September 22nd, 2004. The ABC network debuted a highly talked about pilot that would break the record for not only most expensive pilot ever (rumored to have cost 14 million dollars to produce) but also the highest viewed pilot of all time with 18.6 million people tuning into Part 1 of a 2-hour premiere. People were captivated by the opening 2 hours of a series that would continue to defy expectations for its entire six-year run. What could have just been Survivor or Cast Away in scripted television form was a mystery, and the Internet’s version of the “water cooler effect” was born. What was that sound in the jungle? Who is the French lady speaking on the recorded loop — playing over and over for 16 years? Why hasn’t help come for these people yet? Little did we know then that we would be asking ourselves these questions and many more for years to come, only together, as an online community.
From a creative standpoint, Lost succeeded due to its unique formula: Part Star Wars, part Twin Peaks combined with the character development and depth of character only found on premium cable network hits like The Sopranos, there was nothing like Lost. By capturing the fantasy and mystery elements with characters you were truly invested in, an internet community was formed that really set the template for modern fandoms. Today, every show or film with a dedicated fan base has Facebook groups, podcasts and numerous websites devoted to them but Lost fans pioneered the modern “fandom,” taking what Twin Peaks and The X Files fans had done before them and modernizing it. I can personally count over 50 podcasts dedicated to Lost, a feat that would only be rivaled by the revival of Twin Peaks in 2017. Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. Over 50 podcasts, over 50 groups of people dedicated themselves to recording, discussing, editing, and promoting podcasts about Lost, years before podcasts would become the staple of modern culture that they are today. If that many people were taking the time to put in work into creating these shows, now let’s think about how many people were listening to them. I know that for most of Lost‘s run, I was listening to an average of at least three per week, desperate to hear any take or opinion that differed from mine, thirsty for additional knowledge on this rich narrative. I certainly wasn’t the only one.
Podcasts weren’t the only community gathering points for Lost though. Message boards, web sites, Comic-Con announcements, waiting for Doc Jensen’s next article, and alternative reality games that ABC sanctioned kept our summers busy. In year’s past, people would go to work and talk about TV shows they liked. With Lost, we did that AND spent our evenings on the internet with those who understood our obsession the same way we did, theorizing, hunting together for Easter Eggs and generally appreciating this work of art we were experiencing together. I often recall the years that the show was airing fondly, that exciting feeling in between cliffhangers and sharing that excitement with both the friends that joined me for my weekly viewing parties and the community I embraced online. It was an experience like no other.
The ending of the series did chip away at the online community, which tends to happen within any fandom. Some people are ready to move on after finishing the ride whereas others stick around and savor the memories and do their best to help fans new to the series make the most of their experience, almost acting as Lost tour guides of sorts. It’s a beautiful thing. Of course, there were some turned off by the ending of the series, not liking the conclusion to their journey and unfortunately, leaving a bad taste in their mouth towards the entire experience. I’ve personally gone on record numerous times saying I’ve enjoyed the ending and respect Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for ending the show in the way that felt right to them and not playing it safe by any means. For those that are still active in the Lost fan community, there really is so much left to enjoy. There are mysteries left to discuss and debate, the what if’s to hypothesize about (what would have the show been like had Mr. Eko not prematurely left?) and then the bigger picture themes designed to make us think about our own life. We received the gift of a lifetime 14 years ago today. A plane crashed, bringing strangers together on an island in the South Pacific –where they were forced to face their pasts all while trying to escape and save themselves. That basic summary of the plot would be an analogy for the community of fans the show brought together. We didn’t know each other but found one another and navigated this dense mystery together, all while the narrative forced us to look inward. The show told us that if “we didn’t live together, we’ll die alone,” a slogan that can certainly be applied to the real world in addition to this fictional narrative. Happy anniversary Lost and thank you to all of those that have made enjoying this series even more special over the years.
Are you the type of Lost fan that still enjoys reading in-depth analysis about the show’s narrative and mysteries? 25YL is the site for you. While we already have several articles on the site about the show, you can expect many more to come. What Lost related topics would you like to see us write about? Let us know! Below are a few links to a few of the articles on Lost we’ve already written: