Wednesday, April 07, 2010
By Michael Wilson, New York Times News Service
The ABC drama "Lost" --whose cast includes Terry O'Quinn, left, and Josh Holloway -- has spawned fan sites and podcasts, including one created by a couple in Hawaii.The action on "Lost" takes place in the wilds of adventure reels and pulp paperbacks, racing through island jungles and in and out of submarines, caves, an underground lair beneath a heavy hatch and the torch-lit temple of the Others. But "The Transmission," despite its place among many fans as the definitive weekly podcast about "Lost," plays out in the far less exotic -- if still dangerous -- toy room of the Ozawa family in Honolulu.
"If we move our feet," said Ryan Ozawa, father of three, "we'll knock over something that squeaks."
"The Transmission," at hawaiiup.com/lost, was created in 2005 by Mr. Ozawa, 35, and his wife, Jen, 37. Every week they recap the plot in their trademark "under eight minutes" speed style, already setting them apart from the exhaustive, and exhausting, rehashings of some of their peers. Then they sit back and discuss the episode in further depth, plumbing myriad rabbit holes, flushing red herrings, calling out the writers for the occasional weak segment, replaying voice-mail messages left by fans and generally having a ball.
"We're spending a lot more time together than before the podcast," Mr. Ozawa said in a joint telephone interview with his wife. "In terms of what it's done for us, I love it. We're nerdy together, so that's a good thing."
The good thing called "Lost," however, must soon come to an end. The show about castaways who crash-landed on a mysterious island has been hailed as a new benchmark in serial drama, and its creators have been lauded for their decision to pull the plug with the finale on May 23 after six seasons before staleness set in. But being left behind are the legions of fans who dissect the show's every plot twist online and off -- lostpedia.wikia.com and thefuselage.com are among the more popular Web destinations -- in numbers unlike any other television show. What will become of them, the new castaways left to wander around with no smoke monster or Man in Black (or are they the same thing?) to look forward to on Tuesday nights?
"I get this question a lot," said Jeff Jensen, an Entertainment Weekly writer who cranks out two multi-thousand-word columns and a video about "Lost" every week. "Apparently no one had paid attention to anything I had written before now."
"When it's over, it'll be like there's a short-term joy," he added. " 'OK, that's the story, that's over.' I'll never have to pull all-nighters writing about this show again."
For others, the end of the road is still a long way off.
"How is it any different than reading a book?" said Nikki Stafford, author of a series of "Finding Lost" guide books. "Once you get to the end of a Dickens book, can you not discuss it? When it ends, you can really start to analyze the show going back to the beginning."
For the Ozawas "Lost" has been a special gift. For a few hours each week the agita and logistics of work and child rearing fall away. Every Saturday night the kids go to bed, Mr. Ozawa turns on his laptop and two microphones, and a man and woman together 16 years turn into just another couple of geeks. Their obvious delight in each other's company makes them stand out not only among "Lost" podcasts, where fanboys rule, but among many married-couple podcasts and, for that matter, many married couples.
If this were a "Lost" episode, here would be the flashback: They met at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1994. She was the daughter of a Navy man and was born in Florida. He was a native.
"He came over to our table -- a mutual friend brought him over," Ms. Ozawa said. "I just immediately thought Ryan was really interesting because he was funny and charming and not like any of the guys we went to school with."
His version: "This guy said, 'Come meet these great ladies,' and it was awesome."
They lived together through college, married in November 1997 and had their first child, Katie, in January 1998. ("You do the math," he said.) They've lived in Hawaii ever since and followed Katie with two sons, Zachary, who is 7, and Alex, 5. Mr. Ozawa, a self-described technologist who works at a real estate data firm, has toes in every communication medium: a public radio show about technology, a blog about life in Hawaii, a "Lost" blog and a regular morning guest spot on a local TV station to discuss the show.
"The Transmission" is not his first podcast but a spinoff of another, "HawaiiUP," on which his wife was a featured player.
"He was going to follow me around with a tape recorder, and the segment would be called 'Annoy the Wife,' " she said. "I actually came on and just talked about stuff, whatever movies we've seen and TV we were watching."
That, auspiciously, included the first season of "Lost." They discovered a fan base with a seemingly bottomless appetite for postmortem chat, and decided to start a new podcast with the premiere of Season 2 in 2005.
"Aloha from the island," a nervous-sounding Ms. Ozawa said that day. "My name is Jen."
"And I'm Ryan," Mr. Ozawa said.
"Mahalo," she said. "Thank you for listening."
Their style was stiff, more formal than today, when it can seem as if the listener is eavesdropping instead of being spoken to. (There was a recording hiatus during much of the third and fourth seasons, but the Ozawas backfilled the gaps in their podcast.)
Back to the present: Their "Lost" week begins around 8:20 on Tuesday nights, when they tune in to their DVR while the episode is in progress, to skip over commercials. "Anything Jen yells out loud I write down," Mr. Ozawa said. " 'You don't like Kate,' X, Y and Z."
Afterward they chat a while, and then she goes to bed while he posts their reactions on their "Transmission" Web site. In a very short time it is not unusual for 300 people to comment, he said, and their voice mail gets 30 or 40 calls a week.
"We have regulars," many of whom are known by their locations, he said. "I know that 'Yann from France' isn't going to like this episode. We have a gal in Turkey who comments regularly. There's a guy up the street from us who comments. It's a nice mix."
The next morning Mr. Ozawa appears on KITV with a few talking points. He wears a Hawaiian shirt and says things you don't normally hear on the news, such as: "Obviously the parallels between Claire's character and Danielle Rousseau's character, the crazy French woman from early on, are key."
(They believe that only once did they miss an episode on the night it was broadcast, when they went to a Journey concert. Mr. Ozawa faked it on the news the next morning.)
As the weekend approaches, she sifts through the e-mail, while he transcribes voice mail. He comes up with notes with topics he'd like to hit, voice mails he'd like to play and spoilers he plans to share based on eyewitness accounts of scenes as they are shot in Hawaii. They figure they put in about 10 hours a week for a 90-minute podcast.
Mr. Ozawa maintains that, oddly enough, the experience makes him a better husband. "We get along better and more consistently because we feel that it serves a greater purpose than just us -- not that our kids aren't our greatest purpose," he said. "I can see myself behaving differently and not being a big jerk and stuff, because I want Jen to be in a good mood."
Finally, Saturday arrives, and "then it's just a matter of getting the kids to bed so we can record," he said. About three hours later Mrs. Ozawa again heads for bed, while he uploads the podcast, finally finishing around 2 a.m. Sunday. They took on a corporate sponsor, Audible.com (an Amazon.com subsidiary), some time back and are paid enough to have traveled to that most celebrated geek paradise, the Comic-Con convention in San Diego, to get news on the show and meet fans.
Flash ahead to May 23, the finale: "We're probably going to cry all the way through it because it is such a central part of our lives," Mr. Ozawa said.
But Ms. Ozawa seemed quite ready to greet the morning sun on May 24. "To be completely honest, it will be sort of a relief in a way," she said. "We can start doing other stuff."
Not so fast. There is the lingering matter of Season 1, which predates the podcast.
"People have asked us ...," Mr. Ozawa said.