Louis C.K. and Cellphones; Jesus and Wine

If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you borrow 4 minutes from your day to listen to this mini-sermon delivered by comedian Louis C.K. on Conan.

In it, he reflects on the parenting decision to NOT let his girls have cell phones. Which, in a (crude) nutshell he says that parents often struggle with the idea of, “well, all the other kids have a phone… so my kid has to, too.”

To which Louis says, how about you let YOUR kid be the better example to the other kids. “Just because the other stupid kids have phones, doesn’t mean my kid has to be stupid in order to not feel weird.”

A bit harsh, but that’s Louis.

The real gold comes, though, when he unpacks how he feels in general about cell phones. About how they are toxic, and how they shield us from dealing with that existential angst in our soul that threatens to remind us that we are alone.

We are so afraid of being alone, admitting that we have a “forever emptiness” in us (as Louis says), that we turn to the crutch of our phone to instantly “connect” with someone else.

Which is all well and good, and I think just THAT naming of reality makes this video worthwhile. Because yes, my cell phone is what I turn to when I don’t want to just sit with “me.”

Yesterday I walked my three oldest boys down to a block party. We arrived at the tail end of the party, so the bouncy house was largely vacant. My boys wasted no time in filling that empty space with screams, yells, Power Ranger kicks, and other such shenanigans. I meandered over to where I heard my name being called… whispered… summoned.

The free beer.

Filling up my cup with a nice Pale Ale from Thorn St Brewery I surveyed the party area and recognized no one. Content with this discovery (because I am, after all, socially awkward at times and definitely not good at small talk or meeting new people) I took my cold draft and walked back to the bouncy house.

Though I WANTED to go inside and join my boys, I decided they were having too much fun to risk being kicked out because of me. So, instead, I sat down on the sidewalk and just watched them bounce.

And you know what my hands INSTANTLY did, once I sat down?

Likely the same thing YOURS do: reach in my pocket for my phone.

Sadness then hit me when I unlocked my phone and discovered I only had 10% battery left. I thought, “dang… I don’t know how long I’ll be here, so I better conserve this 10%. Who knows how long it will have to last me. I’ll check email and FB now… wait a few minutes… then check football scores… wait a few more minutes, then maybe post an Instagram…”

I didn’t want to just sit. Alone. With just ‘me.’

Let alone (obviously) go out and mingle with people.
Yeesh.

So yeah, Louis, I’m tracking with you. Cell phones medicate us from having to just be with “us.”

But he doesn’t stop there.

He tells a story about driving down the road, alone, and suddenly becomes overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. When he felt it coming his FIRST instinct was to grab his phone and start texting people. To connect with someone. To not feel alone, or sad.

Instead, he rejected that instinct, and chose instead this:

“Just be sad. Just let the sadness… stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck…. I pulled over and I just cried… I cried so much… and it was beautiful… sadness is poetic, you’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because of it. When you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies. It has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness… and because we don’t want that first bit of “sad,” we push it away [with things like our cell phones]. (editor’s note: He mentions other things we do to distract ourselves, and it’s funny, but I don’t feel like typing it. HA!)

And I just find all that so absolutely, beautifully, and truthfully profound.

We don’t want to be sad.
We don’t want to feel alone.
And our phones are wonderful happy devices that connect us instantly.

But more than just phones, we live life like this. We try our damnedest to avoid feeling sad. And when we do, we certainly don’t elect to “just stand there and let it hit us like a truck.”

If you need confirmation about this human reality, just listen to the audience when Louis is talking.
You can hear the crowd laughing as Louis is telling his story. And yes, partly because he’s funny, but mostly you can sense it’s a nervous laughter.

It’s the type of laughter when you’ve just been exposed, and it’s uncomfortable.

But we do that, don’t we?
We avoid facing the full trauma of our sadness.
We numb ourselves.

I’m reminded of Jesus on the cross. In Mark’s gospel he tells the story of Jesus’ humiliating walk to Golgotha. And shortly after Simon of Cyrene is grabbed from the crowd to carry the cross for Jesus, Mark says, “The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to dull his pain, but he refused it.” (Mark 15:23 The VOICE)

Jesus had the option to take the edge off.
To dull the pain a bit.
To medicate.
To grab the cell phone and avoid feeling sad.
Alone.

But he refused it.

And I think that point is important because Jesus’ knew on some profound level that he had to fully be present and fully face the upcoming sadness. He needed to face the full force of the trauma that was happening.

To truly absorb the weight of humanity’s collective wickedness, to fully expose the myth of violence, to ensure a defeat of the powers of sin and death, and to thoroughly demonstrate the weak power of love, mercy and sacrifice, Jesus had to just be sad.

This full engagement with the trauma allowed then for a complete and total break through on the other side.

Resurrection.

And resurrection can ONLY come after we have endured the tragic.
Resurrection comes after death.

In the words of Louis, “happiness comes rushing in to meet the sadness.”

But the happiness won’t come if we refuse to engage the sadness.

Resurrection life becomes merely a half-dead, barely-living, zombie type of existence if it isn’t first accompanied by a full embracing of the tragic.

I wrote this post a while back about the experience of losing something. And I concluded with these words, and I still like them, and it sort of applies to this post:

If we lose something in life that was dear to us, and we are sincerely led to believe that God was involved in the process of initiating or directing this loss, then let us choose to first engage with that loss. Experience it. Know it. Let it stare at us in the depths of our soul and let us not move on to quickly. But when we do, when we begin to move from crucifixion to a time of resurrection, then let us begin to believe that no matter what comes next, whether or not what we initially lost will ever be replaced, that we will be better because we engaged with Christ and participated in his crucifixion and are now living in his resurrection. And that, ultimately, is life.

Thank you, Louis, for making accessible such a beautiful spiritual truth.

Be sad, my friends, when sadness comes. Don’t reach too quickly for the cell phone, don’t numb the pain with wine and myrrh. Like Louis said, “you’re lucky to live sad moments.”

Because the eternal life (abundant life, life of the ages, or, as Louis names it, happiness) that is waiting for you on the other side is infinitely better than numbness, avoidance, or pretending all-is-fine.

An Apology and a Recant

Well, it happens to the best of us.

I was wrong.

And I owe a couple of apologies.

Last week I gave my review of the Grammy performances. In it, I said the following:

Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

And also:

For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

As it turns out, I was wrong on both accounts. Springsteen’s song is NOT a “we-are-better-than-everyone-else” anthem, and Swift was  NOT playing a banjo.

So, I offer my apologies to Bruce and Taylor.

Bruce, I didn’t give you ENOUGH credit.

Taylor, I gave you TOO MUCH.

Sorry.

Thanks to my buddy Matt Morris for setting me straight on the purpose of “We Take Care of our Own.” Turns out it functions as the exact opposite of what I thought. He is actually critiquing the lack of taking care of people. I would still say, however, that he kinda brought this criticism on himself in a way. When your verses are so gravelly and hard to understand, but your chorus (the HOOK) comes through loud and clear, it’s kind of hard NOT to think what I originally thought. Nonetheless, I will be the first to argue the importance of context. And when you rip a chorus out of context from the surrounding verses you can end up with entirely different meanings.

And thanks to my brother, Logan Martin, for pointing out the fact that the “banjo” Taylor was playing had, in fact, all six strings. Whereas a real banjo has only four. She tricked me. She tricked us all.

See. I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong!

2012 Grammy Wrap-up

Last year I gave my HIGHS, LOWS, and DISAPPOINTMENTS from the 2011 Grammy’s. Not one to walk away from an obvious tradition, I again offer you my assessment of last night’s Biggest Night in Music.

I’d like to reiterate my appreciation for how the Grammy’s have evolved: more performances and more action, with only the “biggest and awesomest” awards being handed out live (I’m talking to YOU, Short-Film Animated, Short-Film Live, Documentary Short, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. #oscars).

Breaking the night up in to 3 Acts, with a Postlude, here’s my awards for the 2012 Grammy Performances.

Act I

“Worst Song to be Performed Well by an Old Timer”
Bruce Springsteen can still rock it, of that there is no doubt. He looks good and sounds good (although when you sing a song with only a four note range, it’s kind of hard NOT to). My issue was with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Call it my aversion-to-USA-thinking-they’re-better-than-anyone-else syndrome, fine. But I just don’t resonate with the message “wherever our flag is flown / we take care of our own.”

“Best Collaboration Between Newbie and Old Timer”
Last night gave us quite a few of these mashups, but I thought that Alica Keyes and Bonnie Raitt’s, who was the first collaboration of the evening, was also the best. I loved the simple guitar/keys combo, and their tribute to Etta James was simply beautiful. They blended perfectly.

“Best Tribute to Classic 80’s Toys”
Did anyone else think Chris Brown’s bland and uninteresting performance of “Turn up the Music/Beautiful People” looked like he was a failed Cirque du Soleil auditioner who was prancing around on a giant Rubik’s Cube in an eerily similar way to that classic NES game, Bubble Bobble? Well, if not, then you probably do now.

“Still Doesn’t Work, Award”
Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson tried this duet last year on American Idol, and it just doesn’t work for them. Their chemistry is awkward and their blending is bad. The best part? When Jason’s mic went out and it was just Kelly.

“Most Underwhelming”
Sorry, I just could not get in to the Foo Fighter’s “Walk.” It sounded like the B-side track to almost any given garage band in the Pacific Northwest. I’m just not tracking with they hype on that one.

“Best Performance by a Mile”
Without question, Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” was hands down the best performance of the first hour. And would eventually prove to be (in my opinion) the clear winner for Best Performance of the Night. Last year, if you recall, his performance was uber-cool, but his vocals (which are normally pitch perfect) were a bit harsh. But last night he absolutely killed it! It was fun, it was engaging, it was interesting… but more importantly, it was GOOD. And where did he find such talented Doo-Wop horn players who could also dance? I’m a big Bruno fan, and so I was thrilled that although he didn’t walk away with any hardware, he DID walk away knowing that he easily had the best performance at the 2012 Grammy’s. Harder to put on a mantle, but more fun to show your friends at your next Cranium party.

Act II

“Biggest Surprise”
For the first time ever, I enjoyed  a live performance of Taylor Swift! The song is great, but she finally put together a live performance worth remembering. I loved the set and costumes, and how cool that Taylor rocked out on a banjo?! All around a great little number.

“Best Reminder that Not all Great Singers Can Sing (or OUGHT Sing) Other Styles”
Adam Levine has an incredible voice. I love it. But there was nothing incredible about his cover of the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.” It was kind of embarrassing. Foster the People did a slightly better cover when it was their turn. Ultimately, the moment was saved when the real, live (barely) Beach Boys took the stage! They might not be able to move anymore, but they can still harmonize nicely.

“Lamest Song of the Night”
Really? Please, don’t argue. There’s no grounds to say that Sir Paul McCartney’s song, “My Valentine,” was anything other than lame. Okay, it was also boring.

“Most Disappointing”
The idea of Rihanna and Coldplay sharing the stage sounds really good on paper. And it SHOULD have rocked. But, it didn’t. Neither one seemed to know what the other was supposed to be singing. They were unison at times when they probably were supposed to be harmonizing, but neither seemed confident to go off melody. It looked as awkward as it sounded, too. Their individual performances were unimpressive, too. As my wife said, “I’ve never NOT enjoyed hearing Coldplay live before. Weird.”

“The Mumford and Sons Moment of 2012″
Remember last year when Mumford and Sons, relative unknowns for most of the populace, took the stage and blew everyone away? Well, Civil Wars came awfully close to accomplishing the same feat last night. They showed a couple things: 1) In light of all the terrible vocal blending happening all night long, Civil Wars showed you how it OUGHT to sound. And it was amazing. 2) In light of all the over-the-top performances, Civil Wars showed you how the “music” is still the most important aspect. 3) They showed that people who follow Jesus DON’T HAVE TO MAKE JESUS-Y TYPE SONGS ALL THE TIME! For heaven’s sake, sometimes just focus on making GOOD music, and don’t get bogged down with whether or not it’s GOD music. Civil Wars possibly stole the show last night.

“Best Use of Blue”
Katy Perry, bravely offering a new song, looked good. That counts for something. Can’t say I dug the song (anyone else thinking, “ouch, sucks to be Russell!”). And the bait-and-switch trickery at the beginning was unfulfilling.  I like Katy, but last night didn’t impress.

ACT III

“Best Old Timer of the Night”
Of all the oldie’s that took the stage, I think the overall best performance was Glen Campbell, featuring The Band Perry and Blake Shelton. Glen still has range (unlike Bruce), can still move around (unlike Beach Boys) and sang a good song (unlike Sir Paul). And The Band Perry and Shelton didn’t screw it up (unlike Maroon 5). All around enjoyable moment, especially when at the end Glen closed with “and rhinestone cow-GIRLS.” #adaptingtothetimes

The “That Was Nice” Moment
Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood? That was nice.

“Biggest Sigh of Relief”
Phew… everybody can breath again. Adele still has pipes! The artists who single-handedly elevated and carried the music industry in 2011, and then went and got everyone FREAKED out with vocal chord surgery, came back last night and threw down her mega-hit, “Rolling in the Deep.” Now, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the Live-Adele that we’re accustomed to. She missed some notes and pushed others. But I expected that, seeing as how this was her first moment back and all. Nonetheless, she proved once again why she was oh-so-deserving of completely sweeping the statues last night. Well done, Adele!

“Best Tribute (and also), Best Cover”
Jennifer Hudson, thank you for doing justice to Whitney Houston’s “I WIll Always Love You.” Although you probably would have been loved and hailed no matter how you sang it, simply because of the moment of it all, you actually earned the standing ovation (yes, I’m sure they stood for Whitney… but jHud made the moment that much better). The music industry lost a Great over the weekend, and from LL’s opening prayer to Jennifer’s moving ballad, it was a great night of celebrating Whitney Houston that didn’t also lose the fact that it is, still, the Grammys.

“Worst Re-Appearance”
I wish the producers would have allowed people to text in, throughout the show, to vote on who got to come back and perform again. Because certainly it would not have been Chris Brown or the Foo Fighters. But, alas, we had to sit through them again. This time they were accompanied by DJ’s David Guetta and Deadmau5. And during the whole “wait, is this really what’s so exciting?” performance by Deadmau5, I couldn’t help but wonder: “how do we know that he’s not just doing the DJ equivalent of lip-synching? What if he just pushed PLAY on his iPod up there on that giant cube, and is now just dancing, flailing his right arm, and lighting up his high-as-a-kite techno Mickey head?” I’m not convinced otherwise…

“Best Excuse to Own a DVR”
Nicki Minaj. Don’t get it. Don’t want to get it. The word that kept coming to mind during her “performance” (I use that term lightly) was: unfortunate. It’s unfortunate we had to watch that. It’s unfortunate we had to listen to that. It’s unfortunate that the Grammys semi-ended with that. It’s unfortunate that some people call that “music.” Like my buddy Zach Lind from Jimmy Eat World tweeted, “Congrats to this Nikki Minaj person. She’s reached a point where no one will tell her “no.” That’s not easy.” #unfortunate

_________________________

So there you have it.

The best moments of the night:
Act I – Bruno Mars
Act II – Civil Wars
Act III – Adele

Do you think I got something wrong?

Did you love something that I dismissed?

Did you loath something that I praised?

What were your favorite moments (or most cringe-worthy) from last night?

I welcome your comments.

TV Shows I Miss

Have you found yourself, as I have, hesitant to embrace new shows?

When a show you loved gets hacked after one season (or worse, mid-season!) you grumble and curse the network under your breath. “How can you cut _____________, but keep trash like ______________ on the air!?!?!”

And then, when it happens again… and again… and again… you start to guard your media-heart a little more.

Anyways, the other day I was reading about a new series being created by one of my favorite writers: Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin created shows like The West Wing and Sports Night, and wrote the amazing screenplay for The Social Network. He is currently working on a new show that will be similar to Sports Night but in the context of a News Channel. Sounds awesome!

Another show he created that I loved, but got dropped after only one season, was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And I found myself ticked off all over again that a brilliant, smart, funny and good show like that was not picked up by for more seasons. Which got me to thinking: what other shows do I wish didn’t die so early?

Which then got me thinking: what shows had a great run, but I still miss because they were just so darn good?

So, here’s a list of some of my favorite television shows that I miss. Some because they were killed too early, and others that had a great run but I still miss them anyways.

SHOWS THAT DIED TOO YOUNG

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – As stated, a smart, funny and well written “behind the scenes” dramedy that took place on a variety-show. Came out at the same time as 30 Rock, and with similar premises but drastically different approaches, 30 Rock (which is great, BTW) came out the clear winner. But if you have Netflix, do yourself a solid and go watch the 22 episodes of this great show that only lasted one season. Perhaps if they would have dropped “on the Sunset Strip,” more would have watched? I wish.

Pushing Daisies – Originality is hard to come by. It’s easy to make another CSI or Law and Order or Real Housewives. But Pushing Daisies stood out for its quirky characters, its original concept, its unique look, and its pure fun-ness. Even with 17 Emmy nods and 7 wins, it still only lasted 2 seasons. I wish Ned could touch this show and bring it back from the dead (although unfortunately it would only last 60 seconds, after which another nearby show would have to die… Wait… that could be perfect! #desperatehousewives)

Better Off Ted – Witty and chalk full of satirical humor, this comedy was a blast! Ted, the protagonist, would narrate each episode by breaking the fourth wall, and trust me, it sounds corny but they made it work. All while also mocking big business and mega conglomerations. Also, brilliant acting by the wonderful Portia de Rossi. This is also on Netflix, so please… go enjoy!

SHOWS THAT HAD A GREAT RUN BUT I STILL MISS

Lost – Really? Was there any doubt this would be on my list? This show may have done more to change TV since CSI. Crazy original, brilliant cast, interesting and engaging story lines, mind-bending plot twists, all covered in a sweet sauce of love. TV, for me, was never better than when LOST was on. 6 seasons of awesomeness, and I still miss it.

The West Wing – After Lost, this probably ranks as my favorite show of all time. I’m a sucker for Sorkin, what can I say. I fell in love with the characters in this show like no other. A fascinating look in to the world of politics, for 7 seasons The West Wing was America’s other (and usually more interesting) White House Staff.

Gilmore Girls – After you stop snickering at me, listen to me say that this was a great show. Created by Amy Sherman Paladino, and written in the style of Sorkin (with the “always moving, always talking characters) Gilmore Girls was an honest look at the life and relationship between a (single) mom and her daughter. Lauren Graham is incredible, and if you like her at all on Parenthood then trust me, she was WAY better on Gilmore Girls. A massive thanks to my wife for getting me hooked on this show. We both mourned when it went off the air after 7 seasons.

____________________

What about you?

Have you had a “favorite show” that died too early?

And what are some of your all-time favorites from the past that you can’t help but miss?

 

Nine Days Away…

Nine more days until my journey to Africa begins. I am overwhelmed with details and packing lists, and assuming that we will arrive for our first concert and realize, “ah snap! We forgot __________ and now the whole show is ruined!!”

Okay, so THAT probably won’t happen… but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.

As our band (In Between) has been preparing for this trip, we thought it was important to articulate exactly why WE were going. We could understand big picture, why the whole team of 90+ people were travelling to Africa from our church, but on a micro-scale why is a band of musicians from church travelling halfway across the world to play music?

So after some prayer and processing, here is what we came up with… I’d love to share it with you.

_________________________

I N   B E T W E E N

The Love Liberia Project: 2thousand10

Our band, called “In Between,” is comprised of six musicians from The Grove’s worship ministry. We will be travelling to Liberia, Africa in June (along with 90 other people from our church) on a 2 week missions trip to bring pieces of Heaven to places of Hell on earth.

The following is the Mission Statement and the Goals of what In Between hopes to accomplish while there.

O u r  M i s s i o n:

Through the art of music, we go to broken places on earth and invite people to the place “in between,” where heaven and earth meet.

O u r  G o a l:

To take part in 4 city-wide events, where we will play a concert and serve in tandem with the spoken Word. Through these events, we hope to expose the Liberian people to the person and works of Jesus Christ.

W h y W e  W i l l  G o :

We, the band members of “In Between,” will go to Liberia: for the glory of God, to simply show up and love the people, and to become better followers of Jesus.

W E    G O    F O R    G O D

“God needs people to do his work,” or so says Rob Bell in Jesus Wants to Save Christians. His point, I believe, is this: While God may posses the power or ability to affect change in the world supernaturally, he chooses not to exercise that power. Instead, he is looking for faithful men and women, people with physical bodies, to be his hands and his feet.

The Way of Jesus is the best way. It is the way of love and forgiveness, not hate and bitterness. It is the way of peace and reconciliation, not war and revenge. The way of the Kingdom is what Jesus came to establish. “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on EARTH just as it is in HEAVEN.” These words that Jesus taught us to pray are not just some ideal distant hope. No, they are a reality now that we seek to bring to this world.

We go to Africa because God’s Glory will be shown through us.

We go to Africa because God needs us to go… more so, he WANTS us to go.

We go to Africa because the Name and Way of Jesus is best and only way.

W E    G O    F O R    T H E M

Liberia is in the stage of rebuilding their entire country after years of civil war. Not even a generation has passed since the war ended. War is devastating to society. It destroys people, relationships, infrastructures, systems, government. Maybe worse, though, it destroys hope.

The people in the cities we will travel to need someone to come along side them and tell them that though they felt abandoned and alone during the war, or though they may feel discouraged now as the country rebuilds, that God has always and will always love them and want them. Our smiles, our songs, inject hope and encouragement.

Music is the universal language of the soul. It has a way to cut right through the fears and worries and pierce the heart. The right song can bring healing and hope like no ordinary words can. Music stays with people, and the concerts we go to perform will stay in the minds and hearts of the Liberian people long after we leave.

We go to Africa to plant seeds of hope, love and peace.

We go to Africa because music is important and can change a person.

We go to Africa because if WE won’t, then WHO will??

W E    G O    F O R    U S

“When we go, when we give our lives away in the name and work of Jesus, then we ourselves are changed.” (Palmer Chinchen in True Religion). Something mysterious happens when the people of God leave the comfort of their homes to go to the uncomfortable and broken places. The world becomes both larger and smaller in our eyes.

Larger because we begin to see that the small corner of our world that we live in is not indicative of the world at large. There is so much more on this planet. More culture, more people, more nature and life. Also more hurt, more pain, more poverty, more war and disease. When we go, our perspective is enlarged.

Also, the world becomes smaller. In a way, we are more connected to other people than we realize. We see that they are just like us. They have the same hopes and dreams, the same fears and anxieties. They like what we like, they hate what we hate. In all, they are really not that different from ourselves.

We go to Africa because we need to deepen our perspective.

We go to Africa because it will CHANGE us, and honestly, we need CHANGED

We go to Africa so that we can become “better” followers of Christ.

So Why the name “IN BETWEEN”?

The Celtic Christians talked about “thin places,” places where the divide between Earth and heaven was thinner, places where it was easier to meet with God. (Punk Monk by Andy Freeman).

As I was thinking about a name for our band, I kept coming back to this concept of “thin places.” I think that when the people of God are living out the Kingdom of God, that in that moment, that place becomes a “thin place.” When we do things representative of God’s Kingdom, when we live out the Way of  the Christ, we engage in and interact with “thin places”, where the realities of Heaven and the realities of Earth overlap.

“In Between” is about creating those sorts of moments. It’s about ushering people into the thin places. It’s about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We play music to invite people to the “in between” place of God’s home and ours.

Why the LOST Finale Was NOT Awful

As you well know, my wife and I are (and have been… and will continue to be…) die-hard fans of LOST on ABC. And, as you well know, last night was the epic conclusion to a beautiful story told over the course of 6 mind-bending seasons.

The backlash to the wrap-up of the story that is LOST has been pretty straight down the middle: people either loved it, or they hated it… and it seems so far to be about a 50/50 split.

Let me offer you 3 reasons why I believe the finale was brilliant, beautiful and fitting.

1.) The “Characters” Have Always Been More Important Than the “Mysteries”

LOST has thrived on it’s ability to create a cast of characters that the viewers instantly fell in love with. Over the past 6 years, we have invested ourselves emotionally in the lives (backstory, forwardstory, sidestory) of Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and others. The writers primary purpose has always seemed to me to create compelling “characters” first, give them a compelling “story” second, and place them in a compelling “context” third. Last night was beautiful because it focused on giving us what was important: the characters. We got to witness the redemption and reunions of our favorite people (How could you NOT enjoy watching Jin and Sun get to see their baby? How could you remain unmoved when Charlie got to touch Claire and hold Aaron? Were you mad at your T.V. when Sawyer and Juliet planned their dutch coffee-date?). Any finale that focused more on the story and the context (the mysteries of the island) instead of the characters would have been infinitely more dissatisfying… I promise you.

2.) It is Better to Have Loved and LOST, then Never to Have Loved at All: The Sideways Reality

Say what you will about the Sideways-reality ending up being some sort of after-life experience (and yes, of course, this is important), but pause and reflect on what we SAW during that reality, and how that story line evolved. You have heard it said, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and I think that the Sideways-reality is potentially the best depiction of this maxim. It seems that the Sideways-reality was a picture of what the characters life “would” have been had they not ever gone to the Island (or at least what they “thought” it would have been). And for each character, there seemed a strange tension of this non-island reality being both better and worse than the island-reality. But in the end, as each character had their moment of realization, their epiphanal-moment, it was as though they realized that although the island represented years of struggle, hardship, chaos, and loss, it ALSO represented years of love, beauty, relationships, trust and redemption. Talk to people who have gone through agonizing experiences and often times you’ll find that in the end they wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The highest of highs in our life are often accompanied by, or a direct result of, the lowest of lows. And for our LOST characters, the Sideways-reality gave them a gift of seeing that ultimately the time on the Island was and is a better reality than one without it. They thought they would be better off having never been to the Island, but it turns out the exact opposite is true. Also, can I just say that I don’t think it was a cop-out or a lame excuse for an ending to have the Sideways-reality be some sort of “after-life” experience? Like I’ve said before, the whole story was heading in the direction of some sort of sci-fi/fantasy/suspension-of-belief ending. There was going to be no logical or rationale conclusion. In fact, that is sort of one of the main points of the show: science vs faith, reason vs belief. ANY ending that was to merge the Sideways-reality with the Island-reality was going to force you to suspend belief, to just go-with-it.

3.) Answers are Overrated

For those frustrated that their questions weren’t answered, let me ask you: how many of your questions would have had to been answered for you to feel satisfied? 3? 5? 17? Seriously, at what point would you have been happy? If you entered the finale thinking “they better answer all my questions,” weren’t you already setting yourself up to be disappointed? Besides, I think answers are often less fulfilling anyways than mystery, intrigue, and imagination. Chances are, if “answers” were what you had your hopes set on, I’m willing to wager that whatever “answer” was given wouldn’t have been good enough. (Also, is it possible that you DID actually get an answer to your question, but you just aren’t willing to accept it? Ex. Q) What was that pool of light that supposedly harnessed some strange energy and beauty? A) It was a pool of light, harnessing energy and beauty.) I think we are so used to getting everything figured out for us (i.e. shows like CSI, NCIS, Mentalist, House, etc, give you all the answers you need at the end of 60 minutes) that we forget what it’s like to be left still wondering… to be left in that place of curiosity, intrigue, confusion. This is what the Socratic-method is all about: asking questions. That’s when we learn best. The writers want US to wrestle with these mysteries. They don’t want to just spoon feed us. Sure, we can feel robbed when it feels like major plot points are left untouched, or inconsistencies seem un-resolved. I get it. But it boils down to a our own willingness to be okay with not-knowing. Jesus himself taught in stories that often left his hearers more confused than before. They were forced to wrestle with his coded-sayings, his cryptic stories. He would have been less effective, less compelling, and probably less interesting had he just explained everything in easy to understand ways.

In the end, I feel like the biggest questions, the ones most important to the characters themselves, were answered sufficiently and beautifully. The Finale gave us powerful and meaningful moments with the characters. The Finale gave us memorable quotes (Hurley to Ben: Dude, you were a great #2. Ben to Hurley: And you were a great #1). The Finale gave us proper reunions. The Finale gave us wonderful pictures of sacrifice (Jack resetting the pool of light) and powerful moments of redemption.

I, for one, am proud to have been a part of LOST, and I’m proud of the way Lindelof and Cuse wrapped things up.

What about you?

Were you satisfied? Frustrated? Happy, sad?

Did you love it or loathe it?

Take the Poll and leave your comments below.

Share

LOST: Which “Jack” Will You Be?

Well, the time has come. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”

The epic, groundbreaking, culture changing, TV programming altering show that is LOST will conclude this Sunday with millions of Americans tuning in for probably a variety of reasons. Chief among those reasons? The Hope for Answers.

If you’ve been watching LOST over the past 6 years, you are well aware of the tangle of mysteries and the web of questions the writers have been weaving. How, for every question they answer, another 3 more get asked. If you’ve been following Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and the others (and the Others) then you know well what this Sunday means for them. And as much as we want our favorite characters to find answers, to find redemption, WE ourselves have also become characters in this story who are also looking for redemption, looking for answers.

After the episode a week ago (“Across the Sea“) I couldn’t help but wrestle with the following question regarding the closing of this story that is LOST, and I wonder if you’ve wrestled with it as well…

When all is said and done, when the final credits role, when mysteries have been revealed and questions answered, which “Jack” will I be? Will I be the Jack of Season 1, insistent that the only explanation for things are logical, rational, scientific. Or will I be the Jack of Season 6, open to possibilities that stretch beyond reason, embracing mystery itself as both the means and the end?

Here’s why I think this question is important. I think that in some way the satisfaction of the viewer (maybe not for the entire six-season show, but certainly the finale) hinges on whether or not we demand answers that would satisfy Season-1-Jack, or accept answers that would satisfy Season-6-Jack.

You see, all along, especially since Season 3, the story that is LOST has been pointing at (at times hinting, and at times shouting) a very sci-fi type of reality. This was none more evident than in last weeks episode where mysteries of what the Island is and who it’s keepers are was revealed.

A small creek, going down a shaft of really bright light, in the middle of the Island? THAT is what all this fuss is about? A place where light, energy, and beauty is all stored? And Jacob (and his mom) are just there to protect people from finding it? Huh…

But for me, who has extensive background in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, this was not just sufficient, it was perfect. I’ve been expecting moments like this. I’m okay with things like light and energy, powerful water and elements (magic wands, powerful rings, crystals, potions, wizards, aliens, etc). A pool of light and energy? Yup. Ageless guardians to protect it? Yup. Channeling water and light to create giant wheels to time travel and move the island? Of course.

But for someone who doesn’t have that background, or who doesn’t get excited about those sorts of things, they could still be asking the question, “well, yeah, but what does that MEAN? What “is” that pool of light? How did it get there? Who put it there? Where did it’s keepers come from? What the $@#% does it MEAN!!”

And you can see how Jack of Season 1 would have the latter reaction, whereas the Jack of Season 6 (especially as shown last night, in “What They Died For“) would have the former.

One of the primary themes throughout the 6 seasons, if not THE primary theme, has been the tension between Science and Faith (Jack vs Locke). And if we, the viewers, don’t prepare ourselves to be open to mystery going in to Sundays Finale, I fear we will find ourselves frustrated and disappointed. So I say, which “Jack” will you be? How important are reasonable are logical explanations of the island and it’s mysteries? Does it have to make “sense?”

I fear that if you haven’t made a similar progression or evolution that Jack has made over the past 6 years, then you might be the ones Monday morning posting “LOST… what a waste of six years” on your Facebook.

Here’s to mystery embraced, and the beauty of faith.

Share

I’m Fine Being LOST

LOST Final Season

Last night, the first episode of the final season of LOST aired on ABC.

Last night, 12 million people tuned in with great excitement and anticpation.

Last night, the brain child of JJ Abrams, and the creative genius of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse began it’s final chapter.

Last night was pure euphoric joy.

Over the past five years, LOST has touched a nerve with many viewers. For some, it’s the richly dense mythology. For some it’s the depth and beauty of the characters. For others it’s the way the story so meticulously plays out. And for the rest, it’s just plain fun.

However, many people after last night’s season 6 premiere found themselves further frustrated by the, quote, “lack of answers to the myriad of questions and puzzles LOST has built up over the past five years.”

If you watched, then you know what I’m talking about:

  • A seeming dual-reality of the characters both “on the island” and “off the island.”
  • A strange temple, with stranger temple people
  • The “Man in Black” doubling as Locke AND Smokey
  • The death and resurrection of Sayid (or is it?)
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc

Rather than begin the process of unwinding the large string of yarn the writers have been weaving, they seemed to make the web even more difficult to untangle. And apparently this has got some people up in arms.

I, for one, am perfectly happy with more puzzle pieces being added to the already uber-complex 5000 piece puzzle, even if it means in the end there are some pieces that never make it in to the puzzle.

________________________

I’m an artist by many accounts, and so my brain is wired a little differently from a non-artist.

One artist friend I have, his name is Steve, writes plays and sketches.

I remember Steve writing a play one time and sharing it with me and some others. We offered some critique after reading through it, mostly centered around the fact that the “main point” wasn’t clear enough. He kept arguing that he didn’t want to “spell it out for everyone, and remove their obligation to have to think.”

Ultimately he DID end up making the script clearer, but not for the sake of “art,” rather for the sake that the play needed to communicate certain truths. In other words, it was more purpose-driven than art-driven.

But his argument has stuck with me.

And artists, for the most part, get this.

We don’t want to have to “explain” everything about our creation. We don’t want to spell it all out, and explain EXACTLY what we were thinking and what it all means.

Great art is open for multiple interpretations, regardless of what the original artist intends. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s good.

________________________

LOST, I believe is a 21st century work of art.

And as such, I feel less inclined to have to KNOW precisely what the writers MEAN about EVERYTHING.

For me, the journey is half (if not more) the fun. The puzzles, the mysteries, the plot twists and turns, are thrilling and addicting. And if, in the end, it doesn’t all work out the way I want it to, or things get left unresolved, I don’t think I’ll consider the past 6 years of watching LOST a “waste.”

Last night’s premiere blew my mind.

And I’m okay with half of it still scattered on my living room floor.

I’ll probably leave most of it there for the next 16 weeks, knowing that it won’t do any good to pick up it because it will be re-blown in seven days.

After the series finale on May 23rd I imagine I’ll need a day to recover. Partly because I’ll be in mourning at the conclusion of my 2nd favorite show of all time, and partly because my mind will be numb from trying to wrap it around all that the writers will ask me to.

So Damon and Carlton, if you read this, please know that at least one person will not cry “foul” if you don’t answer every question and solve every mystery.

Some things, like eating Mexican food and watching LOST, are better during the process than what comes out in the end.

Love Your Enemy: Part 1

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about “love.”

Not in the gooey, mushy sense. But in the “how do I interact with, and LOVE, those around me.” You know, the ones whom I DON’T love in the gooey, mushy sense. Not just those around me, that I personally interact with, but those beyond my limited scope of actually “knowing…” i.e., the rest of the world and what not. (But I’ll talk about that in a different post).

As I’ve been thinking about these things, my mind keeps coming back to the words of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” -Matthew 5:43,44

A friend of mine commented that this sentiment, to ‘love your enemies,’ has become trite and/or cliche in a way, over-exposed to the point of probably being largely ignored. Or even worse, just assumed.

“I’m a Christian, so of course I love my enemies.”

Jesus said it again, albeit in a slightly different way, as recorded by Luke:

“But I tell you who hear me, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27,28

One of the things I fear is that we have chosen to sort of re-define “love” in this context. Rather than asking, “what did Jesus HIMSELF mean, or expect, when he commands us to ‘love?”‘ we subconsciously apply our own definition or outworking of this ‘love.’ Jesus tells those who would follow him to love (agape, in the Greek) their neighbors as themselves. And lest they get confused about who their neighbor is (i.e. people they like; people who agree with them; people who meet certain expectations or perform certain behaviors) he tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate that the extent of who our “neighbor” is knows no bounds.

Not only does it know no bounds, but often our “neighbor” is the one person we would LEAST likely think it to be. The one who DOESN’T like us, the one who DOESN’T agree with us, the one who DOESN’T behave like we would like them to.

Love (agape) is not based on condition. You could call it unconditional love, but that too, I worry, is so overused it’s forgotten or assumed.

“You’ve heard it said… But I say…” Jesus came to offer a better way. No, not just ‘offer,’ but demand a better way for those who call themselves his followers. We HAVE to love. We HAVE to love our enemies. We HAVE to love those we least want to. And we HAVE to do it as HE HIMSELF would do it.

Let me share a story.

There’s a guy I knew who had made some terrible decisions over several years of his life. Choices that have permanently hurt those closest to him, his family. This guy was previously well liked by many people who call themselves “followers of Jesus.” I’m sure that in the past most of his friends “loved” him very much, and showed it often. Once this guy’s choices became public he moved from “friend” to “enemy” in these people’s minds. And probably rightly so. And it astounded me (and greatly discouraged me) to see his “friends” redefine the command to “love their enemy.” At best it looked like ignoring him completely. Not calling. Not meeting with. Cold shoulders in public. Complete separation. At worst it looked like judgment. Harsh words. Biting words. A general “hating” of the enemy.

This guy had no doubt “enemied” himself to many people. And yet Jesus still demands that these people love him without condition. Not, “if you repent of everything, then I’ll love you.” Not, “if you stop making those choices, then I’ll love you.” Not, “if you go back to the way things were before, then I’ll love you.” This is not agape love. This is not love without condition. This is not “loving your enemies,” and not the love I believe Jesus would show.

For whatever reason, I chose to love this guy, and be his friend. He knew I disagreed with his choices. He knew I believed he hurt people. He knew. But he also knew that I loved him, without condition. I still met with him, had coffee or lunch with him. Asked about his life. Talked about ministry and God. I challenged him at times and encouraged him at times. I’m wasn’t there to judge or condemn, for I think Jesus has something to say about that too. And I’ll be honest, I’ve come under fire for it. People didn’’t understand why I still met with him. Why I’m still his friend. Basically, why I still love him (although I’m sure they wouldn’t put it that way).

But this guy told me that, were it not for my love, he might have lost faith in God, and certainly the church.

And I believe him.

Because I know another guy who made almost the exact same decisions, and went through very similar experiences. And he didn’t have anyone who loved him without judgment. Who came alongside and offered friendship and love without condition. And he DID lose faith in God and the church.

So with my friend, I’ve tried to love him as I believe Jesus meant, not as I believe the world (or even the ‘church’) would have me love him. That love often says, “I will pray for you, and hope you change, but if you don’t, don’t expect to hear from me anytime soon.”

If I sound harsh, that’s probably because I can’t think of any other way to say it. I’ll bet people thought Jesus sounded harsh, too.

Oh, and lest you think I think this is all easy, it most certainly isn’t. The way of Jesus never is.

Remember when he was telling people not to judge others, and to treat people as you would have them treat you… he ends that by saying,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” -Matthew 7: 13,14

Let’s stop with this thinking that he’s talking about eternal salvation. He’s talking about living out the Kingdom of God. He’s talking about living in the Way of the Christ. That’s hard… really hard. Few find it. Most go through the broad gate, which leads to destruction.

That’s the easy path, and many find that.

It’s easy to NOT love our enemies. It’s easy to think of a million reasons why that person deserves our cold shoulder, deserves our judgment. It’s easy to put that person out of our mind, and just let others show them love. It’s easy to tell that person how awful they are, and what they need to do to fix everything.

It’s hard to live in the way of Jesus.

Few do.

Because it’s hard, confusing, counter-intuitive, unpopular.

It’s hard to love them… to love them in the way Jesus would have us love them.

(As a side note: If you still get caught up on the word “love,” and wonder what that actually looks like in the context of our enemies, then check out the Luke passage again. There Jesus says, “Do good to those who hate you.” Doing “good” is a little easier to understand, maybe, than “love.” It’s harder to redefine, don’t you think?)

I feel compelled to also say that the working out of this “love” is not black and white. It is different in every circumstance, with every person. It takes creativity and hard work. The principles of “loving” an “enemy” who is a friend are much different, for example, than “loving” an “enemy” who is family or with whom you are in an abusive relationship. It’s often easier, for me, to ask: What does NOT loving my enemy look, and start from there.

And so I ask you, who is just ONE ‘enemy’ right now that you should be loving, but aren’t?

If no name comes to mind (which would surprise me), then think of it this way: who is one person who, if you called tomorrow and met for lunch, and people found out, they would say “why are you hanging out with so-and-so, don’t you know what they’ve done?”

It’s easy to ignore.

It’s easy to judge.

It’s hard to love.

Choose love anyways.

(p.s. I need to come back and say that I, by NO MEANS, have this figured out. The example I cited above is simply that, an example. And it is, unfortunately, probably more the exception for me than the norm. I too often choose ignoring or condemning. But I’m working on it, and I pray you will too).

Best New Shows on TV

Every fall, TV Networks do their best (or so they say) to find the next big thing: the next mindbending, myth-inducing LOST; the next side-splitting, laugh out loud The Office, or the next genre creating Survivor. Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC collectively hold their breath in anticipation that someone out there will watch their new shows, create websites and generate online buzz, and that their new series will actually find that delicate balance between “loved by the critics” and “loved by the crowd.”

And, inevitably, every fall TV Networks get paranoid and restless. They cut shows after one episode, or after one big drop from week to week. They’re so afraid of losing money, they’d rather put out cheap mindless reality junk than invest in an hour long drama or half hour scripted comedy that isn’t doing well in the ratings. It’s easier to cut and run than develop and invest. (Some exceptions are out there, such as Jericho and Friday Night Lights. Both series were loved by critics, but didn’t have huge followings. However, once the networks cut them, there was such a large uproar from the relatively small crowd that DID watch them, that they were ultimately able to persuade the networks to bring them back on! You can actually view all series that were cut in ’08-09 at this website, and you’ll notice that many of the shows have a “petition link” where you can do your best to help resurrect the show.)  Look at NBC this year, rather than roll the dice on 4 or 5 new shows at their 10 o’clock time slot, they’re just running the cheap and easy Jay Leno Show every night! (which, if you haven’t seen it yet, is AWFUL!) Even though ratings have fallen from a 15.2 to a 2.9, it’s making them money

So this fall, I hesitantly thew my interest in to several new shows, knowing that it’s likely that one (if not several) of them won’t last till the end of the season. That said, here are 4 of my favorite new series that I hope survive this (and other) seasons.

MODERN FAMILY

The "Family" gathers in the ER waiting room to welcome Luke after the birthday party fiasco.

Why it’s Great: It’s been a while since a half-hour, family based sitcom has hit the airways with such originality, creativity, and… wait for it… humor! Modern Family tracks 3 pieces of an extended family, mockumentary style, in such a fluid way that you feel, in some way, an extension of this family. Each episode you’ll laugh out loud one moment, say “yup, that’s ol’ so-in-so in my family” the next, and maybe even shed a small tear at the end. The characters are fantastically written and even better performed. If for no other reason, you’ve got to watch it to see the breakout performance of Ty Burell, who plays Phil the son-in-law, in such a beautiful combination of “awe-shucks” and “awe-crap!” Modern Family packs in more laughs than The Office, and always ends with some touching moment that reminds us how important family really is.

Why it Might Get Cut: Writing 10 creative and original episodes is easy, writing another 10 to end the season well is a different story. If the stories and characters don’t stay fresh, the show could start feeling like old-hat. There’s also always the temptation to write in more “sexual-humor,” going for the cheap laughs (i.e. Two and a Half Men). So far, Modern Family has only mildly stooped so low, but that seems to be the default direction at the table when the writers are feeling stale. Also, if popularity continues, I can foresee the large cast all wanting a bigger piece of the pie, and that usually ends up bad.

Prediction for the Future: Because it’s so fresh and funny right now, it’ll easily get picked up for a 2nd season (it’s Best Series Golden Globe Nomination was well deserved, and serves as an insurance policy of sorts). If season 2 is as good as season 1, I predict a strong 5-6 year run.

FLASH FORWARD

Demetri and Mark sort through the chaos immediately after the "blackouts"

Why it’s Great: Again, originality wins out here. A mysterious global event causes everyone to black out simultaneously for two minutes and seventeen seconds, and each person sees a glimpse of their lives six months from now. When they wake up, everyone is left wondering if what they saw will actually happen. It’s a great time-bending, mind-warping adventure, as characters wrestle with whether or not their futures are set in stone. It’s more instantly gratifying than, say, LOST, as questions are more quickly answered. High concept, and so far, high execution.

Why it Might Get Cut: Lack of compelling characters. Or, maybe, lack of good-acting characters. LOST was so successful not because of the crazy mythology of the story, but because the characters drew you in, and you were compelled to keep watching to see what happens next to THEM, not necessarily the story. Flash Forward, however, has not yet created those characters. Leading the way is Joseph Fiennes, as FBI agent Mark Benford, and that could be the problem. Fiennes seems to have one gear in his acting transmission, one emotion in his repertoire. Unfortunately you find yourself laughing at the wrong times, because his acting often seems out of place. A good story can only take you so far, but if we (the audience) doesn’t start feeling invested in them (the characters) I fear people will stop watching.

Prediction for the Future: It really depends on how well they end this season. I hear they will answer most all of “season-one” questions (much unlike LOST), and head in to season two with all new plot lines. I predict season two will be less original, and more desperate. Look for mid-season cancellation during it’s second year.

GLEE

The cast of Glee, posing but not posers.

Why it’s Great:  Glee sort of defies convention. If you just watch the promos for it, you’ll probably find yourself wondering what all the hype is about. On the surface it appears a little silly, a lot dorky, and quirky but not quirky enough to work. However, give it a full episode (other than the dismal episode 11, “Hairography”) and you’ll quickly see that the silliness is endearing, the dorkiness is actually charming, and there’s just enough quirk to work. The characters are perfectly cast, written, and performed. The story lines (other than the pregnancies, which can be distracting) are fresh and engaging. The concept is original. And Jane Lynch, who plays cheer coach Sue Syllvester, delightfully steals every scene with side-splitting hilarity. The musical arrangements range from good to great. But I think what makes this truly great is the chemistry between the actors, and the tenderness by which the writers handle complex story lines (such as “out-of-the-closet Kurt and his relationship with his dad. The best on screen portrayal I’ve seen of this difficult dynamic).

Why it Might Get Cut: America runs on fads. Right now, musical shows and movies is pretty fadish. If the public decides they’re done with High School Musical, then Glee could be right behind. What also worries me, is that the musical numbers too often come across as unbelievable. Not in the “good” sense of the word, but in the sense of, “that doesn’t look or sound right, it’s hard to believe.” I do wish the editors of the show could make the musical recordings sound a little more “live,” so that when it’s dubbed over the actors we at least get the slightest impression they’re actually singing. Bad lip-synching-karaoke can be a little taxing to watch.

Prediction for the Future: If the 4 Golden Globe Nominations are any indicator (Best Series, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress) this show is gonna stick around for a while. Add to that the incredible success of the shows musical pieces being download on iTunes and purchases as albums, and I think a solid four to five seasons are not out of the question.

V

The leader of the V's (Visitors), Anna, holding a press conference to communicate their "peaceful" intentions.

Why it’s Great: Because deep down we all wonder, at some point or another, what it would be like if aliens actually showed up on or planet. Would they be peaceful and friendly? Would they look to destroy us with advanced technology and intelligence? Would they come thinking they’re superior, only to find that they can actually be defeated by throwing a glass of water at them? (think “Signs” by M Night). Whatever the outcome, we love to ponder the process. V, so far, is proving to be a great version of that story. The production value is high (good special effects, great sets and costumes), and the acting is usually better than that found on Flash Forward. The premise, I think, is great: Visitors arrive to earth and pretend to come in peace, offering advanced medical technology to cure our sickness and diseases. But prior to their arrival en masse, visitors have actually been coming to earth for years and infiltrating every aspect of our culture (disguised as real humans, of course). So there are V’s in Federal Government, in religious leadership, in military, etc (very Men in Black). But there are also small groups of people who have discovered this secret, and are working to expose the V’s, along with the help of some “actual” V’s who have switched allegiance and are helping the humans. That’s a pretty good place to start, if you ask me.

Why it Might Get Cut: If the story goes too “Sci-Fi,” it might lose a following. It seems popular America likes the “idea” of Sci-Fi, but not ACTUAL Sci-Fi. So far, V has toed that line well. I also have to mention the complete unoriginality of character naming. When the lead male character said his name, “Jack,” I literally laughed out loud. As though we need one more show with a Jack-protagonist: Jack Bauer (24), Jack Donaghy (30 Rock), Jack Shepherd (Lost), Jack Malone (Without a Trace), Jack Bristow (Alias) and now Father Jack Landry (played by Joel Gretsch)… I guess that name just sounds good when shouted out in desperation or excitement, “JACK!”

Prediction for the Future: I really like this show so far, but they’re strategy for playing out the first season is awful. They played 4 episodes in November, and are now in the middle of a 3 month break before bringing it back in March. Not sure that’s the best way to keep viewers interested in your new show’s first season. I predict it will finish out the year, but not be brought back for a second season.

_____________________________________

As always, I welcome your feedback.

What are YOUR favorite new shows and why?

Do you agree/disagree with my favorite four?