No, I don't watch Lost.
Yes, I am starting to feel really bad about that.
Lost isn't just a ratings magnet, and it isn't just a brain-requiring science fiction (I use the term loosely) series. It is both, and that is what makes it so unique. Compare Lost to any vaguely similar show of the last decade in terms of ratings and it's easy to see, it is an outlier.
Somehow, Lost has managed to attract seemingly ALL the people who watch shows of its approximate genre, and even a few who don't. And they all LOVE IT. Perhaps my experience differs from that of other people, but I have yet to find someone who is so-so on Lost. You love it, or you don't watch it.
So the question is: WHY?
And I really don't know the answer. Has creator-mastermind J.J. Abrams discovered the formula for primetime network television that captures this unheard of combination of ratings, intelligence, and weirdness? This seems unlikely. If he had such knowledge/mastery, surely Fringe would be a much larger hit than it has been. Or, maybe he did find a formula that worked...but it only worked at exactly that time. Rewind the clock to 2004, and it becomes obvious that non-realistic television was in something of a dry-spell. Basically the only other new science fiction show in the 2004 period was Battlestar Galactica - cable, hardcore sci-fi, aired internationally (simultaneously in multiple countries).
In the present, science fiction shows are seeing a rise in popularity again - and it's not just J.J. Abrams making them. Yes, Fringe and Lost, but also Heroes, FlashForward, V: The Reimagined Series, and Dollhouse (up until last week). And that's just the major networks. The point is, there is more competition for viewers. And yet Lost still rises above the mass.
The final season has just started, so it will be a good long while until we see the effect of a television world without Lost. But it will certainly be a brave new world. There's no way to predict how the sci-fi television scene will change when Lost is no longer a landmark. As a purveyor of the genre, I'll be on high alert until the future solidifies.
For now though, Lost fans are simultaneously rejoicing and beginning to grieve. Emotional investment is high, and the whole world is buzzing with anticipation. All this political network junk aside, the success of Lost can also be boiled down to the fact that it is brilliantly done, endlessly fascinating, and there is simply nothing else like it on television.
So I've basically argued myself into watching it.
I didn't start watching when it began because I was a dedicated Alias fan embittered by a) the declining quality of that series, and b) how Lost was dragging all these non-Alias fans on to the J.J. Abrams bandwagon. From then on came a series of excuses, all of which have been rendered basically moot.
I guess the only real question now is: Can I catch up in time to watch (and fully appreciate) the finale with the rest of the world?
(A slightly extended version of this review posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)