Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watching the Watcher

I have a funny story to share with y'all. In the past decade I've written a lot of books, on Buffy, Xena, Angel, Alias, and, obviously, Lost. I've wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old. But when you write books like these, it makes it a little tough for friends and family -- i.e. those people who are kind of obligated to buy my book -- to read and give an opinion on it if they haven't actually watched the program. "Oh... um... yes, I LOVED the book. I was reading that section where you were talking about Bambi and how she reacts to her mother's death and it really... I'm sorry, what? Oh, right, Buffy... anyway, and how she's dating that zombie fella, and... vampire? Hm. Right, vampire. Um... is Buffy a rip-off of Twilight?"

Or something like that.

Anyway, when it came to Lost, however, I finally found a program that I could convince most of the people in my family to watch, and for the first time they're actually reading my books. My dad is one of those people, but he's not exactly a Lost freak (you know, like WE are), dying for the next episode, scheduling his life around it, etc. So I was going to his place this past weekend and I'm still working on the book, and I asked how many episodes he still had on his PVR that he hadn't watched. He went and checked and he said he had everything from Dead Is Dead onward. I thought, perfect, that's about where I am in the rewatches, so I can do some work while I'm down there. By the time I arrived at his house 2 days later, he'd gunned through all the episodes and was down to the final hour of the finale because he said he wanted to discuss the season with me. And before he'd watched that final hour, he started asking me a million questions, many of which I couldn't really answer without spoiling. But here was my favourite:

"So... obviously they can't die, because if they died in 1977 they could never get on the plane in 2004." I just shook my head and said, "Oh, Hurley..." HAHA!! Some of you might recall that I, too, had a rough time getting my head around it, but now it's the ONLY way I can watch the show, and I don't understand why other people don't get that Miles already got on the freighter, that happened in his past, and he could die any minute and it wouldn't affect what will always happen in 2004.

But what was interesting to me was listening to a casual viewer talk about the show. You guys are the diehards like me. But in my dad's case, when I dropped Richard Alpert's name, he looked confused and asked who that was. When I mentioned Radzinsky and how long I'd waited to see him, he looked at me, baffled, saying, "Why, who's Radzinsky??" And when we discussed Juliet he rolled his eyes and said he couldn't stand her, that she had no emotion and the actress is terrible. I argued instead (passionately) that I think the actress is wonderful, and that Juliet is the consistently calm person who talks like that, and by the end of the season she's just a shell of a person because she's lost Sawyer. I said for them, the Kate/Sawyer relationship lasted 3 months, but to us it lasted 4 years. But the Juliet/Sawyer relationship to us lasted 3 minutes, and to them lasted 3 years. So it's a little tough getting your head around their perspective, but if you try to see it from hers, it's completely different. He was suddenly over on my side about it and said he'd never actually thought about it that way. But then he started asking me who I thought the Man in Black was at the beginning and what he had to do with anything, so I said you know what, you need to watch that last hour. And I shall watch with you!!

Now, I know many people who watch shows with you where they've already seen it, and as they watch they tend to give warnings, "Oh, listen to this... OK, here it comes... wait for it... HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" and I always think it's much funnier if the other person would just let me watch it and pretend they haven't seen it. So, if you watch a show with me that I've seen, I sit there silent. Instead, I was interested in watching the reactions of someone who hadn't yet seen it (as opposed to me, who's now watched it more times than I can remember, and who has thought it through so much my head is spinning half the time). He was silent (maybe emotional?) during the scene where Juliet fell down the shaft. Right before Ilana dumps the body out of the crate, Dad says, "So what do you think is in there, the Ark of the Covenant?" (LOLZ!!) When Jacob says to Locke, "So I see you found your loophole," Dad said, "Wait... so... that's the guy from the beach?!" And the best part was the very end, as the camera pans down the hole and he says, "Oh don't tell me she's still alive... what's that going to prove?" and then she starts banging the bomb, and I could see his body tensing with what's going to happen, and then... boom. White. I slowly turned to him with a smirk on my face, and his jaw was sitting on the floor, with him rigid, sitting forward in his seat. And I said, "I know how you feel. I think you might express it as, 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.'" He said, "THAT'S IT??!!" My 4-year-old daughter, who had wandered in at an inopportune moment and had spent the previous 5 minutes facing away from the TV with my hands over her ears, now turned and said, "What happened?!" I said, "You know how Dora always finds her way home at the end of the show? Well, imagine if she only made it to the gloomy woods and then the show suddenly stopped and said you couldn't find out the rest of it until tomorrow? Or... eight months from now?" She grinned from ear to ear with her hand over her mouth. My dad continued to sit there, stunned.

I went out into the kitchen to help with lunch and I came back in to call them into the room, and there was my dad, rewatching the opening scene with Jacob and the Man in Black. I just might turn him into a diehard yet...


Hisham Fahmy said...

I know exactly what you're talking about, Nikki. I always enjoyed watching the reactions of those who never watched the show, and I would watch their faces as a powerful scene plays instead of the scene itself.
My best friend was never a TV fan, but you had to see his jaw dropping as he watched the Pilot. I don't actually know if he watched the rest of the show, because he had to travel abroad.
My mom, RIP, watched the first two seasons and she was fascinated, and it was such a joy to just sit with her and watch :)
My sister watched the whole thing in a row! Same thing.
I have this friend who has an "idea" about the show, but doesn't really know any specifics. She stated that he would watch it after it's over, because she doesn't like to wait. I guess I'll be doing the same with her next summer :)
And I might just have posted the first comment for the first time ever on your blog!

B.J. said...

My dad is the same way now. I just finished my entire series rewatch with him on Father's Day, and it's incredibly fun to watch his reactions and for me to point out things I noticed the second time through that would be important later.

It's great to watch because in the first two seasons, my dad did the "okay, so what is his name?" or "who is she again?" thing, but by the end of Season 5, he was starting to get as diehard as I am, arguing with me the pragmatics of time-travel paradox and grandfather clauses, getting angry when the characters don't do what he wants them to do.

And now that he's seen all of the series, I can finally let him read my blog. ;)

Blam said...

That's a great story, Nikki. My mom is on the die-hard end of the "casual viewer" spectrum: She loves the show, has regularly asked me what I thought about it (like X-Files back in the day, or Alias, and now Fringe), and especially since I've started sharing with her theories from this here place she periodically tells me that her friends are really impressed with what she brings to the conversation when they discuss it. Yet she's never searched out any info online, because she's just never picked up that habit and doesn't have the natural inclination to do so. What really tickles me is when she comes up with some fantastic question or theory that's born partially of not having thought about the show too much. 8^)

Fred said...

For friends who had never seen the show, I got them to watch the British Channel 4 commercial that introduced LOST even before it went to air, oh so many years ago. Even friends who are die hard fans find the commercial amazing. It's such a great commercial and will suck in those friends who think LOST is only an american show, and not of the quality of Brit fare (or French or any other EU country). Just to show what friends I have, my wife and I were discussing Tom Cruise with a friend returned from England. He looked in bewilderment, not recognizing the name. He really had never heard of Tom Cruise! Somedays I feel exactly like that when I watch ET. I am happy just to know Brad Pitt and George Clooney. And now Michael Emerson, Josh Holloway, and ...

Benny said...

Great story. I can just picture you daughter's reaction to the Dora analogy, it's quite funny!

I got my parents into it when I was doing my pre-season 4 rewatch and they got through season 3 so fast and then watched season 4, but I lost my mom halfway through fifth and my dad kept watching but he's pretty unfocused when watching TV, so I think he's quite out of the loop.

I have a friend who, a week or so before the finally, didn't understand why there was so much hype, then he started watching (I think his wife made him, or PhD students don't have much else to do) and went through the entire thing in just about a month, had so many questions by the halfway mark.

The Shout said...

A friend of mine from work watched the season 5 finale in complete confusion wondering who the hell the guy who met Jack, Kate and the others in the past was. When she got to the end, she realised she'd only watched the second hour!

humanebean said...

Thanks for sharing this story about your Dad, Nik. So many of us have had the experience of turning someone on to LOST (or perhaps another show) and I am always impressed by what others take away from their viewing. My sweetheart and I watched the first season or so together - but then she grew frustrated with the lack of resolution/answers and bailed on the show for the next year. I finally persuaded her to watch the closing episodes of Season 3 with me - and it was a blast to watch her get sucked right back in, asking questions to get caught up and speculating anew on events to come.

One of the reasons that I am so psyched for the Rewatch is the experience I had prior to Season 4 of revisiting the show's early episodes for the first time. I had not expected to find them not only interesting to watch again but a fresh, revelatory experience upon review. There were new insights to be gained, new interpretations of statements and actions and larger inferences to be drawn regarding the overarching mythos of the show.

Given the 'game changers" we were shown in the Season 5 finale - I can't wait to go BACK!

The Question Mark said...

HAHAHAHA Go Nikki! Keep on recruitin' people to the Lost side of the Force!

Ya, my best friend and I sat down one day and actually started naming off all of the people we've converted into Lost fans. I can't remember how many HE had, but I had 17 people that I got hooked on the Island buzz.
I think we're gonna try to convert as many fans as there were original passengers on Oceanic 815. How many is that, like 300-something? LOL

A.G.Wooding said...

I had a similar experience with my brother, I had already watched it b4 him and there was a horrible moment where he guessed it was Locke's body in the coffin as a joke. I used some of my "Tim Roth from Lie to Me" techniques so as not to totally spoil the next two hours for him.
There is definately a downside 2 watchin the show with some1 whose neva seen it, Lost is the type of show where every1 in the room has to b on the same wavelength. You can't theorise during the addbreaks if u alredi know the answer lol

Batcabbage said...

That's a great story, Nik. Your dad sounds cool (that 'Ark of the Covenant' line was excellent), and I'm glad he had the reaction he did to the end of the finale. I was the same way, the difference being that Batkitty and I had to watch the whole thing again instead of the last scene.

I've never had any luck converting or convincing friends to start watching Lost again. The reaction I get most is 'Lost? Meh. Season 3 was bleah.' So I don't bother anymore. My greatest achievement converting someone to a tv show they never would have watched was with my angelic girlfriend, Batkitty. I introduced her to Deep Space Nine, and made her a trekkie. something previously thought by scientists to be impossible, much like black holes and faster than light travel. Whenever we watch Boston Legal and Rene Auberjonois is in it she says 'Yay! Odo's in this one!' Although I can never get her to refer to Armin Shimerman as Quark. To her he'll always be Snyder.

ChrisTemple said...

Before I got married I made every girl I dated watch LOST all the way through... SO I ended up watching each season about 6 times and I loved seeing their reations. I might have gotten new girlfriends just to have a new reason to rewatch LOST. LOL

Azá said...

Lol @ ChrisTemple!

Great story, Nikki. I managed to get my mum to become a DIE HARD fan of Lost once season 5 started and you know what? By the time the finale was ready to air, she had already watched all four seasons and was waiting to get onto season 5 before it had even finished!

Some of the questions posed, however, I think derive from watching them too quickly and because the show is so layered in several ways, there is almost like a layer for each type of viewer e.g. average, deep, deeper, geek (lol). As a result, I have managed to get another subscriber for our rewatch over at your other blog, so that when season 5 comes out, it's all good, and also, by the time we finish, season 6 will be here (not that we are wishing our lives away - of course!).

yourblindspot said...

That's so cool, Nik! My folks were turned on through the combined efforts of my sister and I. I also love to hear what they think, which bits catch their attention, and to enjoy what it's like to watch the show as someone who isn't microanalyzing every little detail. My dad also tends to have great religious insight due to his extensive theological background, and with LOST, it's always nice to have a theologian handy. (Just finally loaned him the first season of 'Battlestar' this weekend, too, speaking of deep religious overtones, & can't wait to see what he thinks!)

But I'm afraid my mom was a little derailed by Season 5, what with all the crazy science and such a complete departure from the previous structure of the show. But I know S6 will win her back...

Casey S. Pitman said...

I love that. "Nooooooooooooooo!" That is exactly what both my girlfriend and I said, at exactly the same time when we saw that white flash and thump. I think I may have even shaken my fist at the heavens.
I get a kick out of talking to the early fans who didn't stick with the show, like my dad. I think in season one he was enamored with the whole survive on an island, Robinson Crusoe stuff. That's what he signed up for. Then came Desmond in a hatch and Dad was out the door.
Every once in a while I'll mention watching Lost and he'll ask some innocent question like "Is that show still on? Are they ever going to get off that island?" And I say "Um..Dad, they already did that, like two seasons ago."
Then he asks "Well what happened then? How is the show still going"
"They went back."
Blank stare. "What? Why would they do that?"
"Because Jacob wanted them to."
"Who is Jacob?"

Anonymous said...

I got my brother to watch Buffy (and Angel and Firefly) and now he's a Joss fan. He doesn't want to watch Lost until the series ends because he's a DVD kind of guy - but I'll get him in a year. :)

Rebecca T. said...

Loved the Dora analogy Nikki. Ha!

I didn't get into Lost until right before season 4. I watched 2 episodes and demanded that my sister start watching with me, because I could tell this was the kind of show you had to watch WITH someone.

Now we hooked our parents on it and they watched the first 4 season in about a month. (much to the chagrin of my brothers who have decided they hate the show simply because we have become a wee bit, okay a big bit, obsessed with it).

Now we managed to hook another one of our friends on it and he is bound and determined to catch up so he can watch season 6 live.

He keeps coming to us with the funniest comments like, I asked him where he was and he said, the episode where Sawyer goes through all the buttons in the cage and only gets a fish biscuit.

I thought it was funny that that was the memorable moment of the episode for him.

I'm this close to hooking a couple of people at work on it, but they're still holding out! One of them tried to argue and tell me that some other show (can't remember which one) was way more addictive and had a much stronger, have-to-see-the-next-episode, can't-watch-them-out-of-order fan base. I told him he was crazy. He came to me yesterday and admitted that I was right. Other Lost fans are crazy and passionate about the show like me :)