“You Got No Idea What’s Goin’ On On That Island!”: What SNL Can Teach Us About Lost

Curator's Note

With apologies for the length of the clip, I felt it best to post this entire video, rather than a segment of it. In my defense, I’ll make two points: first, that anyone interested enough in Lost to participate in this week’s discussion will find it well worth watching; and second, that in just over 5 minutes, the writers of Saturday Night Live managed to cover many of the most important cultural and social phenomena surrounding Lost. So, which points to comment on? Most interesting to me was the running commentary throughout from a cynical viewer of the show, who insists that Lost’s writers have no actual premeditated direction for the show, and that the island’s many mysteries are being made up over time without regard for their place or significance in the larger narrative of the series. (Hence the title of this post, and the focus of my contribution to the anthology on Lost being published later this year.) However, the sketch also manages to cover plot spoilers, TiVo and DVD-engendered viewing habits and schedules, and racial criticisms about the ensemble cast. Also overt in this sketch: the stereotyped representation of gendered concerns and interests: at least in this elevator, men care about plot, while women care about relationships and romance — and, also notably, are less capable than men of distinguishing between actors and their characters. (It’s a violent oversimplification of theorized patterns of gender focus, but I’m willing to bet it’s not an accidental one.)


Ivan - this sketch raises a key question being discussed in the comments around other vids in this week's series: what do TV scholars bring to the table when much of the theorizing about a show like Lost occurs in the vernacular spaces of elevators, wikis, and sketch comedy shows? And, especially given your own liminal status, aren't people within the creative industries enacting the theories we're spinning, making us less reflective of what has already been produced and more imbricated in the production processes themselves (as in the example of Heroes producers using Convergence Culture in-part as a guidebook for transmedia storytelling)? Are we simply gussying up the vernacular theory for the rare air of the ivory tower? If not, what is our 'value added' in exploring shows like Lost?

As a side-note, I'm genuinely surprised (perhaps I shouldn't be) that of the four clips so far, only mine is from Lost itself. I guess this suggests the way that "Lost" is scattered across various texts (and we're only including forms of TV text here), but it's interesting that what I would have expected to be central -- the show itself -- is proving peripheral.

This sketch seems like an ideal addition to the discussions we have been having over the past couple of days - most notable different fan engagements, plot vs character, DVD Tivo viewing and the puzzle solving pleasure to be had in watching Lost. As Jason notes, where do we fit into this discussion and what can we learn about TV from Lost. Maybe these are the questions we should be asking and thinking about as TV studies continues to develop.

Thanks for posting something humorous as well as interesting, Ivan... One of the other dimensions of television illustrated by this particular SNL clip is the circular and self-promoting nature of TV as a medium – here we have a TV show commenting upon another TV show and talking about this process at some length. This is something I have also observed in action on UK television over the past few weeks in the run-up to the start of season four. Some of the Lost actors have of course been doing the usual rounds of publicity interviews. In addition, though, countless TV programmes have also got into the act by anticipating and commenting upon the next instalment of Lost – TV talking about how fascinating it finds itself. Is this something that is especially well-suited to TV as a medium (if indeed it is a medium)? Scholars and practitioners share a specialist interest in and knowledge of the audio-visual media – chances are that we have taken some of the same university classes, read some of the same books, and are familiar with some of the same debates. Apart from anything else, these shared interests provide compelling reasons to pursue greater dialogue between the two camps.

Will raises an interesting issue about what we might consider to be the central Lost text, the episodes themselves, becoming peripheral in our discussion. One reason for that is that any hit show will generate lots of ancillary texts. another is that we find Lost fascinating precisely because it's the epitome of trans-media storytelling and cross plat distribution. But it does force us to consider the centre/periphery relations. I'd still want to mount an argument, although can't do so here, that the episodes are still actually central, both from a narrative and from an audience perspective, since I'm sure far more people watch the eps (whether when first aired, or Sky-plused/Tivo-ed, or downloaded) than watch the ancillary texts. This relates to another pressing issue for tv studies -- will tv still provide the common social space that it has in the past?

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