Complete TV series collections are weird beasts. These days they usually come out at the same time as the final season set, and the people who might be willing to plunk down a couple of hundred bucks for the complete set have probably already bought the previous seasons on DVD or Blu. Maybe some folks wait for the complete series (I’ve been Netflixing Mad Man, fully aware that there will one day be a complete series collection, probably complete with some kind of cocktail set), but the hardcore audience for the full collection already has a bunch of seasons on their shelf. And with that in mind it’s usually disappointing to realize that most complete collections are just repackaged versions of the previous releases, maybe with some bullshit toy or gimmick included in the packaging.
While I found the Lost Complete Series Collection to be largely underwhelming, I have to give the creators of the set credit for at least including an extra disc of material… even if they make you have to hunt to find the disc. In true Lost fashion, there’s a puzzle that must be solved just to find that disc, and it requires the use of a special blue bulbed flashlight. That isn’t the only bit of gimmickry on this set – the entire box looks and feels like a stone slab, complete with heiroglyphics, and the box contains all kinds of mysterious stuff (that I have been asked not to divulge), as well as a game of Senet, which Jacob and The Man in Black like to play. It does not come with any sort of rules for Senet, though.
The big slab comes housed in a big black box, which looks like a cardboard version of the Vietnam Memorial, and which has inscribed upon it the names of everyone who died on this show. This kind of hilarious self-seriousness defines what bugs me with this set – every new extra feature on these Blus are more or less self-mythologizing slaps on the back, free of any insight into the actual creation of the show.
The picture quality of the show is stunning; I only received my copy of this set yesterday, so I didn’t have time to do a full rewatch, but jumping about I was very, very impressed. Lost has always been very cinematic, and so this presentation is perfect for it (although it doesn’t do any favors for people’s fake beards and wigs. Yeesh). But once you step back from the actual episodes (which are probably at least 75% of why you’d buy a set like this, right?), things get thin. I’ve never been a huge fan of Lost‘s special DVD features, but I was hoping that once they got to the end they’d loosen up and pull back the curtain. That wasn’t to be the case.
The season six features are mostly laughable; there are a couple of featurettes that amount to people getting weepy about the show ending, and then there are a handful of commentaries. Two side notes: Why is it that most TV show sets don’t mark which episodes have commentary? This set comes with a booklet guide and yet there’s no indication of which eps have commentary – you just have to pop the discs in, wait for the Blu to load and then hope this disc has something. Second, why is there no finale commentary? Lindelof and Cuse say there will be one on the LAX commentary, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Maybe you have to unlock it?
But there’s no sweeping statement about the series on the season six set. I’m sure there are many viewers who will be pleased to share emotional moments with the cast and crew, but I’m not one of those viewers. Lost was, until the end, a series that was about smarts and about challenging audiences. That means I expect something a bit more intellectual than a puff piece.
That almost comes on the hidden bonus disc. There’s a featurette that ostensibly spans the entire show, making heavy use of behind the scenes footage from the pilot, but in reality it’s a lot of ‘I can’t believe it’s six years later and coming to an end’ fluff. Weirdly, this piece doesn’t even include all of the cast – while we get lots of talk from Daniel Dae Kim about how beautiful Hawaii is, we never hear from Terry O’Quinn. Lost was a show that twisted and turned and that surprised the cast as much as it did the audience – why isn’t Quinn there to talk about John Locke’s strange and sad journey? About the challenges of playing the Smoke Monster incarnate? About pretty much anything at all?
What becomes clear watching the features is that the set is predicated mostly on affirming the show’s behind the scenes mythology – Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof as genius creators, silly but serious, above the fray (there’s a whole tedious series of ‘comedy’ bits, called Lost Slap Downs, dedicated to the idea of these two making fun of people trying to share Lost theories with them). There’s something a little self-indulgent in having a shot of Cuse crying at his own work on the scoring stage but not including much time with the many writers who worked on the show. You’d think these guys penned every word.
Most shows could get away with this sort of contentless nonsense, but Lost always felt deeper and smarter. The people who plunk down a lot of money on the series set are probably the kind of people who would appreciate a serious retrospective, a look at the process of creating the show and the ways that it changed and mutated over time. There’s a featurette where other show runners talk about how they ended their shows, but there’s nothing that gathers together the many writers and actors who left the series and gets their perspective. Every now and again something insightful accidentally peeks out – a BTS interview with Henry Ian Cusick during the shooting of season 6 opener LAX reveals that even the cast thought the flash sideways was an alternate reality where the bomb went off – but these feel like accidents.
Am I asking too much? Obviously a lot of thought and effort went into designing the packaging for this set, but it doesn’t feel like much thought went into the features. Lost, for all of its shortcomings, was one of the richest and smartest shows to ever air on American mainstream television, so why is the deepest look we get at the meanings of the series a set of vignettes where actors reminisce about using seminal props? Maybe in ten years we’ll get a documentary that really goes behind the scenes and charts the twists and turns of the story from the angle of the writer’s room, and one where people discuss stuff that didn’t work (this set presents an image of Lindelof and Cuse as creators with almost no self-doubt, which I think is a crippling problem for a creator. You have to second guess yourself to stay at the top of your game) along with how ‘beloved’ and ‘iconic’ and ‘classic’ everything on the show was. I’ll never be able to really like the ending of Lost, but I recognize the show’s frequent moments of greatness. I just wish that rather than simply rest on those moments, this set had brought us behind them.
Die hard Losties will already have this set on order. It’s hard to recommend to anyone else, unless you don’t already own the previous seasons in some format. This set will probably be significantly marked down on Amazon in a year or so – be patient and get it for a better, more reasonable price.