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May 29, 2010

Feeling lost without 'Lost'

Daily Star

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My favorite TV show of all time wrapped up its final chapter last weekend, and, unlike the show's characters, I'm having trouble moving on.

While the diehard "Losties" debate the meaning and merits of the season finale, I'm simply mourning the loss of an amazing show. For six years, ABC's "Lost" was a bright spot on the primetime landscape of cop shows, hospital dramas and silly sitcoms. It made me laugh, cry, think and imagine. The fact that it always kept me guessing made it both captivating and maddening.

The initial premise of the show — survivors of a plane crash adapt to life on a mysterious tropical island while awaiting rescue — was simple. But the non-linear storytelling, large ensemble cast and constant maze of twists, mysteries and cliffhangers made the show difficult to follow, and some viewers gave up early on. More than 18 million tuned in for the pilot episode in September 2004, but only 13.6 million watched Sunday's series finale.

Those who stuck with the show were loyal, some to the point of obsession. Each week, fans analyzed new details of the island's mythology and shared theories about the plot on blogs and message boards. The two-and-a-half-hour finale drew mixed reviews from both critics and fans, and passionate debate rages on over what it really meant, whether it was a satisfying resolution to the puzzle or a cop-out, and whether the producers should have answered more of the nagging questions on fans' minds.

For me, the finale worked. A few parts seemed a little over the top, but overall, I thought the ending had the right dose of surprise and a satisfying blend of bittersweet. All the important questions were answered, and the writers somehow managed to explain things while also leaving room for interpretation.

Whether you loved the ending or hated it, there's no question that "Lost" was unique. With its lush Hawaiian landscapes, big-budget special effects and haunting orchestral score, it had the feel of a movie. Yet, the complexity of the characters, literary subtext and multiple layers of symbolism and metaphor gave it the depth of a novel.

The technique of using flashbacks, flash-forwards and, finally, flash-sideways scenes to tell the characters' stories added depth and had the effect of making the viewer feel as disoriented in time and space as the characters often were. The show had just enough adventure and sci-fi mystery to keep viewers hooked, but ultimately it was the characters that were most engaging — their individual stories and their interconnectedness.

"Lost" broke new ground with the size and diversity of its cast. The pilot episode had 14 main characters played by actors from several different countries. Two of the main characters were Korean, and some episodes featured whole scenes with English subtitles. Over the six seasons, a core group from the original ensemble cast remained, but many characters were written out and new ones were added.

Beneath the action, adventure and relationship drama, "Lost" was ambitious in the topics it examined. At its core, it was about life and death, good vs. evil, survival, redemption and what it means to be part of a community. It explored the conflicts between fate and coincidence; destiny and choice; science and faith — pretty weighty stuff for a show that also tantalized its audience with tropical polar bears, mysterious "Others," mystical numbers, secret underground research stations, magical healing, time travel and an evil smoke monster.

Perhaps the best case of rule breaking was the producers' decision to end the series after six seasons, despite its popularity and critical acclaim. It could have made a lot more money — but it would have lost its spark if it played out too long.

I can't imagine another show ever truly filling the void, but I hope that, someday, I will be pleasantly surprised.

In the meantime, I take comfort in the knowledge that, if my withdrawal becomes serious, I can re-watch the series on DVD, looking for connections I missed the first time around, when I was, well, a little lost.

Lisa Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at