NBC's La Brea Bosses Explain That Reference To TV's Lost, Say There's More Where That Came From

natalie zea's eve and jack martin's josh in nbc's la brea
(Image credit: nbc press)

Minor spoilers below for those who have not yet watched NBC's La Brea, so be warned!

Any time a new TV show comes out of the gate with a wide-ranging mystery that dips into potentially supernatural waters, comparisons to Lost come out of the woodwork faster than you can say "4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42." Such has been the case with NBC's time-jaunting drama La Brea, despite the fact that it centers on a disastrous sinkhole as opposed to a plane crash. Still, most viewers watching the premiere probably didn't expect La Brea to come right out and own those comparisons with an in-narrative Lost reference.

As the sinkhole victims/inhabitants were trying to get a handle on the situation, Rohan Mirchandaney's drugged-up character Scott opined that "maybe we're just in an episode of Lost." When CinemaBlend spoke with La Brea's executive producers ahead of the premiere's debut, I asked about the Lost line, and while no one would go on record confirming that tiger's name was "Polar Bear," showrunner David Appelbaum did tell me this:

Yeah, the Lost reference was just a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing comparisons that we knew were inevitable with a show like this. We all love Lost, and it's definitely inspired by it, but we also want to bring the show in completely new directions. New characters, new mysteries, a new world. But, you know, it was just kind of getting ahead of it and having fun. Because the show is a lot of things - it's action-adventure, it's about emotion - but we also want to bring a lot of humor to it as well. We want this to be a fun show that people really enjoy coming into the world, and it's not dark and oppressive always. So it just fit tonally in the show as well.

So while it kind of came across as a slight jokey comment in the moment, La Brea's Lost reference is sorta meant to stand for more than that. For one, it was a full-on acknowledgment of Lost's perpetual connection to broadcast network science fiction, and was clearly conceived during the earliest stages of production, before the TV-savvy public could go hard on making those comparisons itself. Second, by directly addressing the existence of Lost within the La Brea universe, the creative team is basically saying that this series won't deliver the exact same kinds of storylines, characters or mysteries. So we probably won't have to worry about seeing a donkey wheel or learning that the sinkhole is really just sun-soaked purgatory.

As well, for all that the La Brea pilot dipped into overtly dramatic moments — such as that whole opening sequence with the sinkhole opening up, or that family's patriarch getting mauled by one of the wolves — the show's creative team also wants to give audiences fun and exciting bits where humor can also thrive. Lost got entirely too self-serious as the seasons went on, at least for my tastes, so if La Brea can find ways to mash genres together in engaging and unforced ways in later episodes, I'm here for it.

Plus, let's also take into account that the Lost shout-out definitely wasn't meant to imply that it's the only fan-obsessed TV show or movie that will get namechecked or referenced during La Brea's first season. Executive producer Bryan Wynbrandt assured me that fans will see even more influential nods down the line, saying:

There's a lot of pop culture references in the show. So it doesn't just end with that. There's an Indy reference out there. I mean, the three of us grew up big fans of sci-fi movies, Spielberg movies, Zemeckis movies, so it doesn't just end there.

Something tells me he's talking more about La Brea's time-spanning mystery referencing Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future time plotting, as opposed to the NBC drama introducing a 2D animated character like Roger Rabbit to the fun. Bring on the Jurassic Park and Close Encounters allusions as well!

La Brea airs Tuesday nights on NBC at 9:00 p.m. ET, in between new episodes of The Voice and New Amsterdam. Be sure to check out all the other new and returning shows popping up soon in our 2021 Fall TV schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.