I don't watch much prime time television anymore. Back in the late Nineties, the evening airwaves were full of great programming—Seinfeld, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NYPD Blue, and half a dozen more. But gradually it all went away.
Now the networks are dominated by the unregulated cloning of reality shows and police procedurals. I can't stand reality shows at all. I still watch the original version of Law & Order, but nothing similar. I can only handle one hour per week of investigations and autopsies.
I also enjoy King of the Hill, but that's my only contact with animation. I don't watch The Simpsons because, blasphemous as it may sound to the ears of Generation X, I got sick of that show years ago. And I don't watch The Family Guy or American Dad because, for one thing, I have trouble telling them apart. The only way to distinguish the two is to remember that the family on The Family Guy lives with a talking dog, and the family on American Dad lives with a space alien who is also an aging, alcoholic homosexual. If the Fox network ever needs to cut costs, it could combine both into one show called Family Dad, and likely no one would notice.
The sole series in the last few seasons that has generated any excitement in me is Lost. Creative, intricate, and bizarre, Lost is like nothing currently on television, and like almost nothing that has ever been on television. (The only things that come close are The Prisoner and Land of the Lost; Land of the Lost holds the advantage in dinosaurs, and The Prisoner holds the advantage in paranoid Sixties psychedelia, but overall Lost takes the pre-packaged, air-dropped Dharma Initiative cake.) I'm continuously surprised that such an "out there" show could become such a big hit. I'm also surprised that such an "out there" show would be broadcast on ABC, and not on Fox or what used to be the WB network.
Lost has been on hiatus for a few months. It returns on Wednesday, February 7, 2007. I will watch this new episode, but I may have to stop watching the show soon. For most of the show's run, it was based around exploration and adventure, visions, hatches, a monster, and all kinds of cool strangeness. But, starting with the end of the second season, the entire focus of the story has changed to the survivors being kidnapped and tormented by the Others, and being entirely powerless to resist. This grim tale of capture and captivity was starting to give me nightmares.
Normally I am not the sort to be driven easily to nightmares. (I do, though, still have nightmares about some people from my class in high school, which is why I don't go to the reunions.) But the helplessness and hopelessness of the survivors' struggle with the Others has gotten into my head, and led me to several unpleasant dreams.
In one harshly vivid incident, I dreamt that I was a survivor on the island, and I was captured by the Others, and imprisoned in their compound. I knew that I was in a dream, but couldn't get myself out of the dream. The only way that I could find to resolve the situation was to convince myself that I wasn't the character who had been kidnapped, but rather the actor playing that character, and that filming was ending for the day. But even as the nightmare concluded I was filled with dread that I would be returning at some point to resume shooting the scene.
Lost is still a quality show, but it's no longer much fun to watch.
A few months ago I was at work and I needed some information on the finer points of tapir taxonomy. Being too lazy to get up from my desk and look in a book, I checked the internet. During my web search, I inadvertently discovered that there is a legend in Asian countries that the tapir will eat one's dreams.
Here was a mythological answer to my Lost nightmare problem. And here was a perfect device to tie up a blog entry about my Lost nightmare problem.
I believe you can get me through the night
I believe we can reach the morning light
Everything seemed to be coming together for my strange musings on Lost. But a question remained: When a tapir eats dreams, does use its mouth, or its trunk? I prefer the trunk option; I like to imagine a man suffering in a fitful sleep, beset by nightmares, until a tapir enters the darkened room, and moves the end of its trunk like the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner across the man's cranium, gently inhaling the phantoms troubling his nocturnal mind.
My question inspired me to search further, where I found that someone had already blogged about using tapirs to eat dreams. It's a small blogosphere after all.