How Lost will change TV forever
As most of you know, Lost has just ended its mildly successful six-year run. I say mildly successful because the Lost that I remember in seasons one and two was a very interesting character-driven drama. Sadly, the show’s final seasons were very confusing, filled with time-travel and subplots that newer viewers could not get into.
However, the finale is the most downloaded TV clip ever, and I think there is a reason for it. Here are lessons from Lost:
1) A show’s entire storyline must be plotted out before the very first episode
These days, shows must have a reason why the viewer should tune in for another episode. There has to be a promise that something bigger is coming, and that the next episode is more than just a singular story, but a piece of the bigger picture. For Lost, the mystery was always “what is the island”, a mystery that still isn’t fully explained. Every week, people tuned in to see what of the many questions could be answered.
The island was the show’s “story-arc”, and I’m told that the last episode was plotted out way before the first episode ever aired. I think that most shows need to have this in mind, otherwise they will not last past a certain point.
2) Character is king.
One of the things that kept me interested in Lost was the characters were more than their stock characters appeared to be. Many of the characters appeared on TV guide with simple descriptors like “the doctor”, “the fugitive”, “the con-man” and such, but in every episode of Lost was a flashback (or, in seasons 4-5, a flash forward) that told the viewer something deeper about the character. So even though you see that Sawyer is a con man, you eventually learn why he is, and come to pity him.
3) Deliberately keep the viewer in the dark
I remember that I didn’t think like Lost when it first began. I think it had something to do with the opening, where a “monster” attacks a pilot. It was a monster never seen, and I just assumed it was some sort of T-Rex. I was about to dismiss the show as complete sci-fi stupidity, but on the second episode, it was revealed that a mysterious signal was being sent for 16 years. Man, did that keep my attention for years.
I’m sure we can all talk about the plot holes of the show that were never filled. For example, there was a huge statue on the island, but who made it? Another of the original characters, Walt, was shrouded in mystery, but nothing ever came from that.
However, I can’t deny that the show itself is probably a one of a kind event that might not be repeated again. A year after the success of Lost, all three networks tried to release three sci-fi shows that followed the same vein. There was Surface (NBC), Threshold (CBS), and Invasion (ABC), which was after Lost. They had the mystery, the characters, and it doesn’t seem to work.
I suppose that Fringe, also created by J.J. Abrams, is the closest thing to Lost. However, it feels more like The X-Files. There are three major players there, and the plot doesn’t feel as complex. I mean, there is this alternate world and all, but it doesn’t have the hook of Lost.
Something tells me that some other show will soon be released that will have the in-depth mystery of Lost, and I will hope that it will change the rules of television as much as its predecessor.
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