We had grown weary of Smallville, stopped laughing at That ‘70s Show, and couldn’t stomach even the thought of a third go-‘round for The Simple Life. By the autumn of 2004, we had no place to turn but to the mysterious island series that ABC ads had been pimping like crazy. Following our national love of sci-fi, of Survivor, of that bespectacled fella who made Felicity (ah, times were different then), we flocked to Lost, ill-prepared for the slew of questions, deficit of answers, and legion of unforgettable characters we'd meet over the course of the next six seasons. In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the dawn of America's last true pop culture addiction, we've decided to rank those characters — to celebrate the Oceanic Six, bemoan the Flight 815 tail section, and kind of sigh in bored confusion over the folks at the Dharma Initiative.
A quick qualifier: we aren't, and couldn't with any qualitative legitimacy, ranking all of the characters on Lost. We're ignoring the nearly anonymous Others, the one-line flashback extras, and that guy who was sucked into the jet propeller in the first episode. Remember him? I think his name was Gary. He's not on the list.
76. MILES STRAUMEThe most convoluted and out-of-place construct that Lost ever managed, which is saying something. Why can he speak to the dead? Who cares if he’s Dr. Chang’s son? Why did anyone think this character was a good idea?
75. SHANNONLess of a problem with the mythology than simply an annoying, corrosive onscreen presence.
74. KEAMY, FROM THE BOATUgh, this guy. This guy and his crew cut.
73. JACK’S NONEXISTENT SONDavid Shephard’s one saving grace is that he doesn’t actually exist. Three cheers for flash-sideways nullification!
72. LENNONIs… is his name actually Lennon? Or do they just call him that because he looks exactly like Lennon? And why, pray tell, does he look exactly like Lennon?
71. RICHARDThe irritation of the wholly useless Richard is maximized by the knowledge that he’ll be around forever.
70. ANNA LUCIAAnna Lucia acts as the epitome of everything that was wrong with the tail section chapter in maintaining the concrete belief that she is in any way a viable substitute for the main cast’s screen time.
69. GOODWINUgh, this guy. This guy and his wisps.
68. NIKKI AND PAOLONo explanation necessary for why Nikki and Paolo falls towards the bad end of the list, but a few extra points for the sadistic treat that was their final bow.
67. THE MOTHER“Hey guys, tonight’s episode of Lost has Allison Janney! From The West Wing! I love her! I bet they give her something cool and funny and totally pertinent to the contemporary storyline to do!”
66. ELOISE HAWKINGOne Farraday was more than enough, guys.
65. ILANAI have to be honest, I barely remember who this is.
64. DOGENDogen’s scenes were just one of many late series constructs that made us sigh wistfully and recount on the good old days when this show was about people trapped on an island.
63. MINKOWSKILadies and gentlemen, Fisher Stevens.
62. EMMA AND ZACKYou can really lump all the unaccounted for Lost children in one cloying bullet point: these two, the Kwon baby, Desmond and Penny’s kid, the deity twins, Aaron. They all just caused a whole mess of trouble, didn’t they?
61. LIBBY “What if — get this — what if we gave her a romance with a fan-favorite, and then closed an episode with a shocking stinger that revealed she used to be in a mental institution?“Sounds great! Then what?”“No, that’s about it.”
NEXT: 60 - 41
60. CHARLIE’S BROTHER“You all, everybody!” Ha. Remember that?
59. ABADDONEh, it’s Lance Reddick doing Lance Reddick, just without any of the interesting we were used to seeing.
58. JACK’S EX-WIFEHas anyone made a mash-up interweaving Julie Bowen’s Lost scenes with clips from Modern Family? I can’t imagine that anyone would have felt impelled to do so. And I certainly don’t feel impelled to check.
57. HORACE GOODSPEEDGoodspeed might have scored higher were not for his portrayer’s particularly creepy real life romantic exploits. Ech.
56. ALEX, ROUSSEAU’S DAUGHTERAw, she was okay.
55. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALTPuberty ruins everything. Self-esteem, probing storylines…
54. RYAN PRICE AND HIS TEN BEST MENI’d like to see a separate series about these guys. Or at least a few minutes of the pilot of one.
53. THE MAN IN BLACKHe really couldn’t have just talked things out with brother Jay?
52. ALDO, FROM THE TEMPLELadies and gentlemen, Mac.
51. THE PICKETTSNever was a story of more woe than this of… Colleen… and… Danny.
50. RADZINSKYHeh, this guy. This guy and his combover.
49. KATE’S BOYFRIENDWell this one just makes me sad.
48. SUN’S DADDitto. What a jerk.
47. HURLEY’S IMAGINARY FRIENDI never entirely knew what to make of Hurley’s bout of delusional psychosis… but I’m a sucker for that thing where it looks like someone is taking a normal photograph, and then that very photograph amounts as evidence of something spooky going on.
46. CASSIDYHell hath no fury like a stunt cast actress scorn.
45. INMANScratch the Ryan Price and His Ten Best Men pitch. I want to see Inman slowly lose his noodle.
44. DANIEL FARRADAYSomewhere between endearingly nuanced and gratingly overacty, there lies Jeremy Davis’ performance.
43. JULIETFor a late addition central character, Juliet never really achieved genuine interesting-on-her-own-accord status.
42. THE PILOTSure, he died within moments of being introduced, but he single-handedly set the tone and stakes for the entire first season. Way to go, Sean Blumberg.
41. LEONARDFour. Eight. Fifteen. Sixteen. Twenty-three. Forty-two. Repeat.
NEXT: 40 - 21
40. TOM FRIENDLYThe reveal that he was gay helped warm us up to Tom just a bit, but I always wanted to know more about this prominent Other.
39. NAOMII feel as though I remember Naomi being far more interesting than she genuinely was. Could just be the chutzpah.
38. DR. PIERRE CHANGSmart men make bad dads, so says Lost.
37. JACOBFor an omnipotent deity, Jacob’s kind of a dingus.
36. FROGURTOr “Neil.”
35. CHARLES WIDMOREA bit too faceless to be an effective super villain, but could teach a master class in menacing accentry.
34. BRAM, THE OTHERAnd next to Stoker, probably the best Bram in pop culture.
33. PHIL, THE OTHERAw, this guy. This guy and his widow’s peak.
32. KATE’S DADGood dad alert! We’ve got an actual good dad on Lost people!
31. MR. EKOIf only you didn’t hate Hawaii so much, Adewale, maybe your character would have gotten an appropriate send-off.
30. CLAIRESane Claire? Fantastic. Crazy Claire? Abysmal. They average out to pretty good.
29. MIKHAILIs it just me, or are eye-patches unconditionally cool?
28. ROGER WORKMANThe pressures of fatherhood, the anchor of alcoholism, the monumental stresses of the DHARMA Initiative… Roger, we feel you.
27. HELEN, LOCKE’S GIRLFRIENDShe was nice.
26. SAYIDHe wasn't that nice, but he had more on his plate.
25. CHARLOTTEIt was hard to watch the nose bleeds, but we can’t begrudge an archeologist hero, now can we?
24. MICHAELSo many bad decisions, Michael. And so much harrowed shouting.
23. ETHAN ROMNobody does a dead-eyed stare like E-Rom.
22. PENNYOne half of the greatest love story in television history.
21. HURLEYAudience surrogate, comic relief, beacon of pathos, resident geek, everyman, proficient golfer. A winner.
NEXT: 20 - our #1 Lost chracter!
20. SUNSun’s lows are low, but her arc to redemption is a particularly challenging and interesting one.
19. ANTHONY COOPERIn earnest, the best villain Lost ever produced. Next to the piercing human condition, of course.
18. DETECTIVE MARSA hard-boiled lawman who has one job to do, but a heart he’s forced to lug around while doing it.
17. BERNARDAww. (See Rose)
16. JIN’S DADSorry, Kate’s dad. Jin’s dad is the padre supreme.
15. BOONEWhat a nice fella. And an incredible impetus for the “anyone can die” phenomenon that carried through the bulk of the series.
14. CHRISTIAN SHEPHARDWhether or not you like Christian Shephard is entirely dependent on how you feel about the finale. And I love the finale.
13. ROUSSEAUAn extended metaphor for the loss that courses throughout each character’s story, and the crash-and-burn phenomenon that will ensnare them if they do not seek and attack their issues… or maybe just a loony French lady. Either way, we dig it.
12. KATEWay more than just the “runs into the woods and gets in trouble” shtick that people fault her for, Kate is the gumption and emotional core of Lost. And we love her.
11. ARZTWhat a delightful jackass.
10. JOHN LOCKEThe beauty of Locke is how much you just want to punch him right in the nose… until you realize that he’s not presenting adversity, but challenging solutions.
9. ROSEEven aww-er.
8. SAWYERThe wincing pain of aloneness and self-loathing, evident in everything that the gallant Josh Holloway does with his consistently engaging (the LeFleur era a slight hiccup) character.
7. FRANK LAPIDUSFrank Lapidus monument currently in construction in the South Bronx.
6. DESMONDThe other half of the greatest love story ever committed to television… and, no offense to Penny, the half with the superior ‘do.
5. JACKOur hero, flawed though he may be, was the perfect man to guide us through this story about the fragmented tenets of the human experience. Desperate, lonely, contentious, prickly, and a bit of a tool at times, Jack is and remains the essence of what man is.
4. CHARLIE…But Charlie, in complement to Jack, is the essence of what man wants to be. Given the finest send-off on the series, Charlie becomes the hero that he always wished he could be, embracing his passion for music and his love for Claire to save his friends and surrogate family.
3. VINCENTLess a symbol than a silent character in his own right, Vincent represents that one glimmer of hope to which even the most cynical of us hang tight: the hope that we aren’t, and don’t have to be, alone. With Vincent around, nobody does.
2. BEN LINUSIf Jack is Charlie’s complement then Ben Linus is his stark contrast: the badness that enwraps each of us, causing us to so selfish, maniacal, underhanded things… but all to the same end: not being alone. Not the more admirable guy, but one of most complicated and interesting characters.
1. JINThe very best character arc on Lost comes attached to Jin, who began as an alienating question mark and wound up a fan favorite, an in-universe hero. Jin’s slow climb to island glory, paralleling his flashback descent down the gruesome drain of desperation, makes for Lost’s strongest, most entertaining, and perhaps most emotionally engrossing individual story. And man that ending!
I haven't been to the beach in years. Not for lack of opportunity — I live 20 minutes from the south shore of Long Island and have spent most of my recent summers unemployed. It's not that I can't go, it's that I won't. Because whenever people go to the beach, something horrible happens.
And no, this isn't a shark attack thing. It's not a sunburn thing or a tidal wave thing or even for fear of the Kraken (although they are just waiting for us to drop our guard.) It is, in fact, the simple, rational fear that going to the beach will result in a traumatizing social situation. Scoff all you want (our articles have scoff-detectors now) but every single person I know who has gone to the beach has wound up involved in some kind of morbidly unpleasant public spectacle.
Okay, it might not quite help that every single person I know is a character on a television program. But you work with what you have.
It must have been written in the television handbook that the "beach episode" should be laden with emotional disaster, because every series since the 1970s has brought its cast members to the shore only to toss them into a horrid, Lord of the Flies-ian explosion of despair. Just in case you've managed to make it through your life enjoying sunlight and the company to the soundtrack of tumbling waves, here's a quick way to nullify your love of all things beach, using the most prominent tool of psychological destruction that America has at its disposal: Television.
So, no one told you life was going to be this way. Clap clap clap clap. You get stung by a jellyfish and then your best friend and future husband has to urinate on you in order to assuage the blinding pain. Clap cl—wait, what?
Yes, naïve vacationers, that’s what happens when you go to the beach. When Monica, Chandler, and the rest of their codependent harem headed out to Montauk for the Season 4 premiere, the future Cougar Townie was the victim of a bloodthirsty invertebrate. But little did she know, the sting would play second fiddle to the lifelong humiliation that comes along with having your neighbor, and the eventual father of your children, pee on your leg as a means of inexpensive painkiller. Also, Joey was there.
There are a few things that are most certainly acceptable to lie about: your weight, being distantly related to David Duchovny (who’s gonna check?) having once seen what was definitely a UFO. But you really shouldn’t lie about being a marine biologist. Because that damned beach will get you.
When George Costanza paid an innocent visit to the shores of Long Island with his new girlfriend — who just happened to be under the impression that he was a marine biologist — what should happen but a whale winding up beached and dying just off the coast. At the behest of a forming crowd, “expert” marine biologist George springs into action, walking brazenly into the hostile tide. He might have saved a whale that day, but his gallant admittance to the truth about his occupation cost him the love of the one that could have been. That damned beach will get you.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Granted, everywhere the main cast goes on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia breeds trouble. But their Season 6 voyage to Atlantic City brought things on to an unusual degree of chaos. Mac and Frank drifted off to sea, devoid of rum ham. Dennis and Dee got themselves involved in an assault and robbery. Charlie spent the night of his life with the girl of his dreams… only to have the entire thing turn out to be an ecstasy-induced blackout on her part. Life-threatening danger, multiple felonies, and heartbreak. That’s the beach all over.
Dude got punched in the face.
Thinking about skipping out on work, heading down to the water for some tanning and a light swim? HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?
Back when The Office was a show you weren’t embarrassed to admit that you still watch, Michael Scott took his faithful band of paper suppliers down to the world-renowned beaches of Northern Pennsylvania, and forced them through a physically and mentally exhausting series of competitions to determine who might take his old job after he has been promoted to Dunder Mifflin Corporate. The horrid locale also forced timid Pam Beasley to explode into an aggressive hothead — character development, shmaracter shmevelopment, she’s just unpleasant now.
Six season about how the beach sucks. It might help you finally come to peace with your horribly misguided life choices, but still.
Do you know just how horrible the beach is? It’s the first place the New Girl cast thinks to visit when they discover that Nick Miller might be dying. The dank, morose connotations with the most dastardly geological formation are so overt that the human mind hears “Death!” and immediately jumps to “Beach!”
Nick, Jess, Schmidt, CeCe and… Winston? Was Winston there? Oh, what does it matter. The gang embarks on a nighttime excursion to the shore so that Nick can attack the beehive of remorse that has been his 30 years of life by diving headfirst into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. This ploy of redemption is shot down immediately by the inherent malaise of the sand-laden hell and its saltwater brethren. No amount of chut-è-ney can sate the emotional starvation burned deep into your soul’s stomach after a nighttime beach trip.
The Brady Bunch
The Brady clan’s three-part trip to Hawaii is a necessary mention on this list of despotic oceanfront outings. Young Bobby happens upon a cursed relic that involves his entire family in a survey of tragedy, involving a near-death experience for Greg, and, quite frankly, nothing else that I actually remember. It’s The Brady Bunch. How much of it can you be expected to actually retain without being considered legally brain damaged?
Although we never found out exactly what happened to the study group when they headed to the beach that fateful St. Patrick's Day, we know that it ended in a popped raft, a friendship-threatening fight, and some very toxic lovemaking between two psychologically damaged peers.
The captain of all horrible television beach excursions. The Cunninghams and perpetual houseguest Arthur Fonzerelli find themselves involved in a television antic so bad, that the entire phenomenon of TV shows being ruined was actually named for it. And where does this particular event take place? If you can’t figure that out by now, then you should really write an angry letter to your synapses. Draped in a leather jacket and propped aboard a high-powered jetski, the Fonz dares to risk his own life and the reputation of a once stellar ABC sitcom to change history forever, shocking audiences worldwide with the episode when Happy Days jumped the shark. Littorally.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Image Credit: NBC]
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