“TV rots your brain,” Mom used to say. And she was right- about most shows, anyway. Every now and then, however, shows come out that challenge our minds and actually teach us something. To prove this, MENSA, a club for really smart folks, recently released its top ten list of smart TV shows. They recognized Jeopardy, Frasier, Mad About You, and other ho-hum shows- mostly sitcoms (who knew science nerds had such a leaning toward comedy?). My first thought: “What the heck? Where’s Star Trek, Twilight Zone, X-Files, or other sci-fi shows that launched the careers of thousands of physicists, astronomers, astronauts, engineers, biologists, etc.? Where’s the love for the sci-fi?” And, just like that, my opinion of Mensa fell dramatically.

Great sci-fi shows, not including oatmeal-brained wannabes like Knight Rider, have always tuned the general public into next level knowledge and gotten young minds thinking about the possibilities. The latest flagbearer of this tradition is the stunning, consistently challenging Lost. If you saw last night’s episode about toggling back and forth in space-time, you know what I mean. The show literally bursts with references to literature, astrophysics, sociology, philosophy, and history. And when other shows are giving you the same tired extramarital fling of the week plot, Lost is twisting your brain inside out, tossing it in the blender, and hitting puree. And if you don’t feel like engaging in research to really dig into the marrow of the show, it is perfectly enjoyable as just plain drama. The deeper you dig, the better the show is. So while moms across America are telling their kids to turn off that TV junk, I’m shouting back, “No, don’t turn off the TV! Just turn to Lost.”
I felt compelled to list all the educational offerings Lost brings to the otherwise wanting wasteland that is primetime. I felt compelled to lay before the unappreciative TV-watching public, those who submit themselves to consistently mediocre, empty distractions like Survivor or American Idol, a breakdown of what they are missing. Behold, five great things you learn from Lost:
Lost TV Show | Adult Online Courses1. Astrophysics – Since the second demise of Star Trek, primetime had been void of any talk of wormholes, time travel, or space-time. With the introduction of the Island as a vortex of electromagnetic, swarming nanotech clouds, and time-tripping dilemmas, this subject was once again blown open to the American public. In fact, this show took it one step farther by adding in a slew of internet scavenger hunts that introduced floods of theories to those diligent enough to seek them. Needless to say, Lost has opened a proverbial Hatch for tomorrow’s physicists.
2. Philosophy – It is no accident that John Locke is named after a famous 1600s social contract philosopher or that Desmond Hume shares a last name with Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. All of the conflicts that have played out on the show can be traced to the philosophical viewpoints each character espouses, which is usually indicated by their carefully chosen names. In short, Lost is a duel of opposing philosophies. To watch these play out is to get a very entertaining look at how they collide in real life.
3. Literature – As with philosophy, Lost dips also into the waters of literature, both classic and modern. The names of characters are very often taken from famous literary characters or authors. Desmond’s lady love, Penelope Widmore, for instance, gets her name from Odysseus’ wife, who, like Ms. Widmore, waited faithfully for the return of her lover from a long, bizarre journey. Sawyer inherited his name from the wandering adventurer/boy-hero of Mark Twain’s novel. A newly introduced baddie, Matthew Abaddon, got his name from Biblical poetry- his last name means “a place of destruction” or “realm of the dead.” Sounds like a nice guy.
4. Sociology – Especially in its first season, Lost was the story of a bunch of people who crash on an island and how they deal socially with this crisis. They form alliances. Leaders emerge. Disruptors shake things up. New groups are discovered, and the survivors wrestle with how to confront them. Crazy experiments discovered in the Dharma hatches are other references to sociological theory, most notably the button-pushing scenario in the Hatch.
Lost Show | Online Adult Classes5. Top-notch drama – If all the other stuff does not interest you, Lost is still one of the best dramas on television- and I don’t mean the kind of “drama” where everyone sleeps with everyone else, someone gets shot or gets a terminal illness every week, or people come in and out of comas conveniently. Lost represents the very best of drama, stories of falling and redemption, revenge and forgiveness, strength and weakness, love and hate, folly and consequence. Some episodes have actually moved me to tears by their sheer dramatic force.
If Lost has you chomping at the bit to learn more, check out the following links to online courses in literature, philosophy, and sociology. What have you learned from this gem of a show? Tell us below…
[lavalinx code=”55|110|12880″]

2 comments on “Lost: TV’s Best Classroom

  • Please take time to review what you report.

    You report, “To prove this, MENSA, a club for really smart folks, recently released its top ten list of smart TV shows. ”

    This list is the opinion of ONE member of Mensa – ONLY ONE – one out of nearly 100,000 members. It is not now and never was a list generated by Mensa.

    Perhaps the reporter’s opinion of Mensa could be better formed if it were based on accuracy.

  • De Brooks,

    Mensa would do well to take up this matter with Yahoo TV, as they are the ones who published the article attributing said opinion to Mensa as a whole and not just to one member.

    Talking to Yahoo may yield better results than attacking obscure web sites who had the misfortune of picking up false information. If they want to avoid these misunderstandings in the future, looks like Mensa needs a better PR department, no?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *