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Jane Campbell

18 Comments

  1. David Brain
    September 29, 2015 @ 7:35 am

    I always considered “Pilot” to be one of the rare times when the ostensible lack of an episode title is actually better than almost anything that could have been used – and Lost did episode titles better than almost anything else.
    But yeah, that Jack essentially becomes the “pilot” for the group, and, indeed, for the Island, at the moment when he opens his eyes at the beginning – is a very strong piece of imagery (and, of course, it turns out that his actual mirroring is with someone who we aren’t going to meet for quite a while.)
    I am fascinated by the idea that he was supposed to be killed off in the first episode though – although that’s a lot less of a stretch in terms of structure than if, say, Fox had quit after series 3 or so. I can see most the same general beats in the Island story working with other characters taking the pilot role, but… (not that playing what-if is worthwhile since even if we live in an infinite multiverse we can never know!)

    Looking forward to following this series. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Jane Campbell
      September 29, 2015 @ 10:26 am

      The original idea was for Jack to be killed by the Smoke Monster, leaving Kate to emerge as the Losties’ leader. And I really would have loved to see it.

      Reply

  2. Matt M
    September 29, 2015 @ 8:15 am

    Interesting to hear they had some sort of show bible. Do we know if it had any actual details of the explanations, or just promised them?

    I bought into LOST hook line and sinker, until the start of season 3 (I think) where it introduced time travel. I’m a huge fan of Dr Who, I like time travel, but it was like time travel being introduced in the middle of say… Eastenders. It just didn’t fit the mode.

    Is LOST worth a rewatch? At the time the main appeal was about working out what was going on, and finding out that even the writers didn’t have a clue, well, eeesh. It’s like it was a crossword puzzle where the cryptic clues were just random phrases written down and the puzzle compiler didn’t actually know what the answers were supposed to be.

    Really glad to see a new ongoing thing, by Jane no less! I’ll be following intently, despite my LOST-misgivings! 🙂

    Reply

    • Jane Campbell
      September 29, 2015 @ 8:44 am

      To be clear, the “lies” described above are certainly mixed with the truth. That’s part of what makes them so effective. The “bible,” for example, has many of the character portraits as we know them already laid in. Likewise, it points out how the show can change genres from one episode to the next, which is certainly does. It doesn’t have detailed explanations or anything regarding the Island or the Smoke Monster– that was kept close to the vest.

      But much therein (like the idea that the show wouldn’t be tightly serialized, but banally episodic) was specifically put there to assuage network executives to sign off on the show. And, like, I don’t know all the details about this, but I’m fairly certain that certain Mystery Boxes were always meant to stay unopened.

      So it’s not that the writers didn’t have a clue. They most certainly did, and they always had a working theory of what the Island was and where they wanted to go next — at the very least, they seemed to know what effects the Island could generate, which I think is actually more interesting than any diegetic “reasoning” behind those effects… or, better yet, aesthetics.

      But simply the material fact of working on a television production meant that they always had to plan on “making stuff up” as they went, and that the working model might need to change if something better came along. Which, apparently, it did.

      So is LOST worth a rewatch? Absolutely. The character dramas are rich and rewarding in their own right. As to the “mystery” element, yes, use the crossword puzzle as a metaphor: one where the main words therein have always been there (until they were changed); where the clues are doled sparingly throughout the series, but without necessarily letting us know that they are clues; and where the final answer page has been torn out of the book and thrown into the sea.

      Finally, regarding the introduction of time-travel in Season 3, it is my contention that time-travel has always been a part of the show, and we just didn’t know it (it hadn’t been blatantly pointed to) until Flashes Before Your Eyes. Which, you know, I’ll be getting to as we unwind all the preceding episodes.

      🙂

      Reply

      • Matt M
        September 29, 2015 @ 9:54 am

        I was under the impression that they were winging the whole thing though. Granted, this is from half-remembered memories of interviews and stuff I’d read years back and you probably remember more. I seem to recall the pilot was written by someone different and no-one involved with the show after that point knew the resolution to things such as “what was the monster that attacked the pilot”, and that at the point season 1 ended, they didn’t actually know what would be inside the hatch. Those seem sort of key!

        Or do you mean all that stuff was up in the air but not important, because the important thing was what the island was, and viewers just latched on to the more obvious and exciting mysteries?

        Reply

        • Jane Campbell
          September 29, 2015 @ 10:18 am

          It was a combination of planning it and winging it.

          So, take the Hatch. They wanted a Hatch from the very beginning, but didn’t know what would be inside. They played with all kinds of ideas, but Lindelof didn’t like them, and so they held back the Hatch. But once Lindelof came up with an idea he really liked (a man pressing a button every 108 minutes to save the world, which is perfect) then the Hatch was put into the show. Sure, some of the details were improvised (it’s said the idea of Hurley finding TV dinners came from the fan forums) but by and large they knew what was in the Mystery Box before they introduced it to the show.

          Another example: the polar bear, which they always knew origin: part of the Dharma Initiative experiments, though before Season Two it was internally known as the Medusa Corporation. But they also improvised here, making it respond to Walt’s psychic abilities.

          Lindelof, btw, was involved with the show from the very beginning and through the very end. JJ Abrams co-produced the pilot (including writing and direction); Carlton Cuse was subsequently recruited to be a co-showrunner with Lindelof, to keep the latter from going insane.

          Reply

        • Side Item
          September 29, 2015 @ 10:40 am

          In regards to the pilot being written by someone else, you might be mixing up the initial behind the scenes genesis of the show. The show was born when the ABC president basically wanted to have a serialized version of Survivor, and hired a writer to make a show script based on that. The initial script was rejected, and then J.J. Abrams was brought in, who later brought in Damon Lindelof (Carlton Cuse would be brought in after the pilot was picked up and Abrams left). Abrams and Lindelof’s script is the Pilot that we see, but the original writer still got a co-creator credit (and I believe basically lived off of the success of LOST despite never writing another word for it).

          The lies, damned lies, and original LOST show bible presented to ABC after the Pilot was necessary because the ABC president who had originally greenlit/conceived the series was on the way out. New network presidents are usually loathe to favor the work of the old boss, so Lindelof and company had to make the show seem as appealing as possible just to remain on the air, which in this instance meant making it appear to be a procedural-like.

          Reply

  3. Anton B
    September 29, 2015 @ 9:18 am

    Okay I gave up on Lost early on because the fact that the writers were making it up as they went along (go ahead say it…”Don’t they all?”) became less and less interesting. So, did I miss the point? I mean WAS that the point? I usually guide people who espouse the merits of Lost toward Mcgoohan’s The Prisoner which, IMO, did the same thing in 17 episodes or Twin Peaks which did it more artfully. Having said that, thanks Jane for giving me the opportunity to revisit what, at the least, must be acknowledged as a cultural marker. I’m going to enjoy watching along with your commentary and close readings.

    Reply

    • Matt M
      September 29, 2015 @ 9:56 am

      That reminds me of Battlestar Galactica with the ‘final five’ plot where even the writers didn’t know who the final five would be!

      Reply

    • Jane Campbell
      September 29, 2015 @ 10:24 am

      The actual point of LOST is the characters. Each character is a Mystery Box, and for each character they came up with incredibly detailed backstories well before the Pilot episode. And it was always the plan that the characters would slowly be revealed over the course of the show. (The FlashBack structure, on the other hand, was a fairly late development in the genesis of the show.)

      And this is really why LOST was so successful — because drama really hinges on characterization, not mythology or puzzle-boxes.

      Reply

      • Anton B
        September 29, 2015 @ 10:51 am

        With that I agree. But why sell a show on the premise/promise that it’s a puzzle to be solved when it isn’t? So they ‘lost’ (pun probably intended but not pre determined) me because I didn’t care about the puzzle when I might have cared about a drama based on detailed characterisation. Actually I prefer broadly painted mood pieces to detailed back stories in my drama but..whatever. I’m intrigued by your assertion that certain episodes examined different genre conventions. Anyway, you got me. I’m along for the ride and determined to enjoy it this time around (references definitely intended) 😉

        Okay CAPTCHA what’ve you got for me?

        Reply

  4. phuzz
    September 29, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

    I watched almost all of Lost, but gave up about four or five episodes before the end because I was so fed up with it.
    I’m still not sure if I would have liked it more had I watched the last few episodes, but from reading a synopsis, I don’t think I missed much.

    Reply

  5. Sean Dillon
    September 29, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

    Are you taking guest posts for this project? Cause I’m writing this thing on the Spider-Man films in which I talk about The Ghost of a Flea, the auteur theory, and the LOST anime and it feels right for this blog.

    Reply

  6. Crissy
    September 29, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

    LOST.

    The Opening Eye. Every character driven episode, which lets me honest, is just about every episode. Opens with that eye, allowing us to delve into the aptly put, mystery box of that character.

    “And so we in the audience are, by extension, limited to what the characters know and feel.”

    We talked before, a little bit, about interactive television, which this show did so well. Perhaps its because we grew up on, to name a well known medium; choose your own adventure books, even down to the American Idol text to vote. We like to be involved with our entertainment.

    We are on this adventure, we are LOST, we are going back. WE woke up with Jack on the floor of a jungle with the sky in our eye.

    Reply

  7. Kat
    September 30, 2015 @ 9:54 am

    Oh yeah, this is exciting.

    Reply

    • Kat
      September 30, 2015 @ 11:14 am

      I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some sort of episode by episode analysis (walkabout?) through the series, but I can already tell from the first post that this is going to be redundant and I’ll probably enjoy reading your analysis more.

      Reply

  8. That Thomas
    October 1, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

    Yay. Lost is my second favorite TV show of all time, just behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and for me it held up all the way to the end. Even the worst episode of Lost is one I’d happily watch right now.

    This looks to be a really good series of essays and I’m always up for delving into the wonderful world of Lost. You made some really interesting observations in here and while I don’t think most of them are intentional by the writers (not that it matters either way of course), the one that really struck me was the repetition of Jack having someone drink from the bottle in both the pilot and the finale. I cannot believe I never thought about that.

    Very much looking forward to future writings from you, Jane 🙂

    Reply

  9. Daru
    October 6, 2015 @ 3:52 am

    Really loving reading your posts and especially excited about your perspective on Lost. Been overwhelmed a bit with work and illness, so not much comment right now but really enjoyed this – thanks!

    ** On a side note, just a shame I can’t seem to find anything on this site where I can follow threads, etc, as would like to keep in touch with conversations as was possible on Phil’s blog.

    Reply

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