George R.R. Martin – who dresses exactly like Mickey Rooney’s alcoholic lighthouse keeper from Pete’s Dragon – is already a nerd icon for his detail obsessive and sprawling Song of Ice and Fire book series. And this past Sunday he officially crossed over to a wider audience with HBO’s adaption of said series, Game of Thrones. The man is poised to become a nerd god. So what’s the fastest way to piss off your burgeoning fanbase? Slag off not one, not two, not three, but four devoutly loved nerd TV properties from previous decades.
It all started in an April 11 interview with The New Yorker, in which Martin waxed on his fears of fucking up the much anticipated ending to his book series (still several giant books away). “What if I f*ck it up at the end? What if I do a LOST? Then they’ll come after me with pitchforks and torches.” His thoughts on Lost‘s finale were thus: “I kept watching it and I was fascinated. They’d introduce these things and I thought that I knew where it was going. Then they’d introduce [something new] and I’d rethink it. We watched it every week trying to ﬁgure it out, and as it got deeper and deeper I kept saying, ‘They better have something good in mind for the end. This end better pay off here.’ And then I felt so cheated when we got to the conclusion.”
Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof diffused the potential for bad blood and responded with good-humor on Twitter, saying: “I don’t take issue with his opinion, I take issue with the fact that he coined ‘Pulling a LOST‘ as empirically ‘f*cking up the ending.’” Lindelof then ribbed Martin’s very easily ribbed appearance, comparing him to Lost‘s Mr. Friendly (dude, you should’ve gone for the Mickey Rooney in Pete’s Dragon comparison; would’ve killed), before finally ending with a pretty deft zinger: “I’ve just been informed that George is working on his feud response. I’ll have it in FIVE YEARS!” For those who don’t read Martin’s books, this is referring to the infuriatingly long time it has taken him to finish the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons (now finally coming out this summer).
But things didn’t end there. TVSquad did another interview with Martin, and unsurprisingly (cause it’s kinda fascinating to hear creative people talk candidly about other properties) the subject of Martin’s thoughts on Lost came up again, with Martin only too happy to clarify his thoughts:
“No, I certainly don’t regret having watched ‘Lost.’ During the years it was on, [his wife] Parris and I never missed an episode. It was one of the shows that we most looked forward to seeing every week, and it certainly provided us with some great entertainment. The show had a fascinating cast of vivid and well-realized characters, and I enjoyed learning about their lives and secrets through the weekly flashbacks. (Sawyer and Hugo were my favorite characters, FWIW). The acting was first rate as well.
And the central mystery of the show — the island itself — was also fascinating, at least for the first few years. It became less so, for me at least, in the final couple of seasons, as riddles and enigmas and twists and turns and puzzles were piled on top of one another, and I began to think, “There is no way they are going to be able to pull all of this together.” But we still watched. By then we were hooked. And even as I grew less interested in the central mystery, I remained heavily invested in the characters and their eventual fates.
By the time we reached the finale, I was still hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I still think ‘Lost’ told a terrific story… a terrific story with a terrible ending.
If the payoff had been equal to the set-up, I’d rank ‘Lost’ among the very best series in the history of television. It didn’t, so I can’t. So in that sense, maybe the finale did change my opinion of the show.
It certainly made me less likely to go back and watch the series again. If ‘Lost’ had delivered an ending that tied everything together in some brilliant and unexpected but satisfying fashion, I would have been first in line to buy the boxed set of DVDs so I could go back and watch it again episode by episode, exclaiming with pleasure, “Aha, so that’s what that meant,” and, “Oho, now I see, I thought that meant X, but it really meant Y.” Instead, I fear, watching the series over again would give me more frustration than pleasure, and I’d find myself muttering, “Well, that was never explained,” and “Oho, that was a great puzzle that led nowhere,” and “Hmmm, that was kind of arbitrary.”
Admittedly, I’ve only watched the show once, as broadcast. Which makes me a casual viewer rather than a devoted fan, I suppose. I haven’t made a study of it, haven’t read any of the blogs or criticism, haven’t subjected the older episodes to any kind of analysis. Maybe I need to do a rewatch. Maybe if I did I would see that I was wrong, that the eventual end was actually being hinted at and foreshadowed in the first season, that all the puzzles are explained if only I looked a little deeper. Maybe.
I have my doubts, though. Unlike Locke, I am not a man of faith. I am a man of skepticism.”
Then, as if thinking maybe he wasn’t inviting enough fanboy message board rage, Martin decided to toss a few more shows into the fire:
“My friend and sometime collaborator, the brilliant young fantasist Daniel Abraham and I have been debating this issue for a couple of years now, as we argue about which of two major science fiction series was superior.
At the risk of starting another “feud,” let me say that I was a huge fan of Ron Moore’s revival of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (though not of the original, which most of us in the SF community still call ‘Battlestar Ponderosa’), but I hated the ending of that series even more than I hated the ending of ‘Lost.’ Daniel, meanwhile, prefers ‘Babylon 5.’ He argues that ‘B5’ delivered on all the promises it made the viewer, that it paid off in the end with a strong finale and a resolution in keeping with all that went before. Whereas ‘Battlestar Galactica’ started very strong, then seemed to lose its way.
But I still think ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (the new one) was a superior achievement. Yes, the ending was terrible (though, as a caveat, I am not sure that there is ANY way to resolve that premise in a way that I’d like, and god knows the way the new show ended was infinitely preferable to what happened with the original ‘Battlestar Ponderosa’)… but those great early episodes don’t become any less great because later episodes sucked. The best episodes of ‘BSG’ are much stronger than any episodes of ‘B5,’ I would argue. I don’t know that Daniel would disagree with that. But he still feels that, if you judge the two series as a whole, not episode by episode, ‘B5’ rates higher.”
Okay, now tell us how you think the original Star Trek and Star Wars series suck too! I kid. Actually, I 100% agree with him on Battlestar and Lost, and I think his opinions were pretty well stated here. He’s not just dismissively bashing the shows. He’s griping from the perspective of a disappointed fan. But still… Martin, man, Game of Thrones just started on Sunday! You need this to be a hit! You need fanboy and fangirl support. Don’t piss them off yet. You could have at least waited until mid-season when they’re hooked on the program.