Alan Sepinwall on the Origins of LOST

Alan Sepinwall, writing for Grantland, recounts the origins of the hit TV show LOST, as told by the people who made it, in an exclusive first serial excerpt from The Revolution Was Televised:

On vacation with his family in Hawaii, Braun watched his network’s broadcast of the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, then went down to the beach to watch the sunset and meet up with his wife and kids. As he waited, he began pondering the idea of doing Cast Awayas a TV show, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work with only one actor and one volleyball.

“And then the notion of Survivor popped into my head,” recalls Braun. “I don’t know why. And I put it all together: What if there was a plane that crashed and a dozen people survived, and nobody knew each other. Your past was almost irrelevant. You could reinvent who you were. You had to figure out — how do you survive? What do you use for shelter, for water? Is it like Lord of the Flies? How do we get off the island, how do you get home? And I start to get very excited about the idea, and I start thinking about the title Lost.”

Also interesting and surprising was how one of the writers of LOST, Damon Lindelof, reacted to the show’s premiere:

Lindelof, on the other hand? He describes his response to those huge premiere ratings as “Terror, depression, anxiety, anxiety attacks. I’m not exaggerating. Everybody who was around me at the time knows I pretty much wanted to die, and knowing that wasn’t going to happen unless I took matters into my hands, I just wanted to quit. But there was literally no one to quit to.”

Cuse says, “I remember [Lindelof] coming in with the ratings after the opening episode, and he looked completely miserable. He said, ‘Does this mean we have to keep fucking doing this?’ If you’re a producer in television, this is like getting a winning lottery ticket: having a show that’s not only critically acclaimed but gets big ratings. But it was daunting to have to sustain this thing.”

I’ve placed Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution was Televised on my Christmas wish-list.

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As some of you may know, LOST is my favorite TV show (to this day). Here was my reflection six months after the show ended.

(hat tip: Longreads)

A LOST Reflection

May 23, 2010: “The End.”

Six months ago today, the television series LOST came to its final chapter. LOST is (was) favorite show on television—far and above any other I’ve ever seen. I watched every episode religiously, and the only show to which I would tune in live (in general, I watch television shows when they come out on DVD).

I remember six months ago, just as the show ended at 11PM, how I felt. Relieved. But also shaken and deeply saddened. This was The End, and I couldn’t imagine finding another TV show to which I could cling to as strongly (it hasn’t happened yet).

After the final episode aired, I read a number of reviews and sentiments across the web. I was going to do a round-up of the best write-ups, but I never got around to it. So I thought: why not do it six months afterwards? So below I highlight two of my favorite recaps, with a few thoughts of my own. Please note: if you’ve never watched the show or saw the finale, there are SPOILERS ahead!

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Links of the Day (02/01/10)

Here’s what caught my attention today:

(1) “But Who’s Counting?” [Los Angeles Times] – a great op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on the confusion that journalists make between the number million and the number billion. The author goes into some theories on why this mistake occurs so often (or, at least, more often than it should occur). According to the author:

I did some calculations and found that The [Los Angeles] Times’ mistakes totaled about $1.4 trillion, or about twice the amount the U.S. spent on the TARP bailout. Our brethren at the New York Times did even worse, making 38 million-billion mistakes in the same three years. Oddly, they were far more likely to overstate the case, doing so almost one time in four. The total of all their errors was $6.5 trillion, or more than half the amount of the national debt.

It’s a very interesting piece, and perhaps the most reasonable explanation for this error is that our brain can’t comprehend the sense of scale between one million and one billion. If I told you that I have a million paper clips vs. a billion paper clips, would you be able to tell the difference in the volume the two occupy? Probably not. Also, can you visualize one billion dollars? I found this infographic helpful. Also of note is how vastly different one billion dollars is from one trillion dollars; see this telling infographic, for instance. In any case, the author of the op-ed has a dismal conclusion:

More diligence would probably have prevented many of our million-billion slips, but after observing The Times newsroom for decades, I can’t avoid the conclusion that our collective numeric literacy — like that of most of America — is appallingly low.

(2) “News Photos, on the Move, Make News” [New York Times] – The Magnum photo collection (a massive archive of over 180,000 images) is moving to a permanent, public display at the University of Texas at Austin.

(3) “Risks Lurk for ETF Investors” [Wall Street Journal] – a short, informative piece which describes the risks (liquidity, pricing) inherent in investing in certain ETFs.

(4) “Timeline of the LOST Universe” [New York Times] – this isn’t an article, but a wonderful interactive graphic which lets you discover when the events in the LOST universe have occurred. It’s a must-see for any fan of the show.