Life After Lost
The ratings are in for Sunday night's series finale of Lost, and they're as dead as the characters.
The 150-minute clincher played to an audience of 13.5 million. It may seem like a big number, but it's less than 13% of the 105 million that saw the final episode of M*A*S*H some 27 years ago.
No show will ever top M*A*S*H's haul. It's not a question of quality. It's the evolution of convenience and the spectrum of available programming that will doom any future contenders.
What was the programming landscape like 27 years ago? TiVo was still several years away from introducing the digital video recorder. Networks weren't streaming online. The cable television migration was still in its infancy, so many homes were limited to the small number of local VHF and UHF channels that their rabbit-eared antennas could bring in. There were no DVDs, offering up entire seasons on optical discs. Hulu and YouTube weren't around to suck up couch potatoes with short-form eye candy.
It's a whole new world now. Folks can watch shows whenever they want. Live events such as the Super Bowl or American Idol draw large crowds, but those broadcasts have a limited shelf life if they're not seen right away.
When I was young, everyone saw that M*A*S*H episode. Everybody knew who shot J.R. on Dallas. The beauty of technology, though, is that while shared experiences among classmates, friends, fellow workers are now harder to produce, you have access to a greater pool of like-minded thinkers through social networking sites and fan forums.
Isolation taketh, but it also giveth. For all I know, that may have been a theme I missed out on Lost, too.