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When Lost was still on the air and making viewers lose their minds (and hair) over the multitude of mysteries haunting the Island’s survivors, fans were hard-pressed to find any legitimate and worthwhile facts about the show from its creators that weren’t just random shades of vagueness. But in the years after its conclusion, Damon Lindelof (who co-created with J.J. Abrams and Jeffrey Lieber) has been quite vocal about his time on the series, and he recently came out and said that while Season 1 of Lost led to one of his career high points, the actual time spent putting Season 1 together was a nightmare.
When asked about the highs and lows of his time in Hollywood, of course Lost came up, and Lindelof said that his lowest point on the show was definitely the period after producing the pilot while he was writing the rest of the first season. He thought that he was creating “13 episodes of a cult show” that would be “as good as possible and then we would be canceled,” but then it became a smash hit, both with audience ratings and with critics, and this massively positive response left him as overwhelmed and stressed as could be. Here’s how he described that period to EW.
I felt like everybody was watching. I was 30 years old, and J.J. Abrams was off directing Mission: Impossible III, and this was before Carlton [Cuse, future co-showrunner] came on, and so I was running a show without ever having run a show before, a show of an incredibly ambitious scale, commuting between Los Angeles and Hawaii, and writing a script every eight days for a show that really had no procedural element – they’re not cops, they’re not doctors, they’re not lawyers. So every story needed to be generated from the ground up, and the story was, ‘This week this is going to happen, this week this is going to happen, this week this is going to happen,’ and any misstep that you made in terms of the mythology risked jumping the shark.
He goes on to say “nothing that I’ve ever experienced emotionally has come close” to that period, as he’d gone from a 12-week timespan where he and Abrams put the pilot together – when he hadn’t really been thinking too concretely about where the rest of the series might go – to a point where the world was watching his mystery-filled drama and already showing signs of anger that hinged on if the many plot points that were introduced didn’t get some kind of payoff. That’s an amazing amount of pressure to go through when you’re not used to it. Or even if you are used to it.
Of course, a lot of those mysteries didn’t get great explanations – sometimes seemingly purposefully – and Lost ended up disappointing a lot of people by the time Season 6 came to a close. Not even Lindelof has kept himself from poking fun at it. But even by the time Season 3 rolled around, he was probably well-accustomed to what audiences and critics expected, and he had Cuse to share the pressure with by then.
So if Lost ever comes back in any form, let’s hope that the writers have learned from the mistakes of the past.