Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fun with TV: Does LOST Measure Up to LOST IN SPACE?

In the only true sense this question can be answered, the answer is no. But, don’t jump to conclusions, and read on…

As readers of this Blog know, thanks to DVD, I’ve become a fan of LOST over these last two weeks (See how HERE) – devouring the Season One DVD set over this two week period.

I’ve also been a fan of LOST IN SPACE for about forty-something years. It would be silly to compare them on that basis.

It would be equally absurd to compare their respective types of storytelling. Intense, addicting, continuity-driven shockers for LOST, and light-hearted, episodically self-contained, campy Sci-Fi fun for LOST IN SPACE. Each works well in its own way. And, as they say, your mileage may vary…

Both play the marooned scenario to the hilt. The LOST-ers on an unknown island. The LOST IN SPACE-ers on an unknown planet (…or six or seven).

We could draw character parallels… Each show has a “Man You Love To Hate” (Sawyer vs. Doctor Smith). Each has an intrepid young boy (Walt Lloyd vs. Will Robinson).

The other male characters have various character parallels (sliced and diced up in different ways – and over different individuals). There’s a bit of Jack and Michael in John Robinson, and a bit of Sayid and Locke in Don West – though it IS a bit of a mix-and-match. Certainly, LOST’s comedic aspects – Charlie’s reluctance and Hurley’s fainting – can be paralleled with Doctor Smith.

The females, not so much (modern role sensibilities vs. those of the fifties and sixties). Even Vincent the Dog can parallel Debbie the Bloop… if you try hard enough.

But, no… even character parallels do not make for a valid comparison.

Let’s face it… They’re both great shows – and are decidedly products of their respective eras. Love one, love the other, or love ‘em both!

So, at long last… after all the blathering comparison attempts… the only way LOST can be measured against LOST IN SPACE is… (wait for it!) …in LENGTH!

Yes, the whole “LOST vs. LOST IN SPACE thing” is probably a cheat. I could have used ANY pairing of a modern show with a classic show. But, as I’ve been watching both of THESE shows lately, the pairing just seemed “right” for this post.

According to my DVD player, an average episode of LOST runs about 41-42 minutes, while LOST IN SPACE runs just over 51 minutes. This is UNOFFICIAL, please don’t bother to offer exact running times. It’s not necessary, nor will it drastically alter the point I’m attempting to make.

That point being that there’s a lot more commercial time for (presumably all) modern shows than in bygone days. STILL, they superimpose additional ads on screen over the program, ambush us with pop-up ads, and shrink the end credits to feed us even more promos!

That’s also why you’ll never see a classic series run complete and uncut – there’s just too much material and too little advertising space for that to happen.

I’d always known that contemporary shows HAD to be shorter than their predecessors, but JUST HOW MUCH SHORTER was graphically driven home to me this week – after nearly two weeks of delving into LOST and watching the LOST IN SPACE episode “Blast Off Into Space” (Read about that HERE).

Those familiar with “Blast Off Into Space” might know that we have the Robinson’s planet rocked by quakes, meet Strother Martin as a grizzled alien prospector, learn that his blasting triggered the quakes, discover the life-giving substance he’s blasting for, endure some of Smith’s treachery lusting after said substance, have said substance bring a stone statue to hostile life, watch the Robinsons prepare for liftoff before the planet explodes… and witness the series’ most amazing and dramatic sequence – the climactic destruction of the planet as the Jupiter II struggles to lift off.

This particular scene is, without doubt, the best pre-CGI special effects sequence ever done for television! LOST IN SPACE (nor any of its other Sci-Fi contemporaries) would never see its equal before or after.

The kicker is that, given its running time, an episode of LOST would have ENDED BEFORE that sequence occurred! (The 41-42 minute mark being reached as John Robinson checks his family one more time before lifting off the doomed world!) We would also miss out on the episode’s wrap-up, and the cliffhanger for next week’s show!

That’s not to say that contemporary series like LOST don’t pack a lot into their allotted time – THEY SURE DO!!! But, the comparison in how much more time the older series had to work with (…and how much is CUT OUT OF THEM, when -- and IF -- you see one on TV today) is fascinating… at least to TV series geeks like me!

On the plus side, the shorter running time for episodes of LOST allows me to sometimes get in TWO episodes with my morning coffee before leaving for work, rather than only one of a longer, classic series.

So, in the strictest sense, LOST does not “measure up” to LOST IN SPACE – but, as they often tell us – size (or, in this case, length) doesn’t matter. Enjoy ‘em both, folks!


And, again please, if you comment… No spoilers beyond the end of the First Season of LOST! I’m still a few seasons behind and I still don’t know what that damned “monster” from the first episode is!

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