Now I'm no TV cricket. Hell, I'm just content to sit back and let the electromagnetic radiation sweep over me. And the sound waves. Those are mechanical, sure, but same idea there.
I'm also a big proponent of the "if you don't like it, change the channel" approach. It's for that very reason that I don't bother railing against television shows in writing.
The show Lost, however, has piqued my railicitude. Not because it has rapidly declined in quality this season and, more gradually, for most of last. Rather because the reason for the decline has to do with the producers' Web 2.0 approach.
I forget where, when, or why, but I recall that J.J. Abrams said that the producers and writers of the show watch the message boards to see what the fans are saying. They do this so that they can tweak and improve the show. That's both where they had me and where they lost me (no pun intended).
They had me because my first reaction was, "that's totally a Web 2.0-type approach to making a major TV series, how cool!" But then I, er, saw the drastic decline in quality from episode to episode. And as I thought about it, I found that they suffer at the two possible courses of action:
Give the People What they Want
Well, good ol' producers J.J. Abrams and Fucky Assington can read Lost forums until they're blue in the face, find what people are expecting, and give it to them.
This sounds fantastic, because it's pandering, and pandering works! In fact, for all I know, they did this and the ratings have gone up. How good for their pockets! (Especially those of Mr. Assington).
Pandering is what gives us such fine programming as The Apprentice, Get the Fuck off my Island (the exact name escapes me), and Who Wants to Marry a Billionare (again, I believe this may not be the correct name).
Lost, however, was so good in the beginning precisely because it did not give us what we wanted until we saw it and realized we wanted it. And that's the hallmark of a great product in any industry! (Think the pet rock and bread makers and 30 second abs).
Give the People What they Don't Expect
Obviously this goes contrary to giving the people what they want, more or less. If people want to be surprised, then it's one and the same. But J.J. and Fucky aren't trolling the message boards to find out that people want a surprise, they're doing it to see what people think will happen on the show.
The obvious tact here is to sift through all the inane and insane theories written by off-balance fans of the show, and then write scripts that have nothing to do with any of that.
Since the Lost fans are fairly rabid and create innumerable theories, perhaps the best the writers can do is avoid using the plots of the more popular theories.
The problem is that those crafty, crazy, crabby Lost fans have actually thought of all the good plots (probably; I'm not out on the 'boards with J.J. and Fucky), and what's left is utter feces.
Did you want the monster in the jungle to be some kind of super-advanced robot, or some kind of dinosaur? "Sorry, it's smoke. Some kind of deadly smoke. We'll explain what it is and how it works once we think of a good explanation for it. Oh shoot, someone on a forum already thought of three good explanations. Well, maybe we'll just say it's Jack's farts".
Did you want Kate's deep, dark secret to be some kind of alien encounter or cool vault robbery a la Oceans Eleven? "Nope, she blew up her mom's husband. That's right, she's white trash, how utterly shocking for you".
Did you want Said and Locke to be some competent bad-asses who actually employ useful strategies to help the survivors overcome The Others? "Oh, our bad. They both turn out to be incredibly bad at tactics and defeating enemies. Also, Said will end up being a pussy and useless in the show. Isn't that grand?"
For really good television to exist, watchers may just have to get the fuck off the forums and let clever writers do their thing without hand-holding. If you want to work as a writer on a show, go to L-fucking-A and get a job doing that.
I'm being too harsh, I know. I'll cry myself to sleep tonight worrying after all you obsessive Lost fans. (Don't get me started on you "24" people. That Jack Bauer looks like a complete asshole, end of story).
On the flip side, people like J.J. Abrams and Fucky Assington should maybe just get the fuck off the forums and produce the television that they were meant to produce. Because let's face it: they're either pandering or they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. Maybe both.
And that makes for some ripe, shit-ass television.