Lost was one of the biggest shows on television during its six-season run on ABC, and even the most diehard fans probably can't agree on exactly what happened in the series finale. As it happens, the entire show could have looked quite different if ABC execs had their way back when Lost was still in development. Co-creator Damon Lindelof has come out to explain the huge way ABC wanted to change the pilot that established everything that Lost would become, saying this:
But the main area of concern was the idea that there was this monster on the island. In that meeting, present were Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne, who were the co-presidents of ABC. Before I go on, let me just say, if Lloyd hadn't been the president of ABC, there'd be no Lost, because he believed in this thing from the word go. It was his idea to do a plane crash on an island show, et cetera. But I don't think he wanted the monster. So in this meeting, he says, 'I think this outline is dynamite, but I don't think that there should be a monster in the pilot. If you guys want to work your way up to some of that weird stuff, it's a conversation for another day. But definitely not in the pilot. It's too weird. We don't want to do a Twin Peaks.' I remember Lloyd very specifically saying, 'I don't want to do a Twin Peaks.'
The pilot of Lost was a pretty incredible endeavor, even before things started to get spooky in the jungle. I can definitely see why the ABC presidents didn't necessarily think that the show needed to bring out the paranormal elements of the series right off the bat; the scale and spectacle of the plane crash alone were practically cinematic. Apparently, Damon Lindelof and co-creator J.J. Abrams didn't get the green light for their smoke monster from the very beginning. The comparison to Twin Peaks -- which got very spooky in the pilot thanks to BOB, and then even spookier in Season 2 -- as something to avoid indicates that ABC's original vision for Lost was quite different.
Of course, Lost fans will be able to remember quite well that a monster did turn up in the very first episode. Even if we didn't get a good look at the smoke monster, there was something clearly very off about what killed the pilot in the jungle. It certainly wasn't a polar bear. Damon Lindelof went on in his chat with EW to explain how he and J.J. Abrams used the Twin Peaks comparison to their advantage, saying this:
And then J.J. jumped in and said some version of this: 'It's 2004. Twin Peaks has been off the air for 13 years and you're still using it as a cautionary tale. But even if it is a cautionary tale, we should be so lucky if this show gets to be like Twin Peaks, because how many television shows get remembered the way Twin Peaks is remembered? Twin Peaks was amazing and maybe it didn't end well, but we can learn from its mistakes. We should be so lucky to be compared to Twin Peaks! We should aspire to Twin Peaks!' And Lloyd said, 'Okay, do your monster.'
Twin Peaks is known nowadays both for the enduring Laura Palmer mystery and for how the show fizzled out after the Laura Palmer mystery was resolved in Season 2. Going by the Twin Peaks precedent, it's understandable that other shows might be reluctant to introduce big mysteries. That said, Twin Peaks was pretty fabulous in its heyday, and enough time had passed since the end of Twin Peaks and the beginning of Lost that few viewers might have thought to compare the two. Considering how Lost continued to build its mystery until the very end, I'd say that Damon Lindelof avoided fizzling out.
If you're still a little fuzzy on the details of how Lost ended, drop by our breakdown of the major questions the show answered and didn't answer. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in TV news, and don't forget to check out our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options now and in the coming weeks. Be sure to drop by our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations as well.