BY BERT EHRMANN
Earlier this year, I reviewed a smattering of television
pilots some of which hit the airwaves this fall. Most of the shows
I profiled were never shown on television screens - as the fate of
most television pilots produced these days. Still, one of the shows
I reviewed last spring turned out to be one of the most successful
dramas this fall.
Back in March of this year, I had this to say about J.J. Abrams new series Lost, "Lost is from Alias creator J.J. Abrams (and) follow(s) a group of people crashed on a Pacific island forced to create a whole new society." Which, although very simple, is an accurate description of the show.
Then again, a simple yet accurate description for the series Seinfeld would be, "A single man living in New York whose friends like to visit."
If you-ve never seen Lost on ABC, the series follows a group of airline passengers stranded on a deserted island after a violent crash. The survivors realize that they must band together if they have any hope of living. Not only do they have to deal with the lack of food and clean drinking water, the survivors must also face a very large "monster" roaming the island when it makes its presence known by consuming the jet's co-pilot. So far, the audience has yet to see the beast other than as it travels through the jungle knocking down trees. (The monster has only been featured in two episodes thus far.)
The fifty some odd survivors are lead by Jack (Matthew Fox) a doctor, Kate (Evangeline Lilly) a criminal in transit to face charges in America, Sayid (Naveen Andrews) an ex-Iraqi military officer and Locke (Terry O'Quinn) a survival expert who just happened to be on the flight.
However, to just name those characters would be shortchanging the show's excellent supporting cast. There's the drug addicted rock star (Dominic Monaghan), the very pregnant Claire (Emilie de Ravin), and the not so nice Sawyer (Josh Holloway)<<<
Lost is much more than a simple tale of people crashed on a deserted island. I would say that Lost is an interesting character study on the effects of a high stress environment on different types of people who've never met before suddenly forced to live together and depend on each other for survival. (Yes, the sentence makes me sound very smart. It lies!)
Initially, upon hearing of the concept, I thought the storyline might grow weak after a few dozen episodes. How many different stories can be told on an island with the same group of people week after week? (And worst of all, would Lost degenerate into some sort of odd Cast Away rip off?)
But the show's writers and producers have found a clever solution; the plot is played out almost in real time and a good portion of each episode is spent dealing with the characters back stories, flashing back to times before the crash. Five weeks of Lost on ABC equals roughly five weeks of the survivors stuck on the island. The show's first season is almost half way over yet the show feels as fresh as the first time it aired.
In fact, I get the feeling that hardly any of the stories in the show have yet been told.
Another worthwhile show this season is the surprisingly good Veronica Mars on UPN. Initially, the show was described as a sort of 21st century update on the Nancy Drew character. The basic plot of Veronica Mars follows teenage Veronica Mars as she deals with high school by day while working at her father's detective agency by night.
However, much like Lost, a simple synopsis of the show's plot will not suffice. Veronica Mars's basic plotline is a springboard into something more.
A few years prior to the events chronicled in the show, Veronica Mars' best friend Lily was murdered. When Veronica's dad, then the city's sheriff, placed the blame on Lily's father, the town turned their back on him and voted him out of office. And when Veronica didn't turn her back on her father like everyone wanted her to, she was thrown out of the popular group in school.
Now, Veronica exists in a sort of neither region of school cliques; save but a few friends Veronica is on her own.
As Veronica investigates things like credit card fraud perpetuated on fellow students or stolen cars, she's also covertly trying to prove that her father was right to suspect Lily's father of murder as well as to find her own mother who abandoned the family shortly after her father was thrown out of office. As Veronica puts it about her dad, "The hero is the one who stays and the villain is the one that splits."
There are two levels of story in Veronica Mars. One level is the very basic Veronica solving cases. But there's a whole other level to the series in a second underlying sometimes-disturbing storyline of Veronica looking for Lily's killer.
Though Veronica Mars might not be as gritty as a show like HBO's Deadwood, it's about as gritty as a show on UPN can get.
The ever-talented Kristen Bell, who just happened to have a role in Deadwood as well as the movie Spartan that opened last spring, plays Veronica Mars adeptly. It's a tough line to play a smart high school girl that doesn't come off sounding too much like the wisecracking Buffy Summers. But somehow, Bell manages to pull it off.
Lost airs Wednesdays on ABC at 8:00 P.M. Veronica Mars airs Tuesdays on UPN at 9:00 P.M with repeats of last week's episode sometimes airing on MTV Tuesdays at 7:00 P.M.