, by all means.

This is to say that if you can’t even get me on board, you’ve got a problem.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only people willing to take on such a challenge probably would have tuned into season three with or without The Lost Experience.

A nice little project for the hard-core Lost-philes, not so good for marketing.

Ultimately, I think, good promoting is key. Last year’s “Plan Your Escape” promos were exceptionally good. I would stop what I was doing to watch those promos when they came on. Jack with that wall of water rushing at him? Don’t remember how that ended up playing out, but it was a great commercial tool.

And this year’s Jack/Kate promo seriously melted my heart. It was so good I devoted an entire blog about it — find my emotional squeefest about the glory of “I will come back here for you” here. The ABC promo department is a really talented group of people, y’all. “Pick Thursdays, Choose Thursdays, Love Thursdays” was a great Grey’s campaign. “The Only Network With The Doctors Shephard” made me smile. Hell, they super-sold me on “October Road.” (Read about my reaction to that promo here, and Mae’s sadly-accurate commentary on the show itself here.)

ABC has the benefit of having all eyes right now. Promoted correctly, the February premiere of Lost isn’t going to slip past anyone, be they obsessed fangirl, regular watcher, or even just somebody looking to get out of the Grey’s business.

Regardless, it’s going to be a long wait for the season premiere. I look forward to the mobisodes—I’ll watch every second of original Lost content, even if I do have to watch it on the tiny screen of my Razr—and to having complete control over the characters in the video game. Just wait until they have to act out my plotlines for a change. Hahaha.

Sawyer, you better watch your back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lost: Babies Miss Their Moms. It's Really Not That Complicated.

When Lost went to black last month, I had one thought: Wow.

Blown away by the flash-forward reveal, I remain at a loss to predict what’s next for the Lostaways. Are they going to get rescued for real right now? Or is the rescue still a way’s away, the approaching boat just another near-miss?

What happens that turns Jack into a pill-popping suicidal sad-sack?

Is Christian Shephard alive? How? Did the same people that faked the Oceanic 815 wreckage also fake his death? Why?

Will Desmond meet up with the rest of the team in time to warn them about the boat?

Why won’t Patchy die? Does it have anything to do with why Richard Alpert hasn’t aged in decades?

When are they going to realize it’s two days until Christmas?

Who is waiting for Kate at home?

That last one, I’m pretty sure I can answer.

Jabrams and the gang want you to think it’s Sawyer, which means, basically, it’s not. I have a prediction that’s maybe even a little too idealistic and fluffy for my taste, but here goes.

It’s the Jaby.

Jack’s cell phone supposedly dates the episode to current time, making it about three years post-island, if they indeed are being rescued right now. Let’s say Jack and Kate have a heart-to-heart on the rescue boat, knowing full well that they’re probably sailing toward Kate’s arraignment. They kiss, and he promises to help her get through the whole ordeal.

Of course, she gets acquitted, because, seriously, any jury member could discern that Others Jail is way worse than any kind of punishment the American Correctional System could think up. Juliet gets hit by a train, Jack and Claire find out they’re related, and Jack and Kate begin their relationship.

Not long after, she gets pregnant and they decide to keep it. Their son is born, life is great for a while, Jack is the super-cute dad we all know he will be. Until he starts becoming obsessed with island nonsense. Maybe there’s some event that trips him up—perhaps the death of a fellow Lostie, perhaps not—but he starts acting all weird. Kate tries to help him, tries to get him to stop working so much, but to no avail. Eventually he gets so weird that Kate decides she has to do what’s best for their son and move out. It’s torture for her to move away from the man she loves, the father of her child, but nonetheless, it pretty much has to be done when he starts collecting maps and dressing like the Unabomber.

Now, it’s two months later, their son is about two, and Jack calls Kate and asks her to meet him at the airport. The baby is going through some serious separation anxiety, which is hard for Kate, because she doesn’t have anybody to lean on.

Yep, she’s clearly talking about the Jaby there.

There are some problems with this theory. First of all, it’s way too easy. Finding out that Jack and Kate survive the island was a big gift already from Team Jabrams; it would have been unthinkable for them to give up the end of the triangle so easily. Also, it clearly doesn’t account for the overriding policy we have here at Chaos in General regarding children. The firstborn Jaby has to be a girl, people, so unless little Can’t-Stand-to-Be-Alone Shephard is the younger half of a fraternal twin set, I think we’re at a bit of an impasse here.

I have the patience of an adult, and I’m more than willing to wait for Jabrams, Carlton, and Damon to unfold the story to me. And while I am no longer standing on the edge of the quitting-Lost precipice, our relationship remains as tenuous as Jate’s. They’ve got some explaining to do over there, and I’m excited to hear it.

Too bad we have to wait until 2008.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: An Exercise in Futility

A few months ago, I issued an ultimatum to Lost: stop screwing around with Jack and Kate, or I'll stop watching. As predicted, Damon and the crew did not stop screwing around with my favorite Lostaways, and yet I am more involved in the mythology than ever before.

Go figure.

All sarcasm aside, the ultimatum I never thought to issue was not with Lost, but with Grey's Anatomy. I remained true to the Seattle Gracers through the ferry disaster, even heralding Meredith's limbo as a fantastic (if predictable) hour of television. However, the last few episodes of the season were so disappointing, so unbelievably miserable, that I feel I have no choice but to cut ties with the show.

I've had this conversation with what feels like every college student on the east coast. The season finale left virtually every character in a woefully miserable point in their lives. Bailey got passed over for Chief Resident, George failed his intern exam, and Cristina had her heart broken—or did she? Burke may or may not be gone, Callie's only happy 'cause she doesn't have all the facts, and Izzie's facing the ever-popular unrequited love storyline.

The happiest story in the whole episode was Adele's miscarriage!

Don't even get me started on Derek and Meredith. Derek's been acting like an asshole for the past eight episodes or so, going so far as to stop returning Meredith's phone calls, dangling his dalliances with other women in front of her, and to roll his eyes at his girlfriend's rare fun time with her friends. Yet, suddenly, when push comes to shove, it's her fault? Maybe it's the feminist in me, but that's not right. Now, it's like even though I still want them together, I think they'd each be ridiculously stupid to stay with the other.

And Izzie, my God! Let's recap.

In the past year (remember, we're only one calendar year past the pilot!), Izzie has broken up with her hockey-player boyfriend, hooked up with Alex, broke up with Alex after finding him with "George's skanky syph nurse," fallen in love with Denny, gotten engaged to Denny, lost Denny, hooked up with Alex again, and is now pining for George?

I don't buy it. I just…don't buy it.

Grey's has been marketed from the beginning as a primetime soapy drama, and I've gone along with it since the beginning. Since its inception, the show has masterfully married the dramatic with the light-hearted with the downright insane. My all-time favorite Grey's hour is a season two episode called "Name of the Game," which brings Meredith's pregnant sister into the hospital as a patient. In between dealing with Meredith's tenuous-at-best relationship with her father, her still-awkward let's-be-friends attempt with Derek, the fact that she's on the outs with George after their disastrous hook-up, and the beginnings of the George-Callie romance, this episode shows us some classically Grey's comedic moments. The hour opens with George, Callie, Burke, and Cristina playing a rousing game of Celebrities at the Burktina apartment. Cristina's competitive streak is in full force, and she is mortified when "Blonde Ambition Tour" doesn't connect with her boyfriend. (Neither does ""Blonde Ambition Tour! Vogue! She's blonde! And ambitious! With the...with the...cones! Boob cones! Vogueing!" Brilliant.) It also introduces Meredith and Izzie's knitting, as well as wrong-place-wrong-time-wrong-girl victim Finn Dandridge.

Anyway, it's great. If you haven't seen it, go watch it, and if you have, go watch it again.

The most recent episode of Grey's, meanwhile, had way too much of the dramatic and just not enough heart. And I am very upset by that discrepancy. It made for a tedious finale that left everyone miserable and, well, pathetic. We can't even rejoice in Callie's moment of planning-a-baby, big-promotion joy, because we know what's waiting for her around the corner: a cheating husband who's also jobless.

I need my television to give me hope, some fluff every once in a while, and the occasional side-splitting laugh. Lily and I have been getting this in spades from our recent binge on West Wing DVDs. It's also found in droves anywhere you can spot John Krasinski's face.

Next year Grey's Anatomy is going up against The Office, and I know how to navigate my remote control. Gosh, that one precious look on Pam Beesly's face at the end of that episode was more happiness than Grey's had all season.

The real winner in this situation?

Kate Walsh. She and I will be spending Wednesday nights together.

Studio 60: No Hard Feelings

I have trouble describing how excited I was for Aaron Sorkin’s triumphant return to television last season. I scoured the internet for every Studio 60-related piece of information, and was actually in the audience when Bradley Whitford all-but-confirmed his decision to play Danny Tripp. It was a beautiful eight months.

And it was a beautiful three weeks, I’d say, of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip joy.

Those first few episodes were everything I had missed about Aaron Sorkin since his departure from The West Wing. The wit, those little throwaway lines, the walk-and-talks, my God. I bought into it so hard.

Studio 60 didn’t live up to NBC’s expectations. Extremely expensive, extremely over-hyped, and stuck in an unfortunate timeslot, the return of the Sorkin/Schlamme dream-team was a little less than dreamy.

So, they reworked it. Sorkin was, according to rumor, forced to turn his backstage drama into a romantic comedy, something that Sorkin has never been very good at. One need only look at Dana Whitaker, Mallory O’Brien, or the constantly-woebegone Donnatella Moss to recognize that one of Sorkin’s only weaknesses is in writing romance.

And, God, the Danny/Jordan thing was just so ridiculous. I never thought that Bradley Whitford — my beloved Josh Lyman — could come across as sick and creepy, yet somehow he did. And she was so pathetic, and so poorly played by Amanda Peet, that I was never able to find sympathy for her.

And then everything had to be political.

Sure, Sports Night on occasion drifted into current events. Dan (Rydell, not Concanon nor Tripp, mind you) had his little speech about drugs, and there was that time where there was that riot and Natalie freaked out, and I guess you could count that one time Dana went to church, but still…

Aaron Sorkin used Studio 60 as his private political soapbox, something that works well when you’re writing a show about the President, and a little less when you’re writing a show about comedy. Why-oh-why would anyone tune into Studio 60 for its pithy commentary on the war in Iraq?

I am still watching these last few throwaway episodes. I like to yell at the TV. I like to giggle about things I recognize from West Wing. I like to change my away message on AIM thirty-five times during one episode to keep up with the meta references involved in Allison Janney’s guest-host gig. (Like, isn’t it weird for “Cal” to reference Allison Janney being on The West Wing, since, um, I’m pretty sure this “Cal” fellow looks an awful lot like CJ’s babydaddy?) I’ll also watch anything that mentions Jenna Fischer.

I also like to attempt in my mind to reconcile West Wing’s “Memorial Day” with these recent hospital episodes of Studio 60. When Danny leans over Jordan’s bed and asks her to marry him and says he wants her to be his family and he wants her baby to be his daughter, I try to picture that scene where Donna is all sickly and embolism-y and Josh is at her bedside being all precious and flower-bringing.

I’m just waiting for somebody to make a video combining the two. I will enjoy that with glee. Please send me a link if you come across such brilliance before I do.

Someone at Television Without Pity suggested that Studio 60 would have been better if it had been set at a news program, not a late-night sketch comedy show. I really like this idea. I think it would have been a much better setting, given what Studio 60 eventually turned into. It would’ve allowed Sorkin to keep all of the great elements and get rid of the awkward superfluity. You could’ve still had the Matt-Harriet dynamic, the unfortunate network relationship, the current events, only it would have actually made sense.

You also would have needed fewer characters, probably, more similar to the Sports Night cast than the freakin’ shitshow that is the Studio 60 cast.

What it ultimately came down to, I’m sure, was money. After spending an insane amount of money on the pilot and on promoting the pilot, NBC was of course disappointed when Studio 60 didn’t deliver. That said, the show never had the potential to draw in the crowd it was marketed to. Like West Wing, it primarily appealed to a wealthy, high-brow crowd—a small minority of people who buy a lot of stuff, and who buy stuff like Macs and cars and use American Express Platinums.

However, West Wing was one set (with the most expensive part already done) and a few trips to Washington a year, plus a cast of relative unknowns, save Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe. Studio 60 was a huge financial undertaking from the beginning, thanks to high-profile cast members like Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet.

Eventually, it just wasn’t a good fiscal match for NBC. Perhaps if the show had been on a different network, or on NBC a few years ago, it would have had more success. I think Sports Night would be incredibly successful in today’s market, that it was a super-smart show ahead of its time.

I am disappointed that Studio 60 didn’t make it, because I really do love Aaron Sorkin’s writing, and I really do love Bradley Whitford’s adorable face. Seriously, I’m gonna die this week when that baby comes and I get to see him hold her. Somebody better figure out how to Photoshop Janel Moloney into that picture for reals.

I predicted at the beginning of the season that it would become more profitable for celebrities and musicians on promotion-patrol to “guest-host” Studio 60 than it would be for them to go on actual Saturday Night Live. And that was a bad call. But it would’ve been nice.

Until next time, Aaron Sorkin. I still want to have your babies.