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How “Lost” reinvented television

Since I never get tired of blogging about Lost, let me finally point out this piece in the Statesman about my favorite show.

“Lost” creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof started by plotting a “mythological roadmap” that answered the show’s central questions, says Carlton Cuse, the show’s co-executive producer. But he says the producers conceived the show as a character drama.

But as it became clear that the mythology had sparked fan obsession, Cuse says, the show began to adapt. Producers weren’t sure, for instance, how viewers would react to the six possibly magical numbers that have showed up on a lottery ticket, in a transmitted radio message, and on the door to a buried hatch. But when the idea created a fervor “we spent more time on that aspect of the mythology,” Cuse says.

This second season, loyal viewers say, they’ve noticed more deliberate nods to the audience base, acknowledgment that many are watching with DVR remotes at the ready, prepared to rewind, freeze-frame and slo-mo to home in on possible clues. The rewards for such intensity include the tattooed shark — which required a certain level of collaboration to spread through the fan base.


“I love to watch what a community does with information: what they do, where they take it, what kinds of things they enjoy and don’t enjoy,” [fan and Alternate Reality Game pioneer Elan] Lee says. “The Internet as a part of a TV show is something that is brand new, and there’s so much to learn. Even the audience hasn’t figured out who they are and what role they play yet.”

Still, Cuse is aware of another risk of fan participation: The real right answer might not measure up to the audience’s rich ideas.

“You have to watch because you’re enjoying the journey, not because you are waiting for the endgame,” Cuse says. “Your imagination is probably greater than whatever solution we’ll give you.”

There was a time (I call it “back before I got into blogging”) when I had the time to wade through the discussion fora on places like Television Without Pity and get a fuller experience from shows like Lost that demand one’s full attention. Now I read articles like this one and realize that I’m missing out on a bunch of stuff. The good news is that even at my current level of cluelessness, Lost still rocks. Now if someone could fill me in on that shark tattoo, I’d be much obliged.

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  1. Jim says:

    Beware of the links in the table near the top of the article – they ALL point to The Fulelage.

  2. Pete says:

    Now if someone could fill me in on that shark tattoo, I’d be much obliged.

    In the season 2 premiere, when Sawyer is in the water and – I think – trying to swim back to the raft Mike is on, we see an underwater shot of a shark swimming. If you pause the episode, you’ll see that the shark sports a tattoo of the Dharma Initiative logo on its tail.

  3. Jason Stokes says:

    Do you really think this is something new? Remember Twin Peaks? Well, perhaps not. But that show just exploited cryptic obscurantism.

  4. Linkmeister says:

    A friend of mine does a “Lost” Podcast, and there’s a lively discussion (with links to photos of the scene shootings) at Hawai’i Threads.