'Lost' fans: This one is for you and about you
There are many great things to take in and remember about "Lost."
But the biggest gift the ABC show has bestowed on those of us who have watched, obsessed, analyzed and debated its meaning and plot over the last six years is... each other.
Wouldn't you say?
What would this magnificent ride have been if we weren't constantly talking, blogging, podcasting and, lately, tweeting about how we feel about the show? Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have given birth to an impressive community -- not of "crazy Lost fans," but of people who care deeply about so many things: art, literature, science and philosophy. And, yes, of course, the numbers and the Smoke Monster and the four-toed statue and the Oceanic 815 castaways.
There are many great and popular TV shows, shows that touch hearts and entertain and somehow become bigger than themselves. But what I saw in January on Waikiki Beach -- 12,000 people gathered for the season premiere, people who came from around the globe to share a singular experience -- spoke volumes to me about the worldwide impact of a drama that started almost on a lark.
It's both exciting and sad to think of "The End" on Sunday. But the fans have done it again. A whopping 2,000 "Lost" viewers, some from as far away as Europe, Australia and Turkey, will gather at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday for an event that will include Q&A's with "Lost" actors, with beloved "Lost" blogger Jo Garfein, and the finale screening. And, no, this is not an ABC event.
In fact, I'm going to call it the largest independent fan party in TV history because, honestly, I've never heard of anything like this. The hosts are father-and-son "Lost" podcasting dynamos Jay and Jack Glatfelter, who have been doing their thing since 2005 and get 500,000 downloads a month from 70 countries. Jay Glatfelter, 25, is finishing up his bachelor's degree in history, looking for his first job and getting married next year. Jack Glatfelter, 47, is the group sales director for an ice rink in Raleigh, N.C., where they live.
Their podcast was born out of a mutual love of "Lost." In 2005, Jay was in a band and read an article about the growing number of podcasts and thought it would be fun to give that medium a try. Immediately, he thought of doing one with his dad because "he has large opinions about a lot of things." But his father had no idea what a podcast was, so the idea died fast.
Then "Lost" took over their lives. They weren't just watching the episodes. They were taking notes and having wild discussions.
"That's when I was like, 'This is it!'" Jay said. "This is what we're going to do a podcast about."
"I thought it would last two or three weeks," Jack added. "Why would anyone want to listen to us talk about a TV show? I didn’t realize there were other podcasts about other TV shows."
Almost five years later, their podcast is the fourth-most-popular independent podcast on ITunes, and it has won numerous awards, including a Podcast Award for best entertainment in 2007. They knew they were on to something on their sixth podcast, when "Lost" actor Jorge Garcia called in to let them know there were cast and crew members listening to them every week.
"I flipped out," Jay said.
"He's always been my favorite character, so I was like, 'No way!'" his father added.
But there wouldn't be a party Sunday without the involvement of another "Lost" fan: Michael Purcell, senior vice president of Global Cash Card in Irvine. Purcell says he doesn't like "mindless television," and that's a good thing, because you can accuse "Lost" of many things, but being "mindless" is not one of them. Two years ago, Purcell says, he started "screaming" at his college-age nephew that he had to join the "Lost" bandwagon.
"I told him that 'Lost' has changed television and it's telling stories the way they should be told, making you want more and expect more," Purcell said. The nephew caved in and in one week watched the first three seasons on DVD. Then "he freaked out and started going on the Internet and finding all this stuff about 'Lost.'"
Including Jay's and Jack's podcast.
"I was like, "What's a podcast?'" Purcell said. "And he was like, 'There’s these two guys talking about 'Lost,' and my reaction was, “I don’t have time to listen to two guys talk about Lost.' Who has time for that? He forced me to listen. We listened a couple of weeks, then I listened a couple more while I worked out. And I liked the way they did the show and the way people would call up and come up with their theories. And these were theories I’d never thought of or considered. It made me want to watch some episodes again."
Purcell got an idea: What if his company sponsored Jay's and Jack's podcast? It would be a way to spread news about Global Cash Card while supporting two creative men that shared his passion. Last summer, he met Jay and Jack at Comic-Con and proposed that he sponsor a contest for their podcast. Over the next several months, they got to know each other and eventually Purcell offered to sponsor their trip to "Sunset on the Beach" on Oahu in January.
"That weekend, I quickly saw that people follow them from around the world, like they’re stars," Purcell said. "I also saw how ABC showed the episode and there were literally thousands of people, and I just thought, 'I can do this.' I can watch the season finale like this with other fans."
Purcell and the podcasters began their search for venues and fell in love with the Orpheum. Then they met with ABC, which supported the screening, but only if it was free. Global Cash Card agreed to foot the bill for the rental of the theater.
"Our goal was never to make money but, at first, we wanted to cover the cost of the Orpheum," Purcell said. "When ABC said no, we thought about it here at Global, and we decided to go ahead with the event. Of course, it's a marketing strategy for us, but behind it is something that I'm very passionate about. Jay and Jack have integrity and they're just really nice, honest people, and maybe we can help them too in the process."
An international provider of pay-card programs, Global Cash Card also arranged for the winner of the "How Will It End?" video contest to win a completely refurbished "Dharma van." That prize will be awarded after Garfein conducts brief interviews with actors Malcolm David Kelley, L. Scott Caldwell., Andrea Gabriel, Neil Hopkins, Eric Lange and Sean Whalen. Actor Michael Emerson will appear later for his own Q&A with the audience. Hats and T-shirts will be sold, with all profits going to Project Walk in Carlsbad because Purcell has a brother with a spinal injury.
The event sold out in an hour, and Jay and Jack want everyone to know there's no amount of social media begging that will change that. Maybe in your sideways flash?
"I just can’t wait to share the final episode of all the fans that we’ve been watching the show with," Jay said. "The podcast has just been us talking about the show we love. It will be great to close it out with everyone we’ve grown together with watching the show."
When "The End" finally comes, Jay and Jack will conduct a live podcast from the Orpheum that the world can watch on ustream.tv.And after that, they plan to keep chatting about "Lost," at least until Comic-Con in July.
But, more likely, says Jay, they have another good year of their "Lost" chat-fest left. Fans around the world are already planning to rewatch "Lost" together.Letting go, as the castaways well know, is very hard.
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Upper photo: Jay and Jack Glatfelter at Comic-Con in 2008. Credit: Cesar Altamirano.
Lower photo: The "Dharma van" undergoes refurbishing before it will go to the contest winner. Credit: Global Cash Card