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Welcome To The “Lost” Island National Preserve

March 31st, 2010

The hounds of hell have been loosed this morning: Lost fans are furious that last night’s episode was sullied when ABC  superimposed a graphic counting down to the return of the alien invasion series V .

My favorite so far is this excerpt of a piece by the TV writer for the Boston Globe:

How wrong is that? Very wrong. For one thing, Lost fans are Lost fans — that is, we are focused intensely on our complicated show, which we’ve been waiting a week to see, and which is in its final stretch, and we don’t tend to want interruption or distraction. If I had been watching, say, CSI, I might have been annoyed, but not quite offended. But don’t mess with the Lost.

Now there’s some fan entitlement for you. Lost and its followers are so special that the realities of the 21st century television industry shouldn’t apply to them. Not like the hoi polloi that watch CSI.

To be clear, I love Lost, and I dislike the proliferation of promotional graphics cluttering up the screen. However…

TV viewers lost the war against promotional bugs years ago. In the age of DVRs and functionally infinite entertainment choices, the best time to catch your attention isn’t during the commercial breaks that you skip over, it’s during the show that you’re watching. You’re never again going to have the unspoiled viewing experience of olden days, certainly not from free, over-the-air TV.

The implication that Lost is a rare and beautiful flower deserving of special care is absurd. It’s a TV show from a network that not only wants you to watch this show, but the next show as well. (And, as Lost will be off the air forever in a little more than two months’ time, it’s more important than ever for ABC to get you on the hook for the next serialized sci-fi drama.)

As bugs go, it was relatively small. With the exception of the countdown itself, it wasn’t moving. That’s a vast improvement over the ones that take up a quarter of the screen, pinwheeling and whizbanging like the Fourth of July. Or my own personal pet peeve: the ones in which characters walk into the picture and stare at you. If only they were all as easy to ignore as was that simple letter “V.”

That said, there was one scene during which the V bug briefly became a legitimate issue. Sun–a Korean-born character who last night temporarily lost the ability to speak English due to a severe bout of plotcontrivitis–was forced to communicate with Jack through handwritten notes. Her “dialogue” was briefly obscured by the logo. That’s unfortunate. But even then, it was entirely possible to infer what she’d written through Jack’s spoken reply. That’s what I had to do, as I was watching Lost on Dish Network, which “center cuts” all 16:9 programming to fit a 4:3 screen.

I may not like promotional bugs, but they’re far less disruptive than losing 25% of the picture.

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