The Improbable History of the Creation of ‘Lost’

grant_e_jack_gb1_640The story of how ABC’s Lost got made and stayed on the air is nearly as strange as the show’s byzantine plot holes.

The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows — or great ones — are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway.

Lost, a show thrown together in a rush and snakebit by top-level turnover, was an enormous hit right from the start (it’s the highest rated of any series discussed in this book). It was among the most thrilling, surprising, memorable dramas in the history of American network television, and at its best could go toe-to-toe with much of what was happening on cable during this period.

And more than any other classic of the era, its success was a long shot paying off big. Lost as we know it was made in the only way it could have been made, and it arrived at the only time when it could have succeeded.

Yes, I’m still bitter, however, at the final season and show’s ultimate conclusion. Despite that frustration it remains one of the strangest, successful network shows ever and will always hold a place in my television pantheon for pulling off the impossible.

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