It has been four months, five days, and nine and a half hours since the Lost finale. Apparently, at this stage of the grieving process, I’m supposed to be feeling “acceptance” and “hope.” That’s kind of true. I’ve “accepted” that my most profound television relationship is over forever, and I “hope” that my future children will never get into a show like Lost and have their little hearts broken. So…I guess I’m doing okay.
There are a couple of reasons why the loss of Lost still smarts, one whole summer and half a semester later. To state the obvious, it was an extremely well-structured and cinematic show. Its distinctive look and feel elevated it from a typical “deserted island” survivors story into a strange, captivating saga. From the moment it broke the record for production costs on a TV pilot in 2004, Lost boasted consistently high quality in camera work, set production, and costume design, sucking in the casual viewer and devoted fan alike. It was the breathtaking natural scenery and tender attention to visual detail that made the Lost universe feel real and juicy—larger than life.
Some people might tell you that Lost started to falter in its narrative originality and plausibility, maybe somewhere around Season Three. Whatever—haters gonna hate! The truth is, the plot did take a turn for the decidedly kooky, probably beginning with the time-traveling after the Season Two finale (why would you teleport to 1996, of all times?). But no matter how confusing the plot twists or how entangled the large cast of characters became, I still found myself engrossed. It wasn’t the unexpected revelations or the weird spiritual-scientific explanations for strange events; it was the people, still stuck in some kind of purgatory, and their endlessly fascinating changing morality and shady pasts. The characters stayed flawed, multi-dimensional, and human as insanity swirled around them. Protagonist Jack Shepard made it through an electromagnetic implosion, captivity in an aquarium, drug addiction, two plane crashes—and at the end of it all, I loved him just the same.
I realize Lost was just a TV show, but they really don’t make ‘em like this anymore—or at least, no one’s filled the island-shaped hole in my heart since then. Lost was a unique blend of tragedy, drama, mystery, crime, spiritualism, and science fiction. No television program can possibly cover all those bases or do it half as well as creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelhof, who planned out story arcs years in advance. After the soul-assaulting finale, I drifted around in a stupor for a while, eventually settling for a watered-down rebound relationship with the doomed NBC miniseries Persons Unknown. Apparently this was supposed to be a suspensful conspiracy story with an ensemble cast. It was what I thought I wanted, needed. I watched the first few episodes, recognized the clumsy use of foreshadowing and the insincere attempts at cliffhangers. “I know what you are,” I would mumble, morosely chugging beer. “You’re only half the show Lost was! I hate you!” But it was the closest thing I had at the time, and I clung to it for the summer, whispering, “Don’t leave me.”
I know I’m not alone in my intense and inexplicable devotion to such an epic show. Thousands, maybe millions of others like me are out there, trading memories and waiting for various props to be auctioned off online. I feel like I was part of a true zeitgeist, and one day I will be watching the VH1 special on the hysterical trend that was Lostmania. But that kind of immersive TV experience leaves real fans starving when it’s over—and our current television landscape is not replete with serious, well-crafted shows like it once was.
The time is ripe for a new drama to enhance and offset the excellent variety of comedy offerings on both cable and network TV. Viewers need emotional outbursts, twist endings, painful and drawn-out love triangles! Until then, however, I’ll be getting Lost, curled up on my couch with an old episode, trying to mastermind a way to travel back to that golden age.