Television

Lost / The Amazing Race

Jonathan Beebe

Of course, we know that Lost's producers are an international '911' call away, should anything go terribly wrong, but for the most part, the contestants are left to their own devices.


Lost

Airtime: Wednesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Naveen Andrews, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Emerson, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: ABC
US release date: 2006-10-04
Website
Trailer
Amazon

Part of what has been fascinating about "reality" TV over the past year is how fast it is making cliches. What seemed fresh only a year ago with Survivor is now being repeated in various ways. On the one hand, this is disappointing because, once again, the networks are transforming anything remotely interesting into pre-packaged fodder. But on the other hand, we have the opportunity to watch the process in action. Most TV has been cliched for so long that it really can be intriguing to watch the networks destroy something new.

Stumbling over each other to repeat the success of Survivor, both NBC and CBS have premiered their new reality game shows on the same night. NBC's LOST takes six strangers, groups them into three teams of two, leaves them with only a cameraman for each team and very little money, and sets them on a race to figure out where they are and how to get back to the Statue of Liberty. CBS reverses the logistics, but ends up with something very similar. On The Amazing Race, eleven teams of two start in New York and weave their way across the globe. Their goal is to complete challenges and avoid elimination -- two elements that NBC's LOST does without. Perhaps taking a cue from Survivor, both shows use "foreign" countries as playgrounds for their U.S.- native contestants.

LOST is more creative in this enterprise. Although it is a game, the show leaves the contest to the participants. Once NBC drops them in the desert, they're left alone to see what will happen. Of course, we know that producers are an international "911" call away, should anything go terribly wrong, but for the most part, the contestants are left to their own devices. Yes, the cash prize drives the show, but it also leaves open the possibility for unscripted interactions. Unfortunately, the producers can't leave well enough alone. Whenever we start to take an interest in how one team is trying to get to the next town without being able to speak the native tongue, a narrator (Al Trautwig) comes on to tell us that that's what they're doing. We're never allowed just to sit and watch, because the show compresses what could have been a full season's journey into three episodes. To be honest, what disappointed me most was finding out where the contestants were dropped in the first half of the first episode. For a show called LOST, they got found pretty quickly.

The Amazing Race is much more like the reality TV we're used to. Each episode is filled with challenges so that nothing too spontaneous can happen. This makes the show less interesting on a conceptual basis than LOST, because it becomes little more than The Price Is Right, set in the great outdoors with bungee cords. But, unlike LOST, the producers of The Amazing Race seem to know what they're doing, delivering three or four good challenges each week. They want to make sure that "amazement" and excitement abound, in the same way that lighting and music help to make The Price Is Right more exciting. To that end, The Amazing Race is packed with the cliches that work; it has more bickering, more drama, more comedy, more everything, than LOST.

As the networks search for the next cliche that'll work, failures can often be much more interesting than successes. While everyone watched Richard Hatch scheme his way to $1 million, the boring cooperation in the Big Brother house offered a fascinating critique of the genre. Producers certainly didn't plan it that way (and have made sure that nothing of the sort happens again, by revamping the second season into an indoors Survivor). But their initial failure to incite dramatic conflict made it abundantly clear that this is what these shows are really after. In the same way, The Amazing Race is the slicker production here and seems destined for higher ratings. Even so, I'll stick with LOST, despite its flaws, to see what I can learn.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.