Lost, ‘The Marbled Rye’

Never let it be said that we’re not Lost completists on Unpopcult. In case anyone else was wondering what the Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse Twitter feud this week was all about, it was about this footage, an allegedly unshown scene from season 1 which would prove that they weren’t making it all up as they went along. It was unveiled at Comic-Con yesterday.

The full story (actually, the scene was shot a few weeks ago) is here.

Darlton, I love you. Don’t ever change.

EDIT: Brief reflections on The Marbled Rye. It clearly isn’t canon, but by its very existence it demonstrates that Lindelof/Cuse continue to treat Lost, its legacy, and its fans with respect and affection. No doubt they will do lots of other things separately and (we can hope) together. But they’re not running scared of Lost; they’re embracing it. Which is why they, in turn, continue to get all that love right back at them. This is the sort of thing that gets you boundless goodwill. (Props to Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver as well.)

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Lost epilogue – The New Man In Charge

Released today in America, and in September in the UK, the DVD box-set of all six seasons of Lost comes with as tantalising an extra as can be imagined: a twelve-minute epilogue called ‘The New Man In Charge’.  Theoretically it’s available only with the DVDs.  But I’ve watched every minute of every episode on TV, I’m not shelling out to watch them again on DVD, and I’m fecked if I’m going to be denied the opportunity to see it.  So there we go.

And while it’s not worth the price of admission it’s certainly worth, um, seeking out, if for no other reason than we get to see the majestic Michael Emerson getting his Ben on for the last time.  He turns up first of all at the Dharma Logistics Warehouse in Guam, where two Dharma employees are loading food pallets – yes, remember them?  Ben’s got instructions from the new man in charge of the island – Hurley, you will recall – to halt the food drops.  “We deserve answers!” one of the Dharma guys meta-demands, and Ben provides a few by showing them and us a Pierre Chang orientation video: the Hurley bird, the polar bears, all that good stuff.

Then he goes off to the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute to visit… no, I think I’ll leave it at that.  It’s all out there if you want it, and avoiding a spoiler in what will presumably be my last-ever Lost review gives me a warm, nostalgic glow.  Anyway, ‘The New Man In Charge’ has got Emerson, Jorge Garcia, someone else, a few answers, and a delicious lightness of touch; I loved it, and if you’ve watched Lost from gun to tape like so many of us have I think you will too.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 6: Best Comedy

The nominations are:

30 Rock

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Glee

Modern Family

Nurse Jackie

The Office

This category is perhaps the most interesting it’s been for years, with the appearance of ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family’, both of which look like being Emmy heavyweights.  I haven’t seen the most recent season of ‘The Office’, although the word seems to be that there’s been a dip in quality, which might count against it.  The same has been said of ’30 Rock’, of course.  I seem to be in a bit of a minority here, but I didn’t think that season 4 was measurably worse than seasons 1-3.  Or perhaps the critical reputation of the first three seasons was a bit over-inflated.  Anyway, it’s still full of insider-y TV biz jokes which will play to the key constituency, so while it’s less likely to win than in past years I don’t rule it out.

We haven’t yet had the second season of ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the UK, but if it’s anything like as good as season 1 it has to be a contender, although I wonder whether not actually being a comedy might ultimately deny it a vote or two here.  And ‘Curb’ is ‘Curb’ – I love it, but unless the voters feel like rewarding it for the ‘Seinfeld’ revival I can’t see that the most recent season did anything which would turn it into a winner.

Which brings us back to the new guys.  If the vote’s for a cultural phenomenon then ‘Glee’ will get it.  If it’s for a comedy ‘Modern Family’ will win.  My guess is the latter. 

A couple of Emmy footnotes: surely the biggest nailed-on certainty of the whole thing has to be composer Michael Giacchino’s nomination for his soundtracking of ‘Lost’ finale ‘The End’.  Also in the musical categories, it would be nice to see ‘Long Hard Times To Come’ winning Best Titles Music for the otherwise-deprived-of-Emmy-love ‘Justified’.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 5: Best Drama

All right, nominees, let’s form an orderly queue.  What do we have here?

Y’know, I’ve only ever seen one minute of Breaking Bad.  I didn’t like it.  I know that’s a completely arbitrary and ridiculous way to judge a show, but it was my minute and I didn’t enjoy it.  So, yes, Breaking Bad is a potential, probably deserving, maybe even likely winner this year, but it wouldn’t be mine.  Next.

Ah, I’ve seen a few episodes of Dexter, although they were way back in season 1.  I liked them more than that minute of Breaking Bad but I didn’t really like them.  So, whether it’s got a chance of beating the other nominees, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be my winner either.  Next.

The Good Wife’s a tricky one.  I started watching it at the beginning of the season but lost interest after a few episodes.  It was perfectly watchable and reasonably entertaining but, amongst the deluge of tv this year, perfectly watchable and reasonably entertaining weren’t enough to keep me on the hook.  Much as I adored the cast, the few episodes I saw weren’t Emmy-worthy.   Jed stuck with it though, and his reviews suggest it became much more  than perfectly watchable and reasonably entertaining.  Not my winner then, but maybe in with a shot?  I’m not sure.  Next.

True Blood is actually nominated?  For Outstanding Drama Series?  Seriously? I watch it, I quite like it, but come on.   It’s too patchy, too erratic and too anxious to shock to merit a nomination, let alone a win.  It’s not the best drama on television.  It’s not even the best vampire drama on television.  Next.

Mad Men, now that’s more like it.  It’s won the past couple of years, and it’s deserved to.  And it probably deserves to again, after a strong third season with some utterly brilliant material and some fantastic acting.  Yes, I’d be perfectly happy if Mad Men won again.  But…

Look, I know.  Breaking Bad’s edgier.  Dexter’s cooler.  The Good Wife’s easier.  True Blood’s sexier.  And Mad Men’s worthier.  But, in a year of superb drama – plenty of which didn’t make it onto the shortlist – Lost’s final year was special.  Despite a few misfires, the season and the show as a whole, as Jed has said, was a momentous, astounding achievement and, for me, “The End” was the tv experience of the year.  Nothing else on this list came anywhere near affecting me in the same way as that last couple of hours with the passengers of Oceanic 815.  So I know a lot of people don’t agree, and maybe the Emmy voters won’t agree, but Lost is my winner.  Feel free to use the comments to tell us yours.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 4: Best Supporting Actor and Best Guest Actor

As with the women, some top-notch performances are recognised in the second-banana categories.  There are also plenty of notable omissions, but there’s now so much good TV around that not everyone can be rewarded. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy:

Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel, ‘Glee’

Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson, ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell, ‘Modern Family’

Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker, ‘Modern Family’

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy, ‘Modern Family’

Jon Cryer as Alan Harper, ‘Two And A Half Men’

Any one of the ‘Modern Family’ nominees would be a worthy winner here, and while Ed O’Neill might be regarded as unlucky to miss out I’m particularly pleased that the sometimes overlooked Jesse Tyler Ferguson gets a shout.  So with half of the nominees, the wisdom of the ‘Modern Family’ strategy becomes clear here.  Or does it?  What happens if the ‘Modern Family’ vote gets split?  Neil Patrick Harris should, of course, have won last year, and dude who did, Jon Cryer, surely won’t win twice in a row.  (Incidentally, does anyone else remember ‘Partners’?  In the UK it was shown at about midnight.  I liked it a lot.)  Personally I would give it to Harris or Eric Stonestreet, but with all of that going on I just wonder whether Chris Colfer might sneak through the middle.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama:

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, ‘Breaking Bad’

Martin Short as Leonard Winstone, ‘Damages’

Terry O’Quinn as John Locke, ‘Lost’

Michael Emerson as Ben Linus, ‘Lost’

John Slattery as Roger Sterling, ‘Mad Men’

Andre Braugher as Owen, ‘Men Of A Certain Age’

Another enormously strong category.  We haven’t seen ‘Certain Age’ in the UK yet but Andre Braugher is always value, and anything connected with ‘Breaking Bad’ is award-bait.  Last year’s winner, Michael Emerson, was if anything even better this season, but I wonder if the Losties in the Academy might decide it’s Terry O’Quinn’s turn this time?  If so he’ll be doing well to hold off the stellar John Slattery, scene-stealing as ever in ‘Mad Men’, where it must be pretty hard to steal a scene.  (And hard luck on Bryan Batt and Vincent Kartheiser, both of whom deserve to be here.  Possibly also half the cast of ‘Lost’.  And Robert Sean Leonard.)  I wouldn’t be at all surprised, though, if Martin Short’s playing against type as sleek, amoral Leonard Winstone in ‘Damages’ could just get there – the Academy’s love for Bryan Cranston demonstrates just how much the voters like comic turns going straight.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy:

Mike O’Malley as Burt Hummel, ‘Glee’

Neil Patrick Harris as Bryan Ryan, ‘Glee’

Fred Willard as Frank Dunphy, ‘Modern Family’

Eli Wallach as Bernard Zimberg, ‘Nurse Jackie’

Jon Hamm as Dr. Drew Baird, ’30 Rock’

Will Arnett as Devin Banks, ’30 Rock’

If Jon Hamm gets this one while missing out on the big prize yet again, I will not be pleased.  I’d like to think, though, that it’s a Mike O’Malley/NPH showdown, with O’Malley probably getting it for making the very most of what could have been a relatively insignificant part.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama:

Beau Bridges as Detective George Andrews, ‘The Closer’

Ted Danson as Arthur Frobisher, ‘Damages’

John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell, ‘Dexter’

Alan Cumming as Eli Gold, ‘The Good Wife’

Dylan Baker as Colin Sweeney, ‘The Good Wife’

Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper, ‘Mad Men’

Gregory Itzin as President Charles Logan, ’24’

Now, here’s where I don’t get the whole “guest”/”supporting” thing.  Alan Cumming was in 7 episodes of ‘The Good Wife’,  Gregory Itzin was in 8 of the last season of ‘24’, and if someone told me that Robert Morse was in every episode of ‘Mad Men’ I wouldn’t be astonished; ditto John Lithgow and ‘Dexter’.  Cumming, of course was great; there perhaps isn’t more fun to be had among all the nominated acting performances than Itzin’s big, broad, President Logan; and Morse’s playing of eccentric shrewdness was absolutely precise.  Ted Danson was as good as ever in ‘Damages’, but this time round the character seemed oddly out-of-place.  I’d love Dylan Baker to get it for his ironic ‘The Good Wife’ psychopath, but although we haven’t yet seen season 4 of ‘Dexter’ I’ve heard enough about Lithgow’s performance to suggest that he’s the favourite here.  And Andre Braugher should have been nominated for ‘House’, of course.

Unpopcult at the Emmys: Leading Men

Woo hoo! The Emmy nominations are out, and Jed and I are a bit excited about them.  Okay, a lot excited.  So we’re taking advantage of the fact that we suddenly have no tv to watch (hello, off-season!) and indulging ourselves with a LOT of Emmy posts over the next few days.  Humour us…

I’m delighted I get to talk about the Leading Men categories –  or “Outstanding Lead Actor” if you want to be formal about it – because of the high swoon factor amongst the nominees.  Obviously, though, that’s not the point, so, er, anyway, let’s start with the surprises – finally FINALLY, Kyle Chandler’s been nominated for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama” for his work on Friday Night Lights.  He’s always been brilliant (even if I’m only on season 2 just now) and the only thing wrong with his nomination is that it didn’t happen years ago. 

But hang on!  Matthew Fox is nominated too!  And his valedictory turn in Lost this year deserved it, so I’m delighted for him as well. Am I supposed to choose between them?

I guess I should be grateful then that Timothy Olyphant didn’t make the cut for Justified, and make it even harder to pick my winner, but I don’t feel grateful.  His performance was perfect.  Nuanced, mesmerising and perfect.  And, like Fox and Chandler, it would have been someone new in the list of nominees.  Instead, we get the old guard of Laurie, Hall, Hamm and Cranston, yet again.  We all know I’d keep Jon Hamm in because a) I love him and b)  he needs to win sometime DAMMIT, but, good as the other three guys are, I’d have preferred to see Olyphant in there instead of any one of them.  Not that he’d have a hope of winning, I don’t think – it’s Foxy vs Hamm vs Chandler for me.  So Cranston’ll probably win it again.  Sigh.

To be honest, I’m a lot less invested in the “Oustanding Lead Actor in a Comedy” category.  As you know, I don’t “do” comedies so the only one of these shows that I’ve watched this season is Glee, and yes, Matthew Morrison’s Mr Shu is lovely and fun and everything, but I’m surprised to see him nominated.  Was he this year’s best lead actor in a comedy?  I have no idea.  Why has Chuck’s Zachary Levi missed out on a nomination yet again?  Again, I have no idea (and I’m not happy about it).  But who’s going to win? Well…. 

Tony Shalhoub’s fine in Monk, but it finished ages ago.  Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory has his fans too, but I don’t think he’s going to take it either.  And The Office’s Steve Carrell  and Curb’s Larry David have both been around for ages, and been nominated many times; I think their ships have already sailed.  Baldwin or Morrison, then?  Personally, I’d give it to Matt because a) I like a change and b) he deserves extra credit for all the rapping he has to do.  But I doubt these are the same criteria used by the Emmy voters; Alec will probably take it again.

Lost s6 ep 17

SPOILER ALERT: For three years now I’ve been writing about ‘Lost’ and trying to avoid spoilers in doing so.  I don’t see how I can write about this final episode without getting into specifics.

In my review of the first episode of this season I promised not to complain about the finale.  I’m going to clarify my position on that a little, and claim that it was meant to be a promise not to complain that the ending, if I found it unsatisfactory, invalidated the whole show.  It’s of particular importance this time out, of course: I’ve been evaluating each episode of this season both as a piece of TV in itself and as a contribution towards the overall ‘Lost’ picture, and those dual criteria apply even more this week, certainly to ‘Lost’, perhaps more than to any other episode of any TV show.  Ever.

As a piece of TV?  That’s the easy one.  Astonishing.  I didn’t move from in front of the TV for over two hours.  It had almost too many perfectly-judged moments to count.  On-island we had the long-awaited final battle between Flocke and, well, the rest of the world, represented by Jack, Kate, Hurley and Desmond.  With Ben somewhere in between.  Anyway, not for the first time in ‘Lost’ history Desmond’s down the hole, on this occasion to, y’know, pull the plug out (and who knew that vending machines and islands could be reset in essentially the same way?).  Then, as the island starts to fall apart, Flocke faces off against Jack, in another iteration of the conflict we’ve been seeing since season 1.  While all of that is going on, though, Lapidus lives!  And he’s a pilot, in case we’ve forgotten, so Miles and Richard – who also lives! – get the plane ready for takeoff.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the whole episode happened in this timeline, when Jack passed the mantle of leadership onto Hurley.  I hope I’m not reading too much into this, but it seemed to me to be freighted with fourth-wall symbolism: Hurley has always been the voice of the viewer, the Everyman-and-woman; he’s me, he’s you, and as far as I was concerned this amounted to nothing more or less than Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse handing the island over to us – they’re done, it’s ours now, and we can make of it what we will.

And in Sideways-world, for those of us who’ve stuck with ‘Lost’ for the duration, it’s all just lovely.  It really is.  (I’m not ashamed to say, incidentally, that I hadn’t spotted the symbolism of Christian Shephard’s name until it was pointed out.)  Shivers down spines, goosebumps on goosebumps, the lot, as most of the main characters remember their Island existence while sorting out their sideways lives: Jack’s flashback is particularly moving but they’re all good, as it happens, and just about everyone finds their constant.  In a week when the ensemble all got to play a part it would be invidious to single out any of the actors for praise – perhaps this week’s MVP award, in recognition both of six years of outstanding work and a particularly dazzling contribution to the final week, should go to soundtrack composer Michael Giacchino.

As for the endings: if I understand them correctly everything in the “original” island timeline happened, and the finish there was absolutely right; perhaps predictable to a certain extent but happily so, as a plane doesn’t crash, Jack closes his eyes, and we come full circle. 

The sideways one I’m more troubled by.  It looks as if the characters were slowly assembling in a sort of planet-sized post-death ante-room as one by one they died in the “real” timeline.  So for example the Hurley/Ben axis could have ruled the island for thousands of years (although who’s replaced Hurley, and how?); Sawyer and Juliet probably got together, and so on.  Now, this all serves as an explanation of the flash-sideways timeline, which covers – what? – about half of season 6, but doesn’t begin to explain away anything else.  To be clear – I’m not particularly looking for answers; but if we’re being given them anyway it seems somewhat half-assed to solve the riddle of the flash-sideways in this particular way, while leaving some of the bigger questions unaddressed.

UK viewers, of course, have just seen the end of ‘Ashes To Ashes’, which featured a not-dissimilar conclusion.  I compared it, perhaps a little unfairly, to everyone’s least-favourite ‘Dallas’ plot twist.  The big problem with Pamela Ewing’s year-long dream, as well as a pretty lazy way for the producers to get themselves out of a corner, was that it essentially amounted to the writers saying: everything you’ve just seen?  Everything that moved you, made you laugh, made you think?  None of it mattered.  Now, I’m going to be kinder to ‘Lost’ than I was to ‘Ashes’, because Darlton never claimed that their ending would answer all the questions, and because it only required us to write off half a season anyway.  In the ‘Lost’ universe, the island timeline events all happened.  The flash-sideways didn’t.  The ‘Ashes’ writers, on the other hand, claimed that their ending would sort everything out, and in the event it required us to assume that just about everything we’d seen over five seasons hadn’t actually happened.

It might seem as if I’m drawing a sort of arbitrary line between what “happened”, and what didn’t.  It’s all fiction; I know that.  But a suspension of disbelief is a necessary part of becoming truly invested in a work of fiction, and it involves – if this isn’t trite – a willingness to believe in the reality of that fiction.  In exchange for our belief in what the writers are putting before us we give them our good faith, and expect theirs in return.  Which is why I don’t much care for dream sequences in drama – if it didn’t “happen”, it probably doesn’t matter, and why should I care?  And if I can’t believe in what I’m seeing, even to a certain extent, I’m going to withhold my emotional involvement, or feel slightly cheated when the rug gets pulled from underneath me.

Perhaps my adverse reaction to it had a personal aspect to it: I’ve really enjoyed the flash-sideways, and to be told that none of it had happened was somewhat deflating.   If it didn’t happen, then did it matter?  And should I have got quite so worked up about my adoration of, say, Dr Linus the history teacher? 

I’ve reflected overnight on the ending, and I’m bound to say that I’m more relaxed about it today than I was last night, when I viewed it as something of a cop-out.  But the bigger point, and my fulfillment of my promise, is this: it doesn’t even remotely come close to tarnishing the enjoyment six years of ‘Lost’ have given me.  Out of over 100 episodes, only a handful have been less than thoroughly enjoyable, and some have represented benchmarks for TV drama.  It’s provided plenty of thrills and character-driven emotion blended with philosphical and literary allusions, and it leaves the TV landscape permanently altered.  I don’t hold with the doomsayers who say that it’s the last of its type: something big, satisfying, ambitious, and challenging will come along soon enough, and we’ll all be talking about it.  But it won’t be ‘Lost’.