Lost has been off the air now for 10 years, and to this day I still miss it. The show helped change the scene for television. One of the perks that I enjoyed about this era is big-time actors were no longer timid about moving over to the small screen. In its first season, Lost had 25 episodes. It also won an Emmy for Best Drama series.

In an interview exclusive, Damon Lindelof told Collider: “that’s like the entire duration of The Leftovers.”

This series demanded I tune in every week. It was a groundbreaking TV. Lost also did something that no other show had done before and that was to have an end date to the series. Lindelof and co-showrunner Carlton Cuse had negotiated the end-date in the middle of the series.

Currently, Lindelof is in the race for an Emmy his series Watchmen on HBO. The series wrapped up with having only one season. He discusses in great detail to Collider about his previous HBO series, The Leftovers. Stating they negotiated a “third and final season” renewal that let the writers plot out their own endgame”.

Lost Originally Was Supposed to Be 3 Seasons

Lindlof told Collider that the original plan for Lost was not six seasons. During the pilot of the show, they were already talking about was how the show would end:

“I’m not trying to be diplomatic, I’m trying to give you the most accurate answer the way that I remember it, which is the conversations about wanting the show to end began as early as the pilot. One of the notes that we were getting back from ABC was ‘When are you gonna resolve these mysteries? And once you resolve these mysteries, why will people keep watching the show?’ And Level One of that was, ‘Well we’re gonna be introducing new mysteries as we go. So hopefully for everyone that we answer, we’ve set up a new compelling mystery. If we get that balance right, they’re not gonna stack up.’ I think that we can both agree that we did not get that balance right.”

Lindelof’s hopes were to wrap Lost after about three seasons:

Lost was like, ‘What’s in the hatch? What’s up with the monster? Who’s the original Sawyer? How did Locke get in the wheelchair? What is the nature of the island? Why does it appear to be moving? Who are the Others?’ There were all of these compelling mysteries and so we were saying, ‘We wanna have this stuff answered by the end of Season 1, this stuff answered by the end of Season 2, and then the show basically ends after about three years.’

That was the initial pitch, and they were not even hearing it. They looked at particularly me — Carlton came on about midway through Season 1 and he joined the chorus of me — but they were just like, ‘Do you understand how hard it is to make a show that people want to watch? And people like the show? So why would we end it? You don’t end shows that people are watching.’”

Lindelof Talks The Problems With Flashbacks

Can you imagine what ABC was thinking when Lindelof pitch the idea to end the series after only two seasons? That was unheard of back then. Lost got a 2nd successful season and a full 24 episodes. Still, Lindelof and Cuse wanted to end the series and again approached ABC. That wasn’t going to happen so they began bargaining for an exit to leave the show after season 3:

“So we got all the way to the end of Season 2 and then tried to formalize the conversation again. At that point, it was formal because Carlton and I both had two-year deals that ended after Season 2, so we were now negotiating for the future of the show. They thought they were in a monetary negotiation, where it was like we were trying to get more money, and all we were trying to get was for them to agree to end the show.

So neither side blinked, so we agreed to sign a one-year extension — Carlton and I — with the understanding that we’d be leaving at the end of the third season and someone else would be running the show. Right at the same time Alias had ended, so Lost absorbed a number of the fantastic Alias writers including Drew Goddard who had already written some episodes of Lost in the second season and Jeff Pinkner, who is incredible, was gonna kind of be the heir apparent for Season 3.”

Lindelof and Cuse were already foreseeing future problems with the flashbacks at this time:

“All this time when ABC would be like, ‘Why do you want to end the show?’ we’d say, ‘These flashbacks are finite. You can do like three flashbacks of Jack getting drunk and being self-destructive, or Charlie relapsing, or Kate running away and the marshal that is chasing her.

But ultimately the first one feels like an origin story because you’re learning about that person for the very first time, but all the other ones feel like you’re treading water. So we’re gonna have to switch gears—we can introduce new characters who have new backstories, but people are invested in the old ones. We’re seeing about eight chess moves ahead and it ain’t gonna end pretty.’ And they just didn’t agree with us.”

The Problem With Coming Up With Ideas

By season 3 ABC had spilt the episodes in half starting with six episodes. The writers it seemed had trouble coming up with ideas:

“The beginning of Season 3 happens. Those six episodes air because ABC decides that they’re going to split the season into two parts… after those six episodes of Season 3 aired, they finally understood, and we were not phoning it in or trying to spike the show, we always did our best.

But it became clear that we were working so hard to keep the characters on the island, and it was starting to be immensely frustrating. The flashbacks weren’t good anymore. Other than the addition of Michael Emerson as a regular and Henry Ian Cusick as a regular, and Adelwale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje] and Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros, the tail section, some of that stuff was working but all the other stuff wasn’t.”

Getting ABC to End the Show

Six seasons later…. ABC finally agreed to end the show:

“Then they finally came to the table and we had a real conversation. They were like, ‘We have agreed to let you end the show.’… I just said to [ABC President] Steve McPherson, ‘Thank you. This is what’s best for the show,’ and he said, ‘We were thinking 10 seasons.’ Mind you, we’re halfway through Season 3, so first off how do you even think we’re gonna get to 10? That’s really the same as saying we’re not gonna let you end the show, because how many drama series even get to 10 seasons?”

Halfway through writing season 3, they had already worked out the “Oceanic 6” storyline. The idea that some people were going to get off the island.

Eneba Many GEOs

 “I was like, ‘I was thinking more like four [seasons]’. Not because I was in a negotiation but because we had actually already worked out the Oceanic 6 story to some degree. We knew that a number of the characters were going to get off the island, they were going to have a very miserable time when they were off the island, and then they were going to come back for the finale.

We felt like we could kind of do that starting in the back half of Season 3 and then have one more season, Season 4, which would have been a full season of television, twenty some-odd episodes, to do it all. And they were like, ‘How about nine?’ (laughs). So the agreement was we landed on six [seasons] with less episodes to give us more time in between seasons to plan things out. And then of course the fourth season was cut short by the writers’ strike, but everything else went relatively according to design. Not to say that everything we did worked, but we had a plan and we executed that plan.”

What Lost Taught Us

Quite impressive to have stretch out what should have been only three to four seasons and ending with six. As I said I lost interest in the end but many thought it was still a compelling show. What the show really did was lay the ground for shows like one of my favorites Game of Thrones. Finally, networks are seeing that shows don’t need to run on endlessly. Tell the story from beginning to end and make it good.


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