Finally Getting Our Lost Fix

Some thoughts on watching “Lost” via Apple’s iTunes.

After Renae and I had finished up the first season of Lost — there’s no better way to watch TV than on DVD, for many reasons — we were a little, well, lost as to what to do next. The second season had already begun, and since we don’t get good reception, nor do we have cable television, we were sort of up the creek. How could we continue to feed our addiction? How could we bear to be around our Lost-watching friends, who would constantly mock us with tantalizing clues, rumors, and worst of all, spoilers?

Sure, we could wait a year or so for the second season DVDs to come out, but seriously, who would want to do that? Especially after the first season’s cliffhangers? We could bug our friends who have cable to tape the episodes for us, or even better yet, trick those friends into having Lost parties every week.

And then Apple came to the rescue. Last week, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would begin selling TV episodes via their iTunes Music Store, sans commercials, for $1.99 a pop. And lo and behold, Lost was on the list. I sent an e-mail to Renae, and there was much rejoicing in the Morehead household. So at the end of the week, Renae and I took the plunge and downloaded “Man of Science, Man of Faith” and “Adrift.”

Obviously, since this all takes place through the iTunes Music Store, getting the videos was breeze. Just a couple of clicks, and 10 – 15 minutes later, we had each episode. We snuggled on the living room couch, put the Powerbook in our laps, fired up QuickTime, and we were back on the Island.

I know that some videophiles might smirk at the thought of watching TV on a computer, especially TV at a 320x240 resolution (which, conveniently enough, just happens to be resolution of the screen on the new iPods). And especially when the video has been so compressed. But surprisingly, the quality wasn’t half bad, even when we blew it up to double size — though watching it on that sweet 15″ Powerbook screen certainly didn’t hurt. The only thing we really noticed about the video was that it seemed a little on the dark side, which was especially noticeable since a good deal of the episode took place at night.

But other than that, from a technical standpoint, the system works great (click here for an even more in-depth review of the video). Personally, I would like to see Apple offer higher resolution video through the music store, maybe for $2.99 or even $3.99 a pop.

And wisely, Apple is in talks with other networks to get them onboard (right now, they just have ABC and Disney). This would be a godsend for those of us who don’t want to shell out $50 a month for cable TV, but would still like to see some of the programming that’s only available on cable (and yes, I am in fact referring to stuff like the Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic, et al).

All that being said, I will admit that watching the season premier of Lost did seem a little underwhelming. A few nights later, we watched the third and fourth episodes on a VHS tape that one of our friends so graciously gave us, and it was amazing how much more “right” it felt to watch Lost on the boob tube, even with the low VHS quality and, worst of all, those damnable commercials.

Although the iTunes videos looked alright, they didn’t have the oomph that the episodes we saw on TV had. Maybe it was the fact that our TV is down in the basement, which can get pretty creepy at night — a fact that definitely contributed to the “wig out” factor on a couple of the first season episodes.

Or maybe the lack of whelm stems from the recent turn the series seems to have taken. What’s this crap about the Dharma Foundation, orientation films, experiments, and whatnot? Didn’t I see this before on The X-Files? Now it’s getting all scientific and institutional, which just seems to rob the series of some of the mystery and allure.

I loved how the first season hinted at these threads of destiny pulling all of the characters together, what with all of the coincidences, freak encounters, and all of mysterious things that have happened on the Island. It seemed to hint at something bigger and grander and wilder in store for our castaways, that they had all been brought together for some higher purpose.

Now that seems to be fading a bit. Personally, I really hope that the series doesn’t turn out like some of the creators are saying, that it’s all smoke and mirrors, a “shaggy dog story.” And I thought I was cynical.

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