The Island of Dr. Jack
Gilligan's Island meets (choose one): Rashomon, The X Files, The Twilight Zone, Survivor, Lord of the Flies. Those are the various comparisons I've heard used to describe the new drama series Lost. However, the new series from J.J. Abrams (Alias) and Damon Lindelof (Crossing Jordan) is beyond comparisons. It's one of the most interesting new series of this fall's TV season.
Unless you've already read other coverage about Lost, I highly suggest you skip to the second portion of this column. When I first viewed the series' pilot tape a month ago, I had not heard much about it. This "virgin" screening, I believe, enhanced my viewing experience and allowed me to more deeply experience the disequilibria of Jack (Matthew Fox, Party of Five), the first character we meet. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Jack is one of 48 survivors of a plane crash somewhere in the Pacific. If you are scheduled for air travel soon, the chaotic scene he happens upon when he finds his fellow survivors is distressing, but not as much as reenactments, from various survivors' perspectives, of the plane breaking apart in the sky. I don't fear flying, but scenes of the replayed disaster had me seriously thinking about changing from air to train for an October trip.
Among the survivors are several stock characters from the standard book of "what if?" premises, this one being: "What kind of stew do you get when you throw disparate fish into a kettle?" The "fish" include the hothead, the self-centered prima donna, a pregnant woman (do airlines allow women in their third trimester to fly?), a cute little kid, and a chubby twentysomething named Hurley (Jorge Garcia), who provides droll comic relief. And, of course, there is Jack, a doctor and the alpha male who quickly tries to tend to the most seriously injured, making order out of chaos. And what alpha male is complete without his leading lady, in this case, Kate (Evangeline Lilly), who befriends Jack early on.
Giving the aforementioned premise a contemporary spin, some of the other survivors include Naveen Andrews (The English Patient) as Sayid, a Middle Eastern man who immediately raises suspicions from Sawyer, the resident hothead (Josh Holloway). Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) and Yunjin Kim (Sun) play a non-English-speaking Korean couple. New York native Yunjin, while unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, has a distinguished career in Asia. She is superb in a role that could have easily lapsed into stereotype. And it's pleasing to see Dae Kim, who I've seen evolve from human wallpaper (as an extra in early Seinfeld episodes) to roles in some of my favorite TV series (Angel, 24). This looks like a defining role for Dae Kim and Yunjin.
Others in the cast include Harold Perrineau, best known on TV as the wheelchair-bound Augustus Hill on Oz. Here, he plays Michael, a young father trying to reconnect with his 10-year-old son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). Familiar character actor Terry O'Quinn plays the aloof and mildly creepy Locke. Lord of the Rings alum Dominic Monaghan plays Charlie, a rock star with a very bad habit.
Yes, this is the most multicultural cast on TV this fall, maybe ever, and, yet, I couldn't help notice: Where are the Latinos? Did they all die, like all the blue-shirted crew marked for death in vintage Star Trek episodes? Oh yeah, Latinos don't fly.
The last and most important character in Lost is the island the survivors find themselves on. Verdant and idyllic, it holds a mysterious, perhaps sinister secret that both stretches and entices the imagination.
Worried you won't be able to follow the cast of characters? No need. Alternating between deep, pensive moments and action-packed drama, the pilot masterfully introduces each key player and their circumstances in well-timed, measured doses.
The series premiere of Lost is Wednesday, Sept. 22, 7pm on ABC.
Other Series Premieres Sept. 20: Listen Up, 7:30pm on CBS. Second Time Around, 8:30pm on UPN. Sept. 21: Rodney, 9:30pm on ABC. Sept. 22: CSI: NY, 9pm on CBS. The Mountain, 8pm on the WB. Sept. 24: Complete Savages, 7:30pm on ABC. Dr. Vegas, 9pm on CBS. Airtimes and dates are subject to change. Check local listings.
What Else Is On? The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air live on Sunday, 7pm on ABC.
SXSW Presents, a new series celebrating independent film, continues with Heather Courtney's Los Trabajadores. Partially filmed in Austin, the film tackles the highly charged attitudes toward immigrant labor, while examining the U.S.'s deeply rooted dependence on this labor pool. SXSW Presents airs Fridays at 10pm on KLRU.
As always, stay tuned.