Lost, Found: An Ongoing Look at the Meaning of a Landmark Television Series

I’d resisted watching Lost for a very long time. Television had become less important in my life, and other things demanded my time. Taking on another hour-long series just didn’t seem wise. I’d hear about it. And what I’d hear was intriguing. But I’d never seen J.J. Abrams’ other lauded television work — like Felicity, and another show that I’d bypassed despite its appealing to me: Alias. And he wasn’t much on my radar for his film work.

But then, post-Lost, I started warming up to him. Mission: Impossible III was creative, exciting, and understandable — moreso on all three counts than either of its predecessors. Then, a few months ago, I saw the movie Cloverfield, produced by Abrams and written by a key Lost writer, Drew Goddard. I’d heard this was a love-it or hate-it affair, and I found myself immediately loving its innovative way of telling a story.

Then, recently, Entertainment Weekly named Lost one of the top ten classic television shows of the last 25 years. The Summer had just begun, the few shows I did watch regularly were on hiatus, and Season 5 of Lost wasn’t due to start until January. With DVDs of Seasons 1-3 available from the library and all four seasons streaming online for free, I found myself compelled to take it on and catch up in time for the new season. My wife and I decided to take it on.

This morning, we caught up, less than two months after starting.

The show is astonishing. There has never been a series like it on television. The drama, the conflicts, the three-dimensionality of the characters, the labyrinthine mythology, and the incredible ways they tell a story. The flashbacks and later the flashforwards, nearly always revealing something thematically relevant to the ongoing main storyline, made this show truly come alive, adding tremendous depth and richness.

As I watched the stories progress, I found myself noticing things that interested me greatly. Things that resonated thematically with me. This was only natural, because I tend to look for meaning in stories, and particular meaning at that. I’d tread this territory before, writing essay and papers on what I felt to be new looks at the meaning of different films and television shows, like Star Wars, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., The West Wing, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Seinfeld, Titanic. In a number of these, I felt like I really had something. But with several others, I felt like I was putting something there that really wasn’t.

But Lost was proving unique, showing me some things I really can’t remember seeing in a movie or television series, much less one so popular. And also uniquely, for the first time I’m really seeing these things in an ongoing way, and with a piece of work that is still in progress. The jury is out, but plenty of people find the show worth talking about now, on the way, rather than waiting until it’s over to reflect in hindsight. And there is so much to say, or at least so much to pose.

Seems like it’s worth trying.

And, addicted as I now seem to be to the show, with a good five months left until the next season starts, my wife and I find ourselves interested enough to watch the whole thing yet again, to mine its depths in preparation for moving forward.

Well, my gosh, what better opportunity to really look carefully again to see what’s there, or what I think is there? So here begins an ongoing look at the show. Over the next few months, I’ll go progressively from beginning up until the end of Season 4, and once Season 5 starts, I’ll follow the rest of the show along as it goes. And we’ll see what’s we can be found in Lost.

I may often refrain from much of the usual stuff people discuss about Lost. So much has been covered already, I don’t see much point in trying to reinvent the wheel, especially since I’d probably be worse at it than others have been. I’m going to focus on the meaning of the show from the standpoint of, well, the things I hold dear — the Potluck perspective. Of course, this perspective I’m taking dovetails with many others, so I’m bound to tread a good amount of territory covered by others. If it serves my purposes, I’ll go into commonly seen themes and mysteries and theories and details and reviews of acting and story and such and whatever else others go into elsewhere. But hopefully any retreading I do will only be in the details — hopefully the big picture I’m trying to paint will be unique. Whatever I come up with and whether it proves right or wrong in the end, hopefully this look into the show will provide a worthwhile contribution to “Lost scholarship.” And hopefully it will provide something valuable to those interested in making positive change in the world — hopefully it will shed light on how Lost can help us find ourselves. And hopefully, at least, it will be an interesting read for some, and an interesting and fun write for me.

Look for upcoming pieces, episode by episode, with somewhat freeform observations, the mosaic filling in ever more as I go. Seasons 1-4 will be covered with the benefit of hindsight. Beyond that, I’ll feel my way through whatever level of darkness or illumination we all share. Follow along at Lost, Found, a tag archive but essentially a blog within this site just for this project. Enjoy.

Off I go to watch the first episode again.

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