A Wednesday afternoon game of make-believe: Let's say you're a TV critic for The New York Times–more specifically, you're a TV critic for The New York Times who is notorious for getting basic facts completely wrong, Alessandra Stanley–and you want to write an article about Lost, which is back from a three-month hiatus tonight, and that's a pretty big story (at least for a television critic). The problem is, you haven't seen Lost since, oh, the pilot episode. Do you a). Spend all night watching most of the episodes and doing the necessary research or b.) Just wing it, and talk about Heroes, the supernatural, and random scholarly websites a lot, and hope no one notices? We can stop playing right now because judging by today's New York Times, the real Alessandra Stanley chose b:
Anyone who thinks it's a good sign that "Lost" is back has not spent enough time at the Web site of James Randi, a skeptical scholar of the pseudoscientific and the supernatural.
A fan recently posed this question online at randi.org: "Is a fascination and increased belief in the supernatural a sign of social decline?"
The answer came as categorically as the words under the Magic 8-Ball: "Yes. Absolutely."
By itself, "Lost" may not be a harbinger of the decline of Western civilization. But alongside "Heroes," as well as "Medium," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Raines," a new NBC drama that begins in March and stars Jeff Goldblum as a detective who solves murders by appearing to commune with dead victims, the collapse looks pretty darn nigh.
Uh-huh. Wait. What? If the popularity of supernatural TV shows means it's the end of the world as we know it, then shouldn't it have ended back when Samantha on Bewitched first twiched her nose? But it gets even worse. After a long discussion of Heroes (anything to avoid talking about the specifics of Lost!), we're treated to this sobering characterization of the fans of "supernatural" TV dramas:
The fans of these kinds of serialized thrillers are unusually passionate and devoted, carrying a clout not unlike that of anti-abortion activists – their intensity is in some ways more powerful than their numbers.
Good analogy. Although there is a small difference in the degree of the "intensity" of anti-abortion activists and Lost fanatics–one group uses bombs, while the other posts messages in chat rooms–still, the similarities are striking. But Stanley had to mention a few facts about Lost–afterall, that's what the article was about–and, true to form, she got most of them wrong:
Tonight's episode begins with Jack poised to remove a tumor from Henry/Ben's spine – to stave off the execution of Kate and Sawyer.
Not exactly. But close. Jack is poised to either fix the artery he slashed near Henry/Ben's kidney, or let him bleed to death. And Kate was never going to be executed. Still, close enough. It was only the biggest plot point in the last episode of the show you're writing an entire article about.
Unlike "Lost," in which the only youngster, Walt, was kidnapped and is still missing, "Heroes" has one main character who is still in high school.
Walt's not missing. He sailed off with his dad in the last episode of season two–which was another major plot point, not just something that those anti-abortion-activist-level-crazy Lost fans would know about. (Find more errors here.)