The thrilling first 20 minutes of the pilot episode of “Lost” is a blueprint for effective storytelling.
Before the first commercial, the audience has been introduced to a half-dozen unique characters as survivors scramble for cover in the wake of plane crash. The episode concludes with rock star burnout Charlie asking in an awed voice “Where are we?” and by then the audience is hooked. Other “Lost” episodes have packed more emotional punch, but for pure dramatic heavily lifting and for establishing a unique series, the pilot stands apart.
“Like ’24’ before it, ‘Lost’ reinvented the way a TV thriller was told,” said TV Guide critic Matt Roush. “’24’ did it by playing intensely with time and multiple points of view. ‘Lost’ did it with a ferocious focus on character. Not only is the pilot episode brilliantly filmed and acted-better than most big-screen action films-the script draws us into the lives and, most importantly, the minds of its immediately engaging characters.”
In addition to the characters and setting, the pilot introduced the series’ most distinctive innovation. A large segment of each episode is devoted to that most abused and ridiculed of writing devices: the flashback.
While flashbacks have often been used as mere expository devices or narrative shortcuts, flashbacks in “Lost” are integral to each episode; they are used to explain a character’s motivations, comment on the action and flesh out the island’s mysteries.
San Francisco Chronicle writer Tim Goodman called it “one of the best pilots in years.”
“It clearly showed the writers were going to take a tired premise and put the electroshock paddles to it,” he said. “It was one of those pilots that just stuns you. Like if the viewer accepted some creative stretches, the payoff would be a wild ride. Which it was, all season.”
Others to Consider
2004 Drama Writer Contenders
Winner: Terence Winter, The Sopranos (HBO), “Long Term Parking”
Other nominees: David Milch, Deadwood (HBO), “Deadwood”; Michael Caleo, The Sopranos (HBO), “Where’s Johnny?”; Matthew Weiner, Terence Winter, The Sopranos (HBO), “Unidentified Black Males”; Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, The Sopranos (HBO), “Irregular Around the Margins”