Early LOST writers' guide is a tribute to self-delusion

I expect Martin will address that problem in the forthcoming installment A Bounty of Backstory (revised publication date September 2037).


It ended three years ago and since then they’ve been totally open about making it up as they went along. It’s a perfectly good way to write a TV show. Yes, some percentage of your audience will be anally obsessed nerds who want it all to be real, but anyone who enjoys watching an unfolding drama will not care at all. Making it up as you go along is an art form in itself. George Lucas sent them a letter about it.

Really, any idiot can think of the exact ending first and work backwards methodically. Making it seem like you did that (when in reality you are working around the availability of recurring cast members) is much harder.

“I had faith that Lost would make scene right up until the third to last episode…”

Now I just find that fascinating from a psychological perspective. What kind of person makes themselves go through a routine of watching a fictional TV show that they aren’t enjoying at all, for six years, in the hope that the last three episodes will reveal some piece of information that will make up for the misery of sitting through it for all those years?

They really avoided one horrible makeup problem too. If you watch the pilot, the makeup on Delenn looks really bad. Like it was slathered on with a trowel or something. The reason was that they originally intended to play Delenn as male until transforming in that chrysalis. They did the entire pilot movie like that.

I actually quite like the effects. They looked better than video game graphics did at the time. They also had a lot more variety and action in those shots than say TNG. DS9 definitely seemed to pick up on what B5 was able to do with large numbers of ships flying all over.

Well, after 5 books, I’d say Martin already outdid Lost for keeping up interest. I felt bad about watching Lost after the first season until I finally gave up on it shortly after the writer’s strike ended.

: (

I still like Lost

Well, except for Kate.

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Also I don’t understand how people can forgive Twin Peaks and Millennium for not plot shifts, but plot flops.

Maybe if it got cancelled in the 90’s that makes it totally different, somehow.

Yes, it probably is. Let me now if you ever find a example where it worked.

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I think quality in fiction is not entirely local. At least part of it is determined by the work as a whole and how the parts you are looking at fit into it eventually. So it can make sense to reserve judgment to some extent while you are watching. Unfortunately sometimes it turns out that the work was dumber than you thought all along.

I’m fine with them making it up as they went - hell, even Breaking Bad (in my eyes the greatest show ever) didn’t have everything plotted out ahead of time. The problems I have with Lost is 1) a. They told us they had it all figured out in advance “how it was going to end” and b. that they would answer the big questions and 2) a. “How it was going to end” simply meant the ending artistic shot and not the plot… and b. that they didn’t answer most big questions.

They strung us along for years saying they would tie it all in, and they did not in almost every case.

Twin Peaks at least resolved its first plot, the Laura Palmer murder plot. Unfortunately they failed to handle the transition to a new plot to keep the series going.

Plenty of UK TV shows. The original “Life on Mars”, “House of Cards”, and so on. Go back to “The Prisoner”, and they shortened it to 17 episodes because McGoohan and the writers realized they couldn’t pad it out to 26 without compromising the quality.

I loved the concept of “Lost”, but I guessed that since it was on ABC it would inevitably get padded out and padded out and overextended until it was 6 or 7 seasons of garbage. I decided to wait, and if they actually resolved it in a sensible number of episodes, I’d watch it in rerun.

So, saved myself a lot of time and unpleasantness there.

The Brits can do it because they tend to do short single-series shows. The US does that kind of thing as a mini-series instead. It’s difficult to do. I understand that. I just don’t want writers to claim that they have a plan for a show when they don’t.

I hate Kate Austen. She single-handedly made the show close to unwatchable for me, but I forced my way through those DVDs because my friedns are those nerds convinced they had a plan from day 1.

They strung us along for years saying they would tie it all in, and
they did not in almost every case.

“Strung us along”, there’s that hint again that the viewer was submitting to a painful process in the hope of some later reward. I call the bluff of anyone who says this. It just doesn’t ring true that someone would watch hour after hour of TV that they are not enjoying, just because they genuinely think that the meaning of life (or something of equally compensatory value) will emerge in the last episode.

Rationally, people watched episode 2 because they enjoyed episode one, and watched 3 because they enjoyed 2, and so on by induction. They enjoyed how the story unfolded, and that’s why they watched it unfold. They may not have liked how it ended, but the ending was about 1% of the total experience. The other 99% was about the enjoyment of seeing each mystery, when explored, revealing still more mysteries, and so on.

If someone watches for hundreds of hours despite finding it to be without entertainment value in its own right, because they expect the final hour (or two) to suddenly change and become entertaining enough to justify six years of TV drudgery, then how could anyone take their criticism seriously?

If you read a detective story that had a very unsatisfying ending, or the clues ended up being fairly randomly placed without leading to anything (or if the whole story ended up being a dream), you would lose a lot of respect for the book as a whole. Lost called its viewers to invest in the story and its characters and to accept the delayed gratification of understanding the world at a later point. We were invited to ask questions, and led to believe that the story was all leading somewhere and that it all fit together (although we might not have the answers actually handed to us). The end was distinctly unsatisfying and amounted to a sort of admission that the writers had gotten in too deep and had just put in elements that didn’t make much sense. Maybe the writers also overestimated the extent that “because magic” constituted an answer without going into how that magic works or even fits into the bigger picture.

On the other hand, this article offers some interesting (albeit unofficial) answers to some of the questions we were left with at the end of the show. It’s annoying in the same way as the series was though, as it slaps you on the wrist for asking questions that were clearly supposed to be asked at the time before the writers forgot about them.


I disagree. A well-resolved story arc invites the viewer to reflect on—or even re-watch—the entire sequence of events in a new light, giving greater appreciation to plot points which may have been cleverly crafted foreshadowing or clues. A poorly conceived ending gives everything that led up to it a bitter taste in retrospect because it reveals that what was presented as a plan was really just a bunch of writers pretending they knew more about the situation than the viewers.

If the final episode of Breaking Bad ends with some bullshit “it was all a dream!” sequence then it would understandably diminish fans’ appreciation for the series as a whole.


Rationally, you kept eating the meal because you liked the first bite! You enjoyed how the meal tasted, and that’s why you continued to eat! Sure, you might not have liked that the last course was poison, but that ending was about 1% of the total experience! How dare you complain about the meal or criticize my cooking?

That’s an exaggeration, of course, but not as much of one as you might think at first glance. As jsroberts and Brainspore below you wrote, there’s a lot more to an experience than the first viewing. With every hour I watched, I allowed the show to take up more and more real estate in my brain, more and more time that I could have been spent doing something else. Yeah, I enjoyed at the time, but I can’t reallocate it after the fact, and you know what that real estate in my brain’s used for now? Every time I see something that reminds me of LOST, whether an actor appearing on another show, or a reference in pop culture, or a post like this, I think “God, that was an awful, awful ending. Ruined the whole show.” And I feel bad. Sure, it usually only lasts for a few seconds, but it comes up again and again and again and will over the course of my life… because it wasn’t just a show that I watched once, thought was bad, and didn’t watch, it was a show I thought was good, and they ruined it. For shows I enjoyed, I have positive associations when I think back… that’s part of what I want from getting invested in something… the pleasant memories after the fact. And I can get even more enjoyment by rewatching it, to relive those early days and being able to think “Oh, wow, look, this was foreshadowing that other development” instead of “Look, there’s another plot point that meant nothing.” Worse (and this is one of those thoughts that also come up), they had what few shows ever do: A guaranteed run and a guaranteed end-point. They knew when they were going to finish it years in advance. About the biggest opportunity a long term televised drama can get. And they STILL $!$#ed up.

I liked Lost at the time. But ever since, it’s been nothing but a drawback for me to have watched it. Like a delicious-tasting poison.

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