Tuned In

Lostwatch: You Gotta Laugh

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SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Lost yet, you have no business within 100 feet of a computer.

So we finally saw Walt and learned what happened at the Others’ camp with Michael.  Some of it was obvious (the Others are interested in Walt’s abilities and have been testing him), some less so (turns out Michael was actually telling the truth about the teepees, the primitive living conditions and the hatch guarded by only two men with guns).

I suppose I should talk about that, and all the questions it raised. Like, why hasn’t anyone simply asked, "So, Michael, what exactly were you doing at the Others’ camp for thirteen freaking days?" Why, if the Others wanted Sawyer and Kate, didn’t they keep Kate when they captured her, and Sawyer when they attacked the raft? Why did Michael think he was going to get away with lying to a professional Iraqi interrogator? And haven’t I seen that Other guy with the grizzly beard somewhere before?

I should talk about that, but what I want to talk about are Sawyer’s nicknames. If someone hasn’t collected them online somewhere, they should. (Oh, never mind.) For instance, tonight, telling Jack that Sayeed should come, along with Kate and Hurley, in the Big Other-Huntin’ Posse: "Even though Pippi Longstocking and the Grape Ape are ideal candidates for the Dirty Dozen, I’m just going to say we might want to bring along the Red Beret." Later, to Michael, when Sayeed joins up: "Captain A-rab’s in."

This week at the upfronts, we not only preview the networks’ new shows, we discover which ones have been canceled. Among those are last season’s entire class of Lost clones: Threshold, Invasion and Surface. (Next season, the networks are trying again with serial shows like Heroes and Jericho.) Why did these shows fail where Lost succeeded? Lots of reasons, but one of the top has to be: They weren’t funny. Invasion had its comic-relief moments and Threshold some stock "quirky" characters, but by and large they were grim and no fun.

Twin Peaks was funny. The X-Files was funny. It’s as true in TV as it is in literature: the best works of art are the funniest. (Joyce’s Ulysses is erudite and poetic, but it is also full of highbrow and dirty jokes.) It’s not just that the humor is a little sugar spooned on to make Lost less scary. It’s that a sense of humor, play and surprise infuses the whole sensibility of the series elevating even the most awful moments. (See also The Sopranos.) Tonight, say, when Hurley choked out a eulogy at Libby’s graveside. "Libby was a psychologist," he said. "Or a psychiatrist. One of those." It was totally in character, and totally moving, his inarticulate, heartfelt attempt to say goodbye to a woman he barely knew and yet who affected him deeply.

So too with the whole mythology and mystery of Lost: the grainy Dharma films, the early-’80s technology in the hatch, the weird utopian Hanso ethos we’ve gotten glimpses of–all these grow naturally out of a playfulness and gamesmanship that a more somber show could not fake.

Next week, the season finale, in which we find out why the plane crashed, learn what happened to Desmond and see the expedition against the Others come to an apparently explosive climax. It should be a laff riot.