Last week, the fifth season of Lost ended with a predictably calamitous turn of events. The actual meaning the writers will assign to these events is anyone’s guess, but luckily we’ve got about a year to blindly speculate.
With the Lost season finale also comes the season finale of one of the finer works of Lost fandom. The last episode of the second series of Lost: What Will Happen Next is out, a web series by Ben and Rafi Fine of TheFineBrothers.com.
Lost: What Will Happen Next (also known as the more straightforward Lost Parody) is performed by a cast of Lost action figures, specifically the really nice ones by McFarlane Toys.
By casting the series with toys (like another one of my favorite web shows), the Fine Brothers avoid the need for camera ready actors and instead get to focus their attention on cartoonish visual gags, fast paced editing, and some of the funniest Lost vocal impressions you’ll ever hear. Jack’s voice is particularly well mocked; a perpetually desperate whine that manages to simultaneously sound nothing like Matthew Fox and perfectly capture the character.
Any popular series will have it’s imitators (the Lost have over two million YouTube views for their first episode alone), but the Fine Brothers have the distinction of having their show ripped off by no less than the American Broadcasting Corporation.
In February, ABC.com released their own Lost parody/episode recap show featuring the McFarlane Toys called Lost: Untangled. The Fine Brothers have acknowledged on their blog that there’s no way of proving ABC actually saw What Will Happen Next and decided to copy it, since the idea of using the Lost action figures to recreate scenes is pretty much the purpose of the action figures in the first place.
What is clear is that the style of Lost: Untangled is a hell of a lot like the Lost Parodies, just not as good.
Lost: Untangled is a show recap first, and a parody second. It’s conducted with the same frenetic energy as What Will Happen Next, but while WWHN seems genuinely anarchic in it’s DIY aesthetic, Untangled‘s sense of humor seems plastered on, and grates on the nerves by trying way, way too hard. It doesn’t just try to appeal to Lost fans, it panders to them with an unmistakably corporate sense of toothless snark. There are a few laughs to be had, but it would take a bigger (and less discriminating) Lost fan than me to make it through more than two episodes.
If we assume the ABC.com team did see What Will Happen Next before producing Untangled (and come on, they obviously did), what doesn’t make sense is why ABC didn’t simply hire the Fine Brothers to produce new episodes under the ABC.com banner. They would have gained a quality product with a built in fanbase, and earning themselves a huge chunk of indie cred with the new media crowd.
It wouldn’t even be an unprecedented move for them. ABC has already hired the NYC-based Lostie rock band Previously On Lost to create original online content for them. Why didn’t they go the same route with the Fine Brothers?
The answer may be that What Will Happen Next‘s brand of parody is just a little too sharp-edged for ABC to square with, despite the fact the network is home to Jimmy Kimmel. While it’s obviously the work of fans, the series does not shy away from calling Lost out on its inconsistencies and stylistic cliches. This sort of critique has gotten even more pointed after the Untangled controversy.
In Episode 9, a band of Star Trek action figures visit the island, and Spock is eventually driven to suicide after encountering Lost‘s “world without logic.” I imagine this is the sort of thing ABC was concerned about releasing on their own site, but seeing as the company is so intent on making comedic viral products based on Lost, it would be nice if they’d learn how to take a joke.
Watch Lost Parodies at TheFineBrothers.com.