Tonight, we played a session of Jump the Shark by Matt Jones and created a terrible comedic sci-fi television show called The Lost Horizon about a restaurant in a mall on Mars. One main character is Xinta, a young Martian native fresh out of high school, who started the series as a naive, lost waif but who ended the first two seasons having found a purpose: making her love for Zoltan known. Zoltan is a hot young African-American human in his early twenties who just needed a summer job but came to love this restaurant and restaurant work because it brings him in contact with so many people. The fans love these two because who better to ship than star-crossed, cross-species lovers, especially when Zoltan remains so oblivious to it all. Our last main character is Sheila, a shy cashier in her late twenties, still living at home with her parents who forced her out of the house in search of work but who ends the second season as the store’s assistant manager. She is all grrrl power and the fans eat it up.
After season 2, however, the writers are all out of ideas and have turned to the roulette wheel of plot tropes to keep their renewed show going. In season 3, they throw a beach party on a planet with no water and have Zoltan crash it through virtual reality as his game leads his avatar into the party, where Xinta sits crushed that the real Zoltan never showed. The next episode has them all at work, hungover from the beach party and struggling to make it through the day, which leads to the live martian “lobsters” delivered to the restaurant running loose through the restaurant. Zoltan, in the doghouse with Xinta and Sheila, saves the day by luring the lobsters back into their box with cheetos. Later in the season, they switch from comedy to horror in a Halloween special when first customers, then Sheila, disappear. It’s up to Xinta to arm herself with a water gun to drive off the monster lobsters infesting the restaurant.
In season 4, we start with a magician entering the restaurant and wowing us with his magic that we can never figure out. Nothing appears on the security tapes to show how he does his tricks, but when we finally get him out and think we’ve got it all figured out, the lights turn out on their own. In a later episode, Xinta is waiting tables at two restaurants simultaneously, trying to impress another restaurateur, while Zoltan shops in the mall and watches her rushing back and forth. She keeps getting the orders mixed up and the new restaurant sends her packing, but Sheila has been covering for her and everything’s still great at the Lost Horizon. Near season’s end, we have a musical episode where each of us sings about our feelings. Xinta sings while opening the restaurant in the morning about her love for Zoltan. During the shift, Sheila sings about how she’s finally going to ask for the raise she deserves for running the store, but when she opens the door to the office at the end of the number, she says nothing and steps outside again. Zoltan’s song comes when he’s closing the restaurant and thinking about his day and how much he loves the restaurant.
In season 5, the crew gets locked inside the walk-in freezer so Sheila has to crawl out through the cooling system piping to engineer their escape. In another episode, they are on a road trip to Herby, the restaurant owner’s wedding, but they get lost when the car’s AI gets too sad to talk anymore and stops providing directions. Then a dust storm knocks out the car’s solar power, and when the storm clears, they learn that Herby has called off the wedding. Later in the season, Sheila goes to jail when she calls the police to remove long-time customer and major annoyance Cosmo but they get the names reversed on the paperwork and try to remove her from the story. Eventually, Zoltan and Xinta convince Cosmo to straighten it out with the police, but must promise to give him a job at the restaurant before he’ll agree to help.
In the final episode, once the show is finally cancelled, Xinta finally tells Zoltan of her love for him and he agrees to go on a date. Meanwhile, Sheila has finally been offered a chance to run her own restaurant by Horizon’s great rival and decides to take it. When the series ends, she closes The Lost Horizon one last time and turns the lights out as she leaves, saying goodbye. Will there be a Zoltan & Xinta spin-off?