There is a lot of great television that has been produced in the history of the invention and when I watch TV I’m watching it for different reasons. Sometimes I want a show that allows me to shut off my brain and just enjoy. Sometimes I want a show that’s all about characters that I relate to in impossible situations. Sometimes I want a show to speak to my heart and sometimes I want a show that makes me think.
So let’s get down to it, the greatest ever show with a brain (meaning it makes one think) is Lost.
Yes, it’s over, yes the ending has one fatal flaw (and only one, I counted). None of that has anything to do with the fact that it’s a great show that challenges a person intellectually every single minute of every single episode. In fact, some of those “problems” with the show help propel it further into this category.
Lost makes one think on so many levels that it is clearly far and away the most intelligent show ever made. The program is rife with mythology and story that challenges you to understand what is going on, what is going to happen later, and even what the show is fundamentally about. The characters are complex, consistent, relatable, but at the same time challenging. One could make a study of the psychology of each of this ensemble cast that is fabulously acted.
But it’s not just the story and characters that make you think. The concepts used throughout the series assume an audience that’s not just smart, but brilliant (luckily I fit that bill, as I’m sure you realize). There are literary concepts and references (be it characters who’s very names refer to C.S. Lewis or a hot air balloon pilot seemingly straight from the Wizards of Oz) laced through the show not to mention the actual books mentioned in the show regularly that each (if you know about them, or better, have read them) enhance your enjoyment of the show because each was meticulously chosen to appear when and where it did as well as in the hands of specific people.
The show also has deep roots in philosophy and religion that can’t be matched. I mean, a main character is named John Locke and later goes by the alias of Jeremy Bentham…and that’s the least obscure philosophical observation one could make. The story is steeped not just in discussions of existentialism and self-actualization, but even the early arguments between characters about what the characters should be doing are clearly a debate about socialism and democracy, which evolves into a discussion of science versus faith. Speaking of faith…phew. This show explores the concept of faith, religion, after-life, skepticism, supernatural, logic, and godhood in deep and fantastic ways.
As I watched the show when it was new I listened to 2-3 hours of podcasts about each episode (which is an hour long). Clearly if this much interesting, intelligent, and in-depth exploration of each episode can happen for each episode of the show, this is a show that’s all about the mind. This process, by the way, has made watching intelligent shows MUCH more enjoyable for me, and if you’re not listening to podcasts about shows like this then you’re missing half the show (podcasting has caused Fringe, for example, to go from an alright show to a great show).
Now yes, Lost has it’s problems, notably the end. In fact, just the end. The finale of the show has one flaw and that one flaw is the only flaw that the entire show ever had. Specifically, there’s a contradiction at the end of the show that continues to drive me insane. The creators of the show always said that the island of Lost was one of the main characters and that at the end they wanted to make a point that the show was always all about the characters. Well, every character’s story arc gets a meaningful conclusion and explanation…the island does not. You will watch every single episode of every single season of the show and then at the end you will not only not have any idea what the island is or why it’s special, but you’ll actually have more questions about it. This is a major flaw in storytelling…but it actually proves my further point. I’ve watched every moment of the show in depth and to conclusion and yet the story can still spawn logical, philosophical, religious, and meaningful debates between intelligent people. It’s maddening…but it will definitely make you think.
Clearly, Lost is the single greatest thinking man’s show ever (and since we know they’re smarter than us, it’s natural that women are included here as well) and it’s absence from the screen leaves a Lost shaped hole in my soul, because Lost is the Greatest Ever TV Show with a Brain (and if you disagree, well then clearly you just don’t get it).
[tags]greatest, ever, smart, tv[/tags]