Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lost and B5

Lost is beginning to remind me of Babylon 5, and not in a good way. There are several comparisons I could make - both have intelligent scripts with a continuity that promoted character developement. Both have Mira Furlan playing an intense character from a different culture (France and the planet Mimbar). Both have story arcs that hint bigger things are coming.

But that's not what I'm thinking of. I'm thinking of all the damn reruns.

Most shows are shot out of sequence in order to build an inventory of episodes. It usually takes longer than a week to produce a new TV show so they intermix new and inventory episodes. This makes continuity a problem which is why most shows limit changes to the continuity to specific months, usually a sweeps month.

Babylon 5 was run on a different basis. Episodes were normally shot in the order they aired. The few exceptions had extra effects and needed additional time for rendering. With no inventory, they would air what was ready then go into reruns, air some more episodes, etc. To make matters worse, the distributor felt that they had to save the last couple of episodes of the season and air them just before the next season. This meant that they could not be rerun (at least not until the next season). With 52 weeks to fill and a couple of episodes subtracted from reruns, that meant that other episodes were run three or four times.

And that brings us to Lost which has just rerun the pilot and two other 1st season episodes for the third or fourth time.

The networks seem to have abandoned the long-standing tradition of a fixed schedule. Instead all but the most popular shows vanish from the schedule for months at a time so that special, limited-run shows can have a slot. While this helps the network pump up their ratings during sweeps month, it has the long-term effect of separating the audience from the full-season shows. It also means that a show that does not vanish from the schedule is caught short of episodes.

The one good thing to come from this - we can go back and look for inner significance in details we originally missed.

In the show they aired a week ago, I just now caught an in-joke. In a sub-plot Sayid and Shannon are trying to translate some French notes. Shannon finally realizes that the words are song lyrics written over and over by Dannielle. The joke is that, while the song was written in 1960, it was used in the closing credits of Finding Nemo. The plot of the movie, a parent trying to find the son who was separated from him, echos Danielle who is still hoping to find her daughter.

No comments: