When it comes to Lost plots, mum's the word

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am

A few months ago, ABC Entertainment announced that Lost - the company's top-rated show - will remain on the airwaves until 2010, when it will end with what

the network's president Stephen McPherson says is a 'highly anticipated and shocking finale'.

The news - like so much about the TV series - is controversial and has fired up the myriad blogs whose sole purpose is to dissect every minor detail on the show.

For many hardcore fans, the show should end well before then, going out on a high instead of when viewers are sick of it. For those who have already begun to tire of it, the news is wearying: how can it remain fresh for another three years?

That's a question many viewers have been asking since Lost first appeared on screens in the US in September 2004. The concept may not have been strikingly original -

40 survivors of a plane crash find themselves on a deserted island - but the telling of the back stories helped the series to become one of the hits of the year.

But by season two, even the most loyal fans were beginning to wither. The narrative was moving in a zillion different directions, situations came up that were never resolved or even referred to again. At times it even seemed like the executive producers of Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, were making it up as they went along.

With season three, however, which is currently screening in Hong Kong, Lost seems to have found its way again.

'The story of this year is the story of our castaways versus 'The Others',' says Cuse, referring to the apparently treacherous group that also lives on the island. 'So we really worked out the details of that. But we do that leaving a lot of room for improvisation and for us to react organically to what's going on in the show.'

While the show has its detractors, Lost remains one of the most viscerally engaging and challenging series on television. Pulling together the various personal stories and relationships of the key cast members, introducing new ones, keeping the details behind the mysterious island goings-on fresh and consistent - it's a dizzying job.

Lindelof says: 'As far as the megastructure of the overall show goes, we have an ongoing conversation that started at the very beginning of writing the pilot and has continued since, where we come up with stuff for what's been going on on the island, or where the mysteries are. So if you see a polar bear come running out of the jungle, we want to know where that polar bear came from and how it got there.

'We sat down [with reporters] two years ago, and everyone asked the same question, which is 'where is the show going to go?' They're on an island. There's a crash. There's six episodes, maybe 13. We just finished breaking out the 61st story on the show. And we're still going. That requires a certain degree of saying we have a vision and we're going to execute it and this might turn people off. Or if we make this creative choice, it might be shocking or we might be too dark here or we might be too lighthearted here,' Lindelof says.

Even now, three years on and with the fourth season about to start in the US, he remains bemused by the global obsession that is Lost. 'The reality is that Lost was never meant to be a hit show or an international phenomenon,' he says. 'It was meant to be a cult show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Alias. Somehow, this show became broader. The fact that my mother was watching Lost in the first place is a shock to me. I'd ask her, 'Why are you watching it? It's weird and there's a monster and there's the Dharma Initiative'. And she said, 'I love the characters'.

'For us, that's always the way we approach the show. Every single episode is 'Whose episode is this?' What are the flashbacks going to be, and how does that inform whatever wackiness is occurring to them on the island?',' Lindelof says.

Says Cuse: 'The summary of that is we actually write the show for our mothers. Both our mothers are named Sue. So as long as the two Sues are happy, we're good.'

Lost, TVB Pearl, Mon, 10.35pm