On September 22nd, 2004, a new TV series premiered that changed the way we consume media. “Lost,” a series that has since been defined by its controversial ending, began with an amazing pilot (one of the most expensive in television history), immediately hooking audiences around the world with its breathtaking pace, explosive set pieces, intriguing characters, flashback structure, and mysterious setting. It’s now been exactly ten years since that first episode aired, so I thought it’d be cool to take a quick look back at the show to celebrate.
Shows like “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files” paved the way for the sci-fi weirdness that “Lost” was able to air on a network television drama, and the mysteries of those earlier shows also created fervent fan bases who scoured whatever sources they could find. But “Lost” came at the perfect time: the rise of social media, coupled with co-showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s openness and willingness to engage with the fans, formed a perfect storm that provided a perfect platform for fans to talk, argue, and theorize about the overarching mysteries of the Island, the Others, Jacob, the Smoke Monster, the ageless Richard Alpert, and countless more. Never before in TV history had there been so many people so interested in solving a shared mystery, and with a much more developed internet at their fingertips than the one fans of “The X-Files” were working with in the mid-90s, “Lost” became a pop culture phenomenon.
When I watched the show for the first time, I was completely astounded on basically every level. The production values were exceptional (they shot most of the series on the Hawaiian island of Oahu – even the scenes that looked like Germany, Tunisia, and other far-off parts of the world), Michael Giacchino’s score was beautiful, the mythology was rich, the writing was compelling, and the acting was (mostly) pretty great. I was one of many who dove into Lostpedia the minute after an episode ended, parsing every clue and allusion to gain a deeper understanding of the show’s themes. “Lost” encouraged the audience to have an active experience with the series, not a passive one like the shows I grew up watching. This was new. This was exciting. And for me, it was also groundbreaking.
Since “Lost” went off the air, no other show has come close to causing this level of fervor in me. I’ve watched some incredible TV shows since then – “Mad Men,” “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “True Detective,” “Fargo,” etc. – but none of them have captured my imagination in quite the same way as “Lost.” The much-discussed series finale – which I’m convinced is STILL misinterpreted by many people who watched it – has made the series a lightning rod of controversy since it ended, and that seems to be all anyone wants to talk about these days when the show comes up in conversation. That’s a shame, because regardless of your feelings about how it wrapped up (I happened to be just fine with it, but I can easily see how many would be disappointed), there’s so much great stuff in this show that’s worth talking about, and to reduce the scope of an entire series to a final few hours and dismiss it because it didn’t end the way you wanted it to seems like a willfully pessimistic approach.
Now that enough time has passed (it’s been ten years, people!), I’d encourage you to take another look at the series and judge it with new eyes. My wife and I are rewatching the entire series for the first time since it originally aired, and even though both of us loved it, I’ll freely admit that watching it again with the knowledge of how it ends does occasionally make for a frustrating viewing experience, especially in the second and third seasons when the writers weren’t sure how many seasons they were going to have to stretch this show into.
But despite the off moments, the missed opportunities, and the occasional storylines that went nowhere, there is still so much good stuff in this show. It’s remarkable that Lindelof and Cuse were able to turn in a show of this level on a weekly basis on a major network (and keep in mind that all of those shows I mentioned earlier – “Mad Men,” “The Wire,” etc. – were all on cable, and didn’t face the restrictions and level of interference that “Lost” did), and when it’s all over, I certainly won’t look back on “Lost” bitter about how the showrunners didn’t stick the landing or have the idea that I wasted years of my life watching it. I’ll look back with fondness, and remember the best moments: The hatch, the numbers, “Not Penny’s Boat,” Hurley’s golf course, Desmond and Penny’s phone call in “The Constant,” the first reveal of Locke being in a wheelchair, Drive Shaft, Jack’s desperate plea of “We have to go back!” and one of my personal favorites, the launching of the raft in season 1’s “Exodus: Part 1,” accompanied by my favorite piece of music Michael Giacchino has ever composed:
What are your thoughts on “Lost” now that ten years have passed since its premiere? What are your favorite and least favorite moments from the show? Let us know in the comments below.
For more on “Lost,” check out my coverage of this year’s PaleyFest event, which includes comments from Lindelof, Cuse, and stories from some of the cast members about their time on the show.
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