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TV Land in Fall 2012 – Why it’s getting LOST (in a good way)

“We have to go back!”

In the weeks between spring finale time, and the summer television season, TV fans tend to do one of two things: (1) reflect on seasons past or; (2) look ahead to the new season.  As for me, my intention in writing this post was to do the latter.  But I ended up doing quite a bit of the former, as well.

Allow me to explain.  You see, having recently watched all the new trailers from this years’ network upfronts, my original goal was to select the five new series with the most potential to end up on my new 2012/2013 TV roster, and review their trailers.  However, after I made my selections, it occurred to me that all of the series I chose shared one interesting commonality: Lost.

You guys remember Lost, right?  You know, the show about the plane crash, where the writers promised that the characters weren’t in Purgatory, until the last season, when it kind of / sort of turned out that was exactly where they were . . .

Why?   Personally, I think these shows failed because they focused too much on trying to emulate the crazy plot twists, erudite literary references,  and rampant conspiracy theories of the older series, while virtually ignoring the one thing that really made Lost shine .  . . its characters.  After all, before all the flashbacks, flash-sideways,  and flash forwards . . . before the polar bears, Hurley birds, and omniscient dogs . . . before there were Others, Dharma Initiatives, donkey wheels, hatches, and secret videos starring a guy with one arm . .  . Lost was simply about fourteen fascinating people, who just so happened to be flying on the same ill-fated plane.

As I mentioned earlier, all five of the news series on my Most Likely to Watch list all seem to possess certain qualities that make them seem particularly Lost-like.  (Well, actually four of them do.  But I’ll get to why I chose the fifth one, in a bit.)  The question is, will any of these series be able to pull off the unique mix of script, characters, plot, and mystery necessary to become TV’s Next Big Thing?

Let’s analyze, shall we?

666 Park Avenue – ABC

Clearly, the most obvious connection between 666 Park Avenue and Lost is this guy . . .

Terry O’Quinn . . . a.k.a John Locke.  In a clever  (and possibly slightly tongue-and-cheek) bit of casting “the producers of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars” have opted to hire Oceanic Flight 815’s resident Man of Fate, Denizen of Destiny, and an eventual alter ego for The Black Smoke Monster / a.k.a. The Man in Black to play the Devil.  So now we know that at least one character on this show will be exceptionally well-acted.  But stunt casting alone is not enough to make for a successful show.

As for the concept of the series, intriguing as it is, it’s nothing new.  1997’s The Devil’s Advocate boasts a similar premise, in which the Devil takes Manhattan, and faces off against a similarly upwardly mobile late twenties to early-thirty something couple, by tempting them with riches, and only partially disclosing their true cost . . .

And yet in 1997 we weren’t reeling from a recession caused by the burst of a very large real estate bubble.  What better time to explore a television series in which the much maligned 1%ers actually ARE evil incarnate?  So, the series boasts not only a solid cast (Vanessa L. Williams also stars), but also a timely premise.  But there are other Lostian aspects this show offers, which could end up making it a success, if the writers handle them correctly.

Just like that “other show,” 666 Park Avenue offers an over-arching mystery, along with some tantalizing questions that, if producers play their cards right, viewers can chew over and discuss for seasons to come.  What exactly is the Devil doing in real estate?  What happened to the last managers of the Drake Apartments (I think most of us know the answer to that already.  “Warmer climates?”  HA!)  What’s the deal with the dragon etched on the basement floor?  And, perhaps, most importantly,  what are the HOA fees for living in a place like that?

But what’s really going to make or break 666 Park Avenue, I think, is its cast of characters.  Lost explored the lives and backstories of its various survivors with great sensitivity, and depth.  666 Park Avenue has the opportunity to do the same thing with its various apartment tenants.  Who are these people who live in the Drake?  What drives them, and what ultimately enticed them to sell their soul for some extra square footage, a view of Central Park, and an on-site gym?

Only time will tell . . .

CULT – THE CW

Folks who have spent these past few weeks wondering what happened to vampire-slaying history teacher, Alaric Saltzman, after he croaked on The Vampire Diaries, can breathe a sigh of relief now . . .

Though often written off as a “teen television” channel, over the past few years, the CW has enjoyed a surprising amount of success producing shows for a slightly younger, hipper audience who are seeking series that are a bit darker, and grittier than your typical “bright and shiny” network fare.  And from the looks of it, Cult might just prove to be the darkest and grittiest of them all.  Just watching the trailer gave me chills . . . probably because that TV Guy / Possible Cult Leader looks and sounds like a cross between Hannibal Lecter, Kevin Spacey’s character in Seven, and, of course, Benjamin Linus from Lost . . .

But of course, Cult shares more in common with Lost than just an average-looking, kind of creepy, but still oddly charismatic, intellectual type, who might be a cult leader.  Much like it’s predecessor, Cult will offer its fans countless conspiracy theories, clues to unravel, mysterious happenings to be explained, lots of oddly dressed folks with dubious motives to puzzle over, and most importantly, confusing, but compulsively rewatchable, YouTube videos . . .

What intrigues me most about Cult is how unabashedly “meta” it seems to be.  I mean, here is a show that blatantly eviscerates the one thing it needs to survive as a series: a diehard fandom.  This, of course, begs the question, could Lost fans be driven to commit murder, simply because Benjamin Linus asked them to do so?  Well, maybe if he asked really nicely . . .

Revolution – NBC

Here’s another timely premise, in light of the world’s increasing dependence on technology to survive (not to mention Facebook’s catastrophic failure as a stock IPO.)  Imagine a world completely without technology, that’s populated by folks like us, who can’t remember a time before the existence internet, and who can’t let a day go by, without checking our e-mail, sending a text message, or asking SIRI if it’s raining outside.

Of all the shows on my new TV viewing roster, this J.J. Abrams-produced one probably wins the prize for being the most Lost-like.  Let’s see, we’ve got an unexplained supernatural phenomenon and/or terrorist act, that has cut off our main characters from technology,  a sustainable food source, and the benefits of generalized medicine, forcing them to spend hours wandering aimlessly in the woods, looking dirty . . . and hot . . .

We’ve got repeated flashbacks to a climactic event, which, when viewed together, at the end of the series should explain everything . . . almost.  We’ve got various factions of people, some who want things to remain as they are now, and others who want to “go back” to the way things once were . . .

We’ve got snarky rogue-loners, who begin the series looking out only for themselves, but inevitably “learn to love” and become the series’ obvious unlikely heroes . . .

We’ve got nerdy professor types who spend the entire series looking vaguely confused, while trying to “figure it all out.”

Heck, we even have weird ancient-looking symbols, and those dopey, green-screen computers from the 80’s . . .

But beyond all those superficial similarties, I think “Revolution” has the potential to be a true character study,  just as Lost was.  After all, nothing exhibits the true nature of a person better, then putting them in a completely unfamiliar situation, without the benefits or camouflage  that modern-day luxuries provide.  In the words of Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, “DUUUUUUUUDE.”

The Last Resort – ABC

Forget, “You sunk my battleship.”  Something tells me, come this fall, everybody will be yelling at their TV screens, “YOU SUNK MY SUBMARINE!”  If Revolution is the series that most resembles Lost in terms of plot points, The Last Resort most resembles its tone, high production values, and cinematic quality.  In fact, if I hadn’t spied the ABC logo on the corner of screen, I could have sworn this was war movie.  Heck, they even hired That Movie Guy with the Oddly Deep Voice to do the narration!  Conspiracy theorists, war aficionados, and political pundits alike will find much to love in this series, which, like it’s famous predecessor will revolve around an international cover-up  . . .

. . . the result of which will strand our main characters on an island, separating them from the people they love, and putting their lives in constant imminent danger . . .

Hey, this place even looks like Lost island.  Where’s Vincent the Dog?   WAAAAAAAAALT! 

And of course, there will inevitably be dealings with “those pesky others.”

But mostly, I’ll just be watching this one, because Ben from Felicity will be there . . .

Speaking of completely shallow reasons to watch a television program . . .

Chicago Fire – NBC

At the beginning of this post, I admitted to you that really only four of the five series I chose for my Watch List were like Lost.  Chicago Fire doesn’t resemble Lost at all . . . unless you count the repeated obligatory shots of Sometimes dirty-faced and slightly bloody cocky alpha males who never met a shirt they actually liked to wear . . .

I’d be lying if I said the prospect of having a naked Taylor Kinney on my television screen every week, wasn’t a big draw for my choosing Chicago Fire for this blog post.  But personally I think the trailer for this series boasts more than good looking shirtless guys with bad attitudes.  The in-fighting between the squad members, caused in part by the oh-so-cliched concept of The Fallen Comrade shows promise for solid character development.  The kickass females in the series make my feminist heart proud.  And if done right, those inevitable Burning Building sequences are going to look really awesome in HD.

Besides, who doesn’t love a man in uniform . . . or out of it?

And there you have it folks, my five Lostian . . . and not so Lostian picks for the best new shows of Fall 2012.  So, what’s on YOUR Must Watch List?

[www.juliekushner.com][Fangirls Forever]

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Filed under 666 Park Avenue, Chicago Fire, Cult, Lost, Revolution, The Last Resort