To love a TV show is to know one of two things: Either it will eventually leave you, or you will eventually leave it. There’s no middle ground for the committed. Once you’re in, you’re in, and you’re going to be in until the thing is canceled or until you lose interest because you’ve either figured out all of the show’s tricks or it’s just not the same anymore. That show you loved more than anything? It will eventually feel sort of old and pointless to you after a while, and you’ll have moved on to some new thing that feels fresher but will inevitably disappoint you somewhere down the line. And so it goes. You’ll someday remember that show you loved with such intensity—it will probably be off the air by this point—and you’ll wonder idly why they don’t make ’em like that anymore. The answer is because you’re not who you were anymore, and you can’t fall for a show like that because you’re no longer the same person. —
Todd VanDerWerff (The A.V. Club)
Why “Lost” still works for me is that I saw it, by the end, as a show in which the characters’ reactions to the sci-fi craziness around them ultimately dominated the show’s storytelling. It took me a long, long time to come to that conclusion. For years, I tried to play the ARGs, decipher the hieroglyphics, and invent entire histories for characters that were only mentioned in passing. I tried to solve “Lost”. And in doing so, I ceased to enjoy “Lost”. Only when I refocused on the character journeys did I truly go back (seewhatIdidthere???) to the show. What some might see as a downside to writing online for so long (having previously held beliefs available for all to read long after you have abandoned those tenets) is actually just a natural extension of the way our opinions all (hopefully) evolve over time. It’s not about shedding one skin to grow other so much as constantly identify, incorporate, and adapt.
— Ryan McGee, “Taking TV Criticism to the Next Level (Part 1)”
This isn’t some screed about how that transformation was correct. There’s no singular way for anyone to enjoy a particular television show, never mind television as a whole. But I found it instructive to work my way through “Lost” and “level up”, so to speak, from someone who blindly worshiped at the alter of multi-season mythology to someone who really wanted to see one well-crafted episode of television after another. Sure, those episodes stacked atop each other would offer something in the realm of “continuity”. But it’s continuity that comes from a series of organic choices that inform action. Yes, talking about “organic choices” in scripted programming is ironic. Ten thousand spoons, etc. But in the moment, while watching these shows, they sure as shit feel organic. And that’s the ultimate key for me. Leaving aside all the analysis I have to do after the fact, what I really want in any episode of television is to forget I’m watching the result of hundreds of people’s blood, sweat, and tears to provide me entertainment. I thought I wanted to learn what the smoke monster was. Instead, I just wanted to see two characters get a cup of coffee. Go figure.