A quick respite from "Theory Thursday" for some actual, honest-to-goodness good news about Lost, which has been few and far between these days. Come Monday, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on brand spankin’ new Lost thanks to the launch of "mobisodes": 2-3 minute clips featuring newly-shot material involving your favorite Lostaways. These clips exist within the Lost universe, filling in gaps, introducing new clues, and overall whetting our appetite for Season 4.
It’s interesting that we’ll be getting our Lost fix on the internet, since Al Gore’s invention is one of the battlegrounds in the writers’ strike. Writers are on strike, among other reasons, to increase their revenue share in so-called "alternative" distribution such as DVD and web-based airings of shows. An effort such as the Lost mobisodes exists thanks to a deal cut specifically by the producers of Lost to produce them, but such an arrangement is the exception to the rule.
Let’s put this another way: what do you call a television show that you watch on something other than a television? That’s the issue at hand here, and while it’s easy to call either or both sides selfish, it’s not hard to fathom that within the next five years, the current model of episode distribution will alter widely. This is not, however, me predicting the demise of "television", but in fact it’s salvation.
Riddle me this: do you honestly care how you see an episode of Lost? I understand you’d rather watch it on a 50” plasma as opposed to via YouTube, don’t get me wrong. As long as the quality of what you’re watching is good, the medium by which you view it is moot, according the the Gospel of Me. Watching a season of Lost one week at a time, in large chunks thanks to my DVD set, or by streaming episodes from ABC’s website all leads to my eyeballs on this show, and that can’t be anything but a good thing for both Lost, ABC, and Hollywood in general. (Watching the HD-stream of Pushing Daisies on my MacBook was a peek at the future of things to come. Good Lord, but that was pretty.)
At stake in all of this, naturally, is the commodification of such a multi-level distribution model. Some people seem to have a grasp on how it will work, but I fancy myself smart enough to know that I don’t know nearly enough about this to hazard a guess. But imagine being able to stream a season of television at once. Imagine buying the DVD set in lieu of watching it on a weekly basis. Imagine shows freed from a network schedule and able to simply "air" in various, cheaper ways. Imagine a world in which 500 channels on your cable box multiplies tenfold within a decade. And then, you can imagine the stakes involved in the writers’ strike.
Truth is, no one knows how this will work. But it’s clear these days that the current model, while far from broken, doesn’t exactly "work", either. Ratings are down, fans are increasingly frustrated by reruns, and networks are more likely to green light a cheaply-made reality show than costly shows such as Lost. These mobisodes won’t come close to "saving" television, but they may point the way towards a future where "television" is simply an antiquated term. Your television is simply a means to an end. And the end is getting closer than ever.
This, friends, is a very good thing indeed.
Be sure to come back Monday, when I’ll have a full review of the first mobisode.
Do the mobisodes have you excited? What tidbits of information would you like these to disseminate? In your perfect world, how would you want to watch Season 4 of Lost?
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.