Thanks to Dan for this article.
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - The Lost island is lost in time, with its sprawling cast of characters lost in both time and space. When Lost returns with new episodes this week, (JAN.21) even the show's faithful legion of followers may have trouble keeping track of it all.
And yet. . . .
If there was any suggestion that the Emmy-nominated drama has lost its ability to stir and move a mass audience, that was dispelled the moment executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof screened a new episode from the coming season before a room full of reporters. The images virtually flew off the screen, and when the episode reached its blood-soaked twist conclusion, the room was deathly silent.
"And with that dramatic introduction," Lindelof said, deadpan, "questions?"
Well, yes, now that you mention it. . . .
Will it get easier to understand?
With its constant travelling back and forth in time, not to mention the densely layered background stories, Lost is well-nigh impossible to follow at times. Short of providing a road map, will Lindelof and Cuse do anything to make Lost more accessible to the casual viewer?
"Well, we're on pharmaceuticals right now," Lindelof quipped. "That's a big part of it."
"We're writing the only version of the show we know how to write," Lindelof said. "Lost is a serialized adventure, and the audience that we have is the audience that we have. That said, we love to hear stories like, "I told my friend about Lost, and they thought it was too weird and impenetrable to get into. And I gave them the season one DVD, and they started watching and now they're caught up to the point where we are and they can start watching the show.' It can and does happen."
Lindelof added that he didn't start following Harry Potter until The Prisoner of Azkaban, after which he went back and read the first two books for himself.
"We're hoping that, as the show wraps up, people are going to want to join the journey for the last couple of seasons of the show. We're really much more in answer mode. As we go deeper into the season, you're going to learn a lot more about the island's history. And so we really hope that people will watch."
TV tales involving time travel are "problematic," Lindelof admitted, but solving the challenge is half the fun for the viewer.
"It can be incredibly exciting," Lindelof said. "We don't want this season, the penultimate season of the series, to just be a stall for time. We're going to take some risks, and if we make some missteps then so be it. We would rather take risks than just go through the motions. Yes, it can be really difficult to know where to draw the line. It's been really hard for us. But, at the same time, we're trying really, really hard to resolve a lot of the show's conundrums, and we feel we've done a pretty good job so far."
How safe are Lost's secondary characters?
Pretty safe, according to Lindelof.
"The good news," Lindelof said, "is that now we know the show's end date" - May, 2010 - "we've been able to do a tremendous amount of pre-planning."
Nestor Carbonell, for example, who plays Richard Alpert, one of the leaders of the shadowy "Others," will be in the series for the foreseeable future.
Last year, Carbonell was contractually obligated to appear in the ensemble drama Cane. Had Cane been renewed for a second season, Carbonell's character would have had to have been written out of Lost. Now that Lost's producers know that Carbonell is available, they can plot the character's future, rather than have outside events dictate it for them.
"The benefit of knowing the story ahead of time is that we can lock these actors down," Lindelof said, "and not find ourselves in a situation where we're waiting for them to be available."
Do spoilers wreck the show?
Simple answer: Yes.
Many people know how to keep a secret, Lindelof said, but some bloggers are genetically predisposed to giving everything away.
"We would greatly appreciate it," Lindelof said, "if you're live blogging or talking in any way about the episode you've just seen, if you could just tease your readers and not spoil what's coming."
Lindelof and Cuse are opposed to spoiler sites on principle.
It's no skin off their nose, Cuse said - Lost's ratings aren't affected one way or another - but, in the end, it's the fans who pay. Even if they don't realize it at the time.
Cuse cited one example.
"People who went to spoiler sites learned that the end of the third season was a flash-forward," he said. "Fine. The thing is, when those people eventually saw that episode, I think they were cheated out of the voyage of discovery. Knowing how it ended wrecked it for them.
"Look, we're not naive about this. Our fate is largely in other people's hands - we know that. We always ask that people-in-the-know respect the journey that the fans undergo in watching the show, though. The fact that you don't know what's going to happen next when you watch a Lost episode is a big part of what we try to do, as storytellers and entertainers. We try our hardest to fill each show with unexpected turns in the road. Some of these websites are completely mercenary. They're just using Lost spoilers to make money for themselves. It's hard to have any respect for that.
"There are always going to be some people who think they absolutely have to know what's going to happen before it happens, but we honestly believe that most people don't."
Now that the end is in sight, has the ending been written?
The answer, Lindelof hinted, is yes. Knowing definitively when Lost will end has been freeing for everyone involved in the program behind the scenes.
"We got to a point, seven episodes into the third season, where the show reached the point where we all knew it was treading in an area of complete and utter suckiness," Lindelof said. "Is that even a word? I don't know - but I do know we were in trouble.
"At that point, we had a decision to make. Are we going to have an end date, or is the show going to be cancelled in, like, a year or a year and a half? Basically, all these flash-forwards, all these idea we're working with now, are part of the story's end game.''
Thanks to Dan for this article.