Let's get Lost

  The cult hit spawns a wanna-be
By  |  January 13, 2006
Television is a funny and unapologetic thing. Every season, there’s a left-field hit, an unexpected cult favorite that’s then ripped off and watered down by rival networks and even by the network of origin, as in the case of the Law & Order franchise. In the early 2000s, it was the reality-show boom; more recently, the alphabet soup of CSI knockoffs permeated the tube. Last season’s surprise supernatural success, Lost (which resumes with new episodes beginning January 11 at 9 pm on ABC), has inspired no fewer than three imitators — two of which will be off the air by the time you read this.

LOST: The labyrinthine story line would merely frustrate if not for a superb cast and character-driven episodes.But even as Lost’s knockoffs sputter and fail, the originator is going stronger than ever. Now in its second season, the half-thriller/half-drama has built its reputation and attracted its rabid fan base through a myriad of twists and secrets. To try to summarize the show at this point would be a bit like trying to edit the Bible down to a few paragraphs. Oceanic Flight 815 was bound for LAX from Sydney when an unknown malfunction downed the plane on an uncharted jungle island thousands of miles off course. The survivors (of which there are about 40, not counting those who’ve been — uh — lost) were living a moderately charmed existence, as being stranded goes, when they realized they were not alone. Not only was there a geodesic dome buried deep beneath the surface, but it seemed that the island had been used as a scientific research station before an "incident" occurred. Oh, and did I mention the polar bear?

If the whole thing sounds confusing, understand that it’s a bit easier to digest when you’re taking it in one week at a time. The labyrinthine story line is also made a lot more bearable by the cast, which was superb to begin with and got bulked up before the second season began. The new additions not only provide more stunning character-based episodes with their individual flashback episodes but also give a sense of symmetry to the island. Terry O’Quinn’s wise and faithful John Locke has found his counterpart in Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Mr. Eko, a quiet religious man with a big stick. Michelle Rodriguez’s paranoid, trigger-happy Ana Lucia finally seems ready to chill out for a bit, as she appears quite fond of Matthew Fox’s Jack, the all-American doctor and hero of the Lost-aways. (I have a personal theory that he’ll turn bad any moment now, however.)

But though being a Lost fan may provide you with endless hours of water-cooler fodder and could even increase your chances of winning on Jeopardy someday (try Googling for information about Locke’s namesake and electromagnetic theory), it’s also bound to raise your blood pressure a few points. For all the thrills and the action that the show’s producers throw our way, they’ve been stingy about revealing the secrets that dot the island like so much wreckage on the beach. Where (and what) is this mysterious monster, the "security system" that’s been terrorizing the survivors since the pilot? Who exactly are "the Others," and how did they come to the island? And for the love of God, what do the numbers mean? (The sequence 4-8-15-16-23-42 has played a significant role in both seasons.) But with both producers and writers stating in interviews that they’re prepared to run the series for seven or more seasons, maybe it’s no surprise that they’re not telling.

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Lost on the Web: A tour of fansites. By Chris Nelson.