Creators J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber prefer to call “Lost” a character drama instead of science fiction, but the show is clearly both. With its frequent homages to “Twilight Zone” and moody “X-Files”-esque mythology, the series has struck an original tone for a prime-time drama: grown-up, character-driven sci-fi.
Yet a few months before its premiere, few thought “Lost” would find an audience. The series was a holdover from ABC’s previous administration under Chairman Lloyd Braun and Entertainment President Susan Lyne. At a June 2004 affiliate presentation at Disney’s California Adventure theme park, executives gave “Lost” scant attention compared with series such as “Blind Justice,” “Wife Swap,” “Complete Savages” and “Jake in Progress.”
Some in the media predicted the series was doomed. “I had a nightmare after watching the two-hour premiere,” wrote a Kansas City (Mo.) Star critic. “Sadly, creator J.J. Abrams won’t sleep well either once the Nielsens come in. Forecast: Canceled.”
At issue was the genre and premise. Science fiction rarely works in network prime time. And why watch a scripted series about a group trapped on an island when “Survivor” had the real thing?
Even after the first few episodes, when it was clear the show found a sizable audience and received enthusiastic reviews, critics and viewers were concerned the show was writing itself into a corner-that the high-wire act of keeping the audience interested while withholding key answers to viewers’ questions-What is the “monster” stalking them? Is the island alive?-would quickly lead to frustration and disappointment.
Once again, Mr. Abrams and company managed to defy expectations, giving answers to short-term solvable mysteries in lieu of the larger ones and focusing on character development.
“Though the show has big answers that come over time, it’s like a journey,” Mr. Abrams told TelevisionWeek in January. “To do the story, we’ve discussed it, [the payoff] needs to be earned.”
That “Lost” was able to win over critics (taking first place in TVWeek’s semiannual Critics Poll) and viewers (averaging 17.7 million per episode, according to Nielsen Media Research) despite having seemingly impossible drawbacks is a prime reasons the show deserves the best drama Emmy.
With fans eager for season two, nobody questions the show’s appeal or longevity anymore.
“[The show] will continue as long as it can,” Mr. Abrams said. “The island itself is full of surprises, and there’s a lot more mystery and story coming up.”
Others to Consider
2004 Drama Contenders
Winner: The Sopranos (HBO)
Other nominees: CSI (CBS); Joan of Arcadia (CBS); 24 (Fox); The West Wing (NBC)