I've been watching, and enjoying, the TV series Lost for a couple of years now. Which is unusual, because it's exceptionally rare that any American drama takes my fancy. I really couldn't give a toss about Friends, or the West Wing, or ER, or any of the other transatlantic shows that people rave over. But Lost I like. So I've invested 48 hours of my life watching the first two series on Channel 4, and I was planning on spending another 48 enjoying the final two series. But no. The third and fourth series have been bought by Sky, and therefore won't be available on terrestrial television. I've lost Lost.
Imported TV series are always at risk of channel-switching, sold off to the highest bidder. Sky paid £20m for Lost, which is just over £400K per episode, so they must think it's worth the effort. But as soon as Lost moves to Sky its audience will tumble. About 2 million people were watching on Channel 4, whereas on Sky One they'll be lucky if half a million viewers tune in. Overnight the show will drop off the cultural radar, becoming the series nobody's talking about (rather like 24 a couple of years back). The real loser is the casual viewer, forced to make alternative viewing arrangements if they want to follow their favourite show to its new home. And I can't be bothered. Here's why.
Option 1: subscribe to Sky TV for two years But Sky TV is crap. Sure there are some gems tucked away in amongst the dross, but they're vastly outnumbered. I really don't want to pay for twelve channels of pet makeover shows, 20 channels of bare-chested bingo and fifty channels of back-to-back R&B videos, just so that I can watch an hour of Lost a week. Even Sky's cheapest package comes in at £15 a month, and that's for only one-third of the channels, no sport and no blockbuster movies. An ordinary TV licence works out almost £100 cheaper. Cost: £15 a month × 12 months × 2 years = £360
Option 2: buy the next two series of Lost on DVD But DVDs aren't the same as watching television. Sure you get to watch every episode without annoying commercial breaks, but you also lose all sense of occasion. I much prefer a steady drip of episodes, one a week, to a six hour splurge of box-set DVD-ing on a sofa-bound Sunday afternoon. And once I control when to watch, there's no chance of discussing the show with anyone else, because they won't be at the same point in the story as me. And have you seen the price of DVD box-sets? Ouch! Series 1and 2 of Lost retail at £59.99 each, unless you shop around, and quite frankly no single TV programme is worth that kind of outlay. An ordinary TV licence works out only £12 more expensive. Cost: £59.99 (series 3) + £59.99 (series 4) = £119.98
Option 3: watch Lost via BitTorrent Many UK Lost fans have already watched the first three episodes of the third series of Lost, even though these have so far only been screened in the US. There are pirate copies swanning round the internet, available for download weeks before Sky get round to showing them, and they're free. Hurrah. But the picture isn't as good as you get on a real TV screen, is it? And this sort of copyright-theft file-sharing is illegal too, as every upstanding citizen knows, so obviously I wouldn't even consider doing it. Cost: nothing but your conscience
Option 4: read episode-by-episode transcripts online Oh now that's useful. A full script of each and every episode, line by line, immediately after it airs in the US. You don't get the dark brooding atmosphere of the TV show, but you do get all the twists and turns of the plot. In fact, having just read through the opening transcripts ofseries three, I now know everything that happens in the first episodes I won't be able to see. So, no point in watching them now, problem solved. Sorry Sky, you'll be Lost without me. Cost: I think I just saved 47 hours of my life!