Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Lost" in soap operas and snow globes

I used to watch soap operas, mostly because they would be on when I visited my spinster aunts, Maxie and Lola Belle. I loved the juxtaposition of these southern women primly eating at TV trays while the actors on the screen were kissing feverishly and ripping off their clothes. Spouses divorced and remarried repeatedly, children were born and grew up in a week, ex-lovers came back into town looking completely different. None of it seemed implausible if you watched it long enough.

I also, secretly and occasionally, watched the “Young and the Restless” and “As the World Turns” on my own because it gave me something to talk about with my aunts. But I also watched with a writer’s curiosity, wondering how the current story lines were going to evolve, which characters would drop out and which would become primary, and who would be sleeping with whom in the next year.

Yet the thing I hated about the soaps was what I call “deus ex soap opera,” where a character would come back from the dead, or his or her strange behavior could be explained by amnesia or an impersonating, separated-at-birth twin. I just thought it was lazy on the part of the writers and was something that even more forgiving viewers like my aunts disliked.

I don’t watch soap operas these days because I just can’t commit to any television program that regularly, but there are some evening shows that intrigue me in the same way. I’m speaking particularly about the last season of “Lost.” I’ve not been much of a Lost fan until now, but I want to know how they’re going to tie up the multiple and weird story lines in this last season. If they pull a lazy “it was all a dream,” or “we’re all dead and stuck in purgatory” ending I imagine that I will be one of furious millions. Maybe there is a genius deus ex machina out there that will explain the mystery of the island and The Others and the polar bear and the smoke. The problem is that the writers have spent the last four years adding on so many creepy characters and coincidences that I’m not sure they can ever be tied or tidied up.

I watched nearly every episode of Felicity, a show J.J. Abrams created prior to Lost. So I remember the whole last half of the last season, when Felicity went back in time and was able to start her freshman year over again just so she could choose Noel over Ben. On the very last episode of the series, after going back in time has proven to be disastrous, Felicity wakes up from a long and fitful sleep, surrounded by friends at her bedside, like Dorothy back in Kansas. If Jack on Lost wakes up from a bad dream or stares into a snow globe of a tropical scene, a la St. Elsewhere, it will not only make for bad television and an unsatisfied audience, but will be a defeat for writers everywhere. We'd better not see the sudden appearance of his evil twin, back from the dead, either, or we're likely to toss our snow globes at the TV screen.

1 comment:

JHoward said...

Hi Beth,

I'm not steeped in soap-opera scripting, but I agree that the deus ex machina gambit is a risky one. Once in a while soap writers let you know that they're aware of the silliness, or so I hear. My husband remembers that one of the regular actors on "Santa Barbara" would go do summer-stock theater and his temporary replacement would be given lines like "But, Julia, you know I'm not the man I used to be."


P.S. Thanks for commenting on my "Scheduling the Muse" post. I posted a reply to your comment yesterday. (I'm a little behind...)

P.P.S. I had a great aunt named Lela Belle.