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Greatest TV Pilots: Revisiting the Lost Pilot (Parts I & II)

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Lost Pilot Part 1 Review

The Lost Pilot Perfectly Sets the Stage for an Elaborate, Endlessly Entertaining Adventure

What amazes me about the LOST pilot after all these years is how little of the show’s trademark philosophies and storylines exist in the two-part premiere (or how subtly they are presented, save for a few obvious images). Although it’s a bit of a gamble, it actually alleviates a lot of the strain other pilots (comedy or drama) put themselves through, forcing themselves to define a show’s characters, intentions, and formula in the first episode, lest they be passed up by networks.

Even more impressive about this narrative gamble were the stakes behind: in 2004, ABC was lagging behind the competition in just about everything and greenlit a $10-14 million budget for a complex, elaborate pilot to be filmed in Hawaii (oh and don’t forget: transporting an entire decommissioned plane to be ripped to pieces on the beach). Throw in a script that was re-written twice, characters whose roles were changed, shifted, or dramatically re-imagined in the process, and a tight schedule to produce the pilot, and a dramatic, intriguing two hours of television reach almost legendary status, given the situation at ABC and the ambitions of the creators behind the show.

As millions of fans around the world remember, LOST begins with a man in a suit, who awakes on his back in the middle of some trees. He sees a golden lab walking around (spoiler: it’s Vincent), and stumbles out onto the beach, where he’s met with the serene sound of ocean water and the beautiful landscape of huge volcanic-looking islands around him. He hears a sound, turns his head – and then everything goes to shit, as he notices the aftermath of a violent plane crash unfolding underneath him.

Lost Pilot (Parts I & II)

It only takes a few minutes before we get our first cameo from Superman Jack: the next five minutes are spent following Jack with a number of tracking and Steadicam shots (trademarks throughout the pilot), as he moves from a panicked pregnant woman, an old black woman who stopped breathing, and a man trapped under a plane engine – and then back to the pregnant girl, who nearly gets crushed by a plane wing.

It’s relentless, mostly wordless, and a decade later, still as heart-pounding as it was the first time around. There’s a young guy walking around, barely cognizant of the destruction happening inches away from him, a blonde girl screaming her brains out, and a whole lot of dramatic explosions and shots of Jack sprinting around the island. It really does a great job grabbing the viewer’s attention quickly, putting aside names (except Jack’s of course; gotta introduce that protagonist) and backgrounds to throw the audience into the same state of shock the characters are.

Once it calms down, the show very, VERY slowly starts laying out its cast and characters. Since it’s a network pilot, we gotta start with the meet-cute between Jack and Kate, which occurs when Jack enlists her help stitching up his side. It’s an important scene, one that both establishes the tone of the show (dramatic swells of music, super intense interactions with long pauses and a touch of a humor) and shows us that while there is chaos all over the world, Jack is the guy we can attach our anchor to. He talks Kate through the surgery, recalling a story of his own first surgery and imparting a very, very important bit of knowledge to her. While talking about his first surgery, he tells Kate “I decided to let the fear in… I made a choice.”

Lost

Any fan of the show knows what a cornerstone this particular phrase is: as we’ll learn in the coming episodes, every single character on Oceanic Flight 815 made a choice in their lives, a choice that set them on the path to this island. Whether they recognized it at the time or not, that choice wasn’t the right one – and as we see when it starts raining, and the bald man with the scar on his face raises his hands to the dark sky and smiles (the first of many, many religious parallels made on the show), they are on this island for a re-birth, a chance to make a new choice, one that may lead them on the paths to self-redemption.

I’m getting ahead of myself, of course – the first hour of the pilot hardly introduces us to the cast of merry wanderers before the first night arrives, and all the survivors watch as a strange-sounding behemoth rattles all the trees in the forest, making a rattling, wailing sound and scaring the shit out of everybody watching. It’s about 20 minutes on the dot when LOST begins to shift from what I like to call a “trauma drama” (a pilot where a huge event drives everything), and slowly starts to reveal the many dark mysteries within. Right now it’s just a scary sound in the distance (Walt: “is that Vincent?” uh…. no), but it’s a huge bit of foreshadowing that there are many, many weird things awaiting these unsuspecting people in the future.

The next morning, Hurley wants to remove some of the stinky dead people from the plane, and Jack’s concerned about a man with a huge piece of shrapnel poking out of his mid-section. But Jack and company are still in the mindset we hear vocalized by Shannon’s shrilly, bitchy voice, thinking that someone is going to get to them soon. Who wouldn’t? In the modern-day and age, the idea of a “deserted island” completely isolated from civilization isn’t one that enters the minds of many people. But it quickly becomes clear that nobody knows where they are, and they head out to find the cockpit in search of answers.

Lost Pilot Parts I

So they set out in the rain for a little adventure; and for seven or eight minutes, LOST muddles out the beautiful landscapes and turns itself into a wildly effective horror sequence (it’s really J.J.’s finest sequence directing the pilot) as Jack, Kate, and Charlie make an important discovery (well two, if you count Charlie finding his heroin): the pilot is alive, and explains what the hell happened to them – aka, he tells them “we turned around when the radio went out… so we’re basically fucked right now,” with everyone looking for them in the wrong place and whatnot.

Then he gets ripped violently out of the plane (complete with a very B-movie esque blood splash on the window that is fucking terrific), and the three-run out of the cockpit, the camera following Kate as she loses the guys around her and cowers the thicket of trees. She tries Jack’s advice for calming down he explained earlier – another early sign of a connection between them, and reinforcing the idea with the audience that Jack is a leader – and we spend a good twenty seconds with a Steadicam in Kate’s face, a frightening sequence that is undercut with this touching moment of Kate embracing the idea of taking control of the narrative (at least in her mind), something she’ll find herself doing a lot of soon.

Lost has one of the most ambitious and engaging pilots ever produced!

Part two of the pilot really goes heavy into the mystery, adding a few dashes of symbolism as they slowly tease out the true material of the show. The easiest (and most iconic) of these to spot is when the bald, scarred man (yes we all know his name in hindsight, but we don’t learn it in the pilot) meets Walt, a kid who is running on a streak of bad luck with his mom being dead and his dad not knowing his age and all. When explaining the game of backgammon to Walt the man picks up a black and white piece, and the shot frames his hands up at his face, the black piece juxtaposed with the man’s one scarred eye.

It’s brief, but really sums up the show’s entire focus for six seasons: put aside all the twists, characters, and unresolved plot lines, and LOST was about two things: choice and redemption. The iconic opening credits play into this, very reminiscent of images like the opening moments of Rocky, when the white letters of the protagonist’s name crawl across a black background. Rocky is about a man’s redemption and overcoming evil (white over black), and a lot of LOST is about the same thing: presenting the good and the evil in people, and allowing them to make the choice on which to embrace.

Lost Pilot

Of course, there are many others – but at their core, they all are about the dissonance between two philosophies. Some of these are external (science and faith), others are internal, but they all stem from the differing perceptions in a community – and how it’s impossible to reach the right answer when you’re alone. The show gives us numerous examples of this: a failing marriage; a barely-existent father/son relationship; and of course (the only time I’ll mention anything not about the pilot), Jack and his father, the core emotional dynamic of the show that’s NOT EVEN INTRODUCED IN THIS EPISODE (how crazy is that?!!)

In this fashion, ‘Part II’ is a little more subtler than the first, dropping a few easter eggs here and there that would only become clear with the retrospect of having watched the series. Then again, ‘Part II’ is also the episode that puts the great American debate between rednecks and Arabs, a little sub-plot that felt shoehorned in for the sake of having some kind of post-9/11 attitude thrown in. This will come to a head in later episodes of course, but it’s fairly annoying here, more of a convenient story beat to hit – one that only works because we know nothing about these characters yet (it wouldn’t work if we did, knowing both the characters). But after some shouting, fighting, and Sawyer shooting a polar bear, all the pretty survivors (minus Jack, for once) make their way up the mountain to try and get the Sayid-modified transmitter to work, giving us one of the most dramatic and mysterious scenes ever seen on network television – a scene that captivated the minds of millions of Americans by closing the episode with a question (actually identical to the first part of the pilot; in both, Charlie’s question is the last line of dialogue):

“Guys… where are we?”

Lost Pilot Parts II

And that’s where it ends: with a small group of the 40+ survivors facing the knowledge that someone else was stranded there 16 years ago – and probably never was rescued. They’re stranded, 1,000 miles off course, on an island that nobody is looking for them on: in other words, they are royally fucked, and there’s only one way for them to survive: together. Notice how nobody does anything alone in this episode: from the moment Jack enters the sea of bodies, explosions, and (white) smoke on the beach, he – nor anybody else – is ever alone. Call it a convenience of introducing a huge cast in an effective manner – but I call it exactly what Charlie has written on the tape wrapped around his fingers: fate.

To call LOST a ‘great’ pilot is really selling it kind of short: it’s one of the most ambitious and engaging pilots ever produced. Backed by Michael Giacchino’s masterful score (he’d later lend that same knack for emotional swells and compelling arrangements with his Oscar-winning score to Up), LOST clearly was holding all its character-based ammunition back for the first season, instead, playing heavily to the traumatic events of the first 48 hours of the island, setting the stage for an elaborate, endlessly entertaining adventure to follow.

Lost Pilot Part II

Other thoughts/observations:

– Kate tells Jack she might throw up on him, so he tells her a story about nerves “like angel hair” and spinal fluid leaking out of a patient during surgery.

– to calm down Boone, Jack tells him to go get a pen (Boone’s lifeguard training taught him to shove ink-filled objects in people’s throats). Later, he comes back to him with five different pens.

– Hurley provides most of the comic relief in the episode, especially when he tries to tell Jin that he’s not interested in eating fish.

– we spend a few brief moments with an Asian couple, where a dominating husband has left a woman with a buttoned top and a tendency to stare at things.

– Rose recognizes the sound in the woods: “I grew up in the Bronx” she says. The sound she’s referring to is an old taxicab meter indeed used in the sounds of whatever is hiding out in the woods.

– LOST’s version of a sexy-sex, audience-grabbing, trailer-friendly scene: Kate washing her dirty clothes in the ocean, complete with gratuitous body shots as she stares off into the distance, thinking deep thoughts.

– Jack likey alcohol.

– Rose’s husband went to the bathroom as the plane went down, and she sits on the island with her wedding ring in hand, wondering where he went.

– Charlie’s reaction to the sounds in the woods: “Terrific.”

– I laugh so hard every time Hurley passes out during the marshal’s surgery.

– Love how they play out the in-plane flashback from three different perspectives, establishing the show’s rampant use of flashbacks, and allowing for little crossover moments like Charlie running away from the attendant, plus the harrowing image of the plane ripping in half from the turbulence. That shit is hard to watch.

– The writers go out of their way to make us hate Shannon: she’s fucking tanning on the beach a day after a plane crash! Boone calls her out in wicked fashion, too: “You’re being worthless.”

– Kate reaacts soooo slooowllly to everything that happens around her, so the camera can stare at her photogenic face for periods of time.

– the bald man: “One is light…. one is dark.”

– there’s a long pan of Kate looking up the mountain they need to climb, and you can just see what’s she’s thinking through the 15-20 sec ond long shot: “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.”

– Sawyer: “I just shot a bear!!”

– that French recording has played 17,294,533 times without anybody hearing or responding to it. If that doesn’t put dread in your heart, I don’t know what does.

Spoilerific thoughts:

– I really love Jin’s journey in the first few seasons, but it takes some time to get moving. Early on, some of the “look how traditional and borderline-absuive their Asian marriage is!” is a little tedious.

– Charlie + Driveshaft = greatness. Every time.

– BLACK SMOKE.

– it is weird to watch pre-Ben and Desmond episodes? They’re such integral parts of the show, and nowhere to be found until season two.

– watching the first scene of the pilot always reminds me of the last shot of the show, and I get sad for a few moments. Can’t help it: I’m human, damnit!!!

– they present Locke as a mysterious character, but barely spend any time with him. Really burying the lede with that one.

– Randy

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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