NBC’s “Lost” is a clever concept gone clunky. Instead of stirring the adventurous spirit, the Peacock web’s reality cousin to CBS’ “The Amazing Race” gets stuck in slow motion way too often. It’s not the players’ faults — the participants are perky, prepared and primed for a whirlwind world tour — but asking people if they speak English doesn’t really fly as an attention grabber. Americans finding their way home after being dropped in the middle of nowhere is a great idea. Watching Americans find their way home after being dropped in the middle of nowhere is not.
Bowing one hour later, the Eye web’s “Race” is a hyperactive show — there are mountains to climb, rivers to cross and horses to mount. To the contrary, “Lost,” a British format import co-produced by Conan O’Brien’s production company, doesn’t have any grandly staged activities at all, and that’s a big problem. The goal: to reach the Statue of Liberty before anyone else via a lot of walking, talking and bartering. The champs share $200,000.
After some survival camp training, six contestants are flown to a desert with backpacks and blindfolds. They are “left” in the sand — network brass doesn’t want the media to reveal the location — and they hook up with a pre-determined partner. Armed with little money, a small amount of food, and no maps or credit cards, the groups get buy with a closed-circuit radio that connects them to the production office.
So how do they find civilization? With some detective work — copy on a cigarette pack, for instance — everyone eventually guesses where they are and the focus switches from confusion to scheming. Most intriguing aspect revolves around money: How can they travel around the globe with a limited bankroll?
“Lost’s” most charming couple are make-up artist Carla and student/waiter Lando, two twentysomethings who seem to have the best chemistry. They’re the quickest duo of the bunch, more determined to win and more excited than the others. Other notable “characters” include Joe, a gay graphic designer who sounds like Harvey Fierstein, and Tami, a mother of four who has become bored by her life at home.
All of this, if done with rapid-fire precision and finish-line quickness, sounds very tantalizing. But once everybody knows where they are, the title isn’t really applicable, and all that matters is that they fly back to the U.S. before the other teams.
Show also has a bit of a credibility issue fueled by recent reports that parts of UPN’s “Manhunt” were staged. In this case, how “Lost” can anybody really be when — at least in the first leg — there always seems to be a man on a moped riding by at the most convenient moments? It’s as if the locals are in on everything and are strategically dispatched to provide water or directions.
Biggest plus is that the time investment needed by auds is comparatively small; press materials play up the fact that a new winner is crowned every few episodes (After three weeks and one triumphant pair, the second — and depending on the ratings, final –bout begins with new faces). So while “Race” and “Survivor” require a more focused viewing schedule, this one is a bit more user-friendly.
Like everything else reality, the show’s polish is as important as the people. Different locations lend themselves to some interesting camerawork (there are two credited editors and a trio of lensers), but reviewed copy’s music and graphics were temporary.