As we await the arrival of tonight’s John Locke-centric episode of Lost, entitled “The Substitute,” I thought I’d use the space I’d typically give to my “What Doc Missed” ruminations about last week’s episode to talk about… answers. More specifically, “Answers,” the spoof video created by The Fine Bros. (brothers Raf and Ben Fine, to be exact), the viral video comedians famed for (among other things) their Lost spoofs using Lost action figures. I’ve always been a big fan of their work, but a couple weeks ago, I took aim at “Answers,” calling it cynical and snarky. To refresh your memory, this was the musical parody, set to “Downtown,” in which the brothers bashed Lost for its numerous unsolved mysteries (and several alleged continuity flaws and plot holes) and expressed extreme skepticism that the show will ever resolve these matters in a clear or satisfying manner. If you wish, you can watch the video right now.
Not long after posting my critique, Ben and Raf reached out to me and asked for a chance to respond. I agreed. Here’s their side of the story, and I’m curious to know what you all think. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more with their severely pitiless perspective on the show and what makes for good TV writing. And I think they’re being mean and geeky nitpickers about the Hurley-bird. But hey: I promised to air THEIR side of the story, not critique them more, didn’t I? So without further ado, I give the Fines some equal time.
First, let me say this–you guys are pretty funny and pretty creative. What originally inspired you to get in the business of making these Lost spoofs?
The Fine Brothers: One of the ways we’ve been making films over the years is utilizing action figures. We first started producing web videos [over] five years ago with a trilogy of feature films made entirely with action figures. When we were at Comic-Con in 2007 we were shocked to see Lost toys, something no one seemed aware even existed including ourselves. With how fanatical we are about Lost we bought them all and got into production. We shoot the forest and beach scenes in a local park, and for everything else we shoot in front of a tiny green screen in our apartment. Depending on the episode, they can take up to six hours to shoot. The production team, like almost all of our content, is just the two of us (including doing almost all of the voices), with the special f/x and music being done by two friends.
What was your inspiration for the “Answers” video? How long did that take to research and write? Specifically, I’m thinking of the part where you take down Jin’s inexplicable time traveling…
The Fine Brothers: We have made lots of successful web video for multiple companies online for years and one of our very popular shows is our “Spoiler” series where in one take we spoil hundreds of movies and TV shows. Our most recent one can be found here. Once we established that format we had the idea from the middle of Season 4 that for the last season we’d list every Lost mystery in the same style. We soon realized that would be like a half-hour long video and there was no way we could memorize that, so instead we landed on a song listing as many as we could fit. We turned to our peers, other very talented and undervalued online creators to execute it. Rhett & Link sang and produced the song, while Will Hyler brought our vision to life with his animation visuals. It’s a running theme, but there is talent online that rivals anything out there and people still do not realize it. The song is a testament to what can be done, as we made the video in less than a month while all working full time jobs outside of it. The research and writing didn’t take that long because we are obsessed Lost fanatics. The hardest decision was whether to use “Downtown” or “Make Your Own Kind of Music” for the song, but once we settled with “Downtown” it was off to the races and having to pick which things to mention and which things to omit. The Jin sequence is a long-standing issue Benny has specifically had with the show. The week it happened he was ranting almost word for word what made it into the song, annoying Rafi for a long time, but now it can live on forever. It just doesn’t make any sense!
As much as I admire your creativity, I did think the video was too snarky, unfair in parts, and generally cynical. Response?
The Fine Brothers: Bottom line, we are comedians. And the Internet is quite a specific place. If something like this was made on Saturday Night Live it would be looked at as a funny take on Lost, as just a sketch. Online, creators are exposed and things so personal that people think we must be attacking the series. We’re first and foremost trying to make people laugh. But you are somewhat fair in your estimation, though not in our intentions. … The common feedback from many on our song about “You picked questions that don’t really matter to the plot so you don’t need them answered.” [But that] just doesn’t fly. We think because we are such huge fans of the show, things like the “Hurley-bird” not being answered feels like a slap in the face since that means there were never answers to begin with. We aren’t the type to blindly love whatever a show does. On the contrary, it’s because we love it so much that we care about every detail, and having things happen randomly and never answering them most likely means, well, they never knew why they were doing it in the first place, which is not proper writing in our opinion, and something viewers shouldn’t accept. But, sadly this happens in most shows. We feel similarly [about] how Battlestar Galactica ended. And Farscape, maybe our favorite show aside from Lost, fell apart in the fourth season. We just expect too much perhaps from these shows that start off so brilliantly, but it makes for great satire and parody!
Any new Lost videos in the works?
The Fine Brothers: Absolutely. We just put out the first episode of our action figure series, the 11th we have made, and will be releasing one a month for the duration of the final season and even a couple beyond possibly. We are kicking around an epic sketch revolving around time travel that we may do barring how they wrap up the series. No matter how busy we are working towards our television dreams, we love “going back to the Island” so to speak to play with the toys and entertain. Though the parodies have definitely taken a more direct turn of poking fun at the absurdities of the series these days, how can you not make light of everything even if it’s a show you love so much? Remember Doc, it’s all for laughs and for the sake of comedy in the end.
Hmmm. Well, for guys who claim they’re only in it for laughs, sounds like there’s a fair amount of critique and emotion involved, too. But I will leave it for you to judge. Do you think the Fines have a point? Or are they meanies that need to be chased off the Lost fan island with Mr. Eko’s stick? Take up the debate below. Before you do: have you seen this week’s “Totally Lost” yet? I regret that there aren’t any action figures involved… unless you count Evangeline Lilly, in the flesh, discussing her theory about what’s going on the in Sideways storyline. Check it out, then please: come back here during and after the show as a place to hang and discuss “The Substitute.” And remember to check back tomorrow morning for my recap of the ep. Namaste! Doc Jensen