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''Lost'': Marking Time Already?

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 29, 2005

This is my half of several conversations this morning:


''I haven't seen it yet.''


''I haven't seen it yet.''


''I HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET!''


Because of some obligations on Wednesday night, I had to let the DVR handle ''Lost'' and a bunch of other shows. This morning before I went to the office I was looking at some things for my DVD column. (Get the first season of ''Alfred Hitchcock Presents,'' in stores Tuesday.) So, when I got to my office, co-workers eager to talk ''Lost'' had to discuss among themselves.


This afternoon I finally caught up. And wondered why I had rushed even that much.


We know Michael's relationship with Walt is complicated, that Walt has issues about basically abandoning Walt. Wednesday's flashbacks just told us that in a more emphatic way, in between shots of guys hanging onto disintegrating rafts.


We already knew a lot about what was in the hatch. Telling us again from a different character's point of view feels like flawed storytelling -- stretching out something that a better writer would have handled in a single hour.


And OK, we saw the Others. Either that or an outtake from ''Night of the Living Dead.'' I'm not sure. But it was a long wait for a glimpse.


This comes back to one of the fundamental problems with U.S. television compared to the Brits. In England, if a show has enough ideas for six or seven episodes, then a season is six or seven, and the show goes away until a writer thinks up another six or seven.


Here a hit network show starts a season knowing it's going to need 22 episodes, possibly a couple of more than that. That's a lot to ask for (and at that, it's less than shows used to have to concoct). I think it was Dick Wolf who said that with 22 episodes, you can figure about a third are going to be good, a third OK and third below par. Those figures are probably even more optimistic with a serialized show, since you have to keep a story going but not too fast; think of all the narrative dead spots in ''24.''


''Lost'' sets the bar so high when it's good -- as it was in the season premiere a week ago -- that I should be understanding when an episode disappoints. But I didn't expect disappointment in just the second episode of the season. It already has me thinking about waiting for the second-season DVD.

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