For the last few years, the media has discussed concerns with network television, from overdoing the reality genre to competition from cable, video games and the internet. In a recent Entertainment Weekly, an article discussed the fact that some comedies are going into syndication for remarkable amounts, simply because there aren't any new sitcoms successful enough or ready to go into syndication.
JJ Abrams, who gained TV success with the popular WB drama "Felicity" and then followed up with "Alias", somehow managed to sell ABC on an idea about a group of plane crash survivors trying to survive on an uncharted island. The series could have easily gone wrong in so many ways, such as seeming like a dramatized version of "Survivor".
Thankfully, Abrams, exec producer Damon Lindelof and company have managed to steer clear of expectations and obstacles in order to create a wholly original and utterly remarkable series. "Lost" is easily one of the finest TV shows to arrive in years. To discuss more than the basics in this review would be doing the series an injustice (one should go in nearly fresh, and I recommend stopping reading anything that goes into much detail about the show if you've never seen it), so I'll keep to a general overview.
"Lost" opens with Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox, in a great effort) waking up on an island. As he slowly regains conciousness, he steps into utter chaos. The wreckage of the plane, engine still working, fuel still dangerous, looms large over the scattered debris. After a few seconds of surveying the damage, Jack goes into action, helping the injured and trying to direct people to safety. It's here that we meet some of the survivors, including Locke (Terry O'Quinn, in an exceptional performance), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Charlie (Dominic Monaghan, of "Lord of the Rings"), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Shannon (Maggie Grace).
It's not long before the survivors have gathered what materials they can from the plane, and have gathered together to sit out what they find will be a very long wait. With Jack being the only doctor on the island, the group begins to look to him and consider him their leader. With not a lot of hope in sight, the survivors are certainly not comforted by the presence of something sinister in the forest, as well as the hints that they are not the only ones there. To add yet another layer to the proceedings, throughout the season we find that many of the survivors are not entirely who they seem.
"Lost" is, I feel, another instance where watching the show on DVD is more of a pleasure than watching it on TV. Although it took me a little while to get into the series during its season run, I've become fascinated with it during its Summer re-run run, and then further more with this DVD set. Like "24" and several other shows, not having commericials is really quite wonderful, allowing the episodes to flow without their rhythm being broken up every several minutes. There's still the quick cut-to-black and cut back where the commericals were, but this is certainly no distraction.
It definitely allows one to savor the show's many positives, including the carefully structured details of the plots, as the show's reveals and differing perspectives on various subplots somehow manage to seem organic and not mechanical. The flashbacks that are scattered throughout the episodes, which clue us in to some of the survivor's lives pre-island, are also expertly done, and edited into the island story in a way that isn't too jarring.
The performances are just about perfect, as the show's creators have brought together a great ensemble cast that has wonderful chemistry with each other. Fox and O'Quinn are certainly the highlights, but there isn't a wrong note within the rest of the cast. The cinematography is also perfect, capturing the beauty of the Hawaiian settings (as well as the different locations/sets for the flashbacks) and yet also giving them a certain eerie quality.
"Lost" gets a total recommendation from me, and I will recommend this DVD set even to those who didn't tune into the show so far.
24 episodes on seven discs: Pilot part 1, Pilot part 2, Tabula Rasa, Walkabout, White Rabbit, House of the Rising Sun, The Moth, Confidence Man, Solitary, Raised by Another, All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, Whatever the Case May Be, Hearts and Minds, Special, Homecoming, Outlaws, In Translation, Numbers, Deus Ex Machina, Do No Harm, The Greater Good, Born to Run, Exodus part 1, Exodus part 2
VIDEO/AUDIO: "Lost" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is really quite marvelous, as the image remained impressively rich and detailed throughout - in my opinion, an improvement over regular broadcast quality. The presentation did occasionally show a little bit of slight shimmer, but no pixelation, edge enhancement or other concerns presented themselves. Colors were absolutely stunning, with perfect saturation and no smearing. Black level remained deep and strong, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
The show is presented by Buena Vista in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix of the episodes is quite stellar, with the surrounds coming into play throughout to deliver distinct environmental sounds and sound effects, as well as some reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is first-rate, with very crisp, clear dialogue, effects and music.
I also must note that the set comes in one of those cases where the discs are overlapping one another, which frequently seems to result in loose discs. So, after you've bought your set, be sure to inspect the discs inside. The menus are terrific, with subtle animation.
Commentary by executive producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Bryan Burk on the pilot (Parts one and two).
Commentary by executive producer Jack Bender, co-executive producer David Fury, and actor Terry O'Quinn on Walkabout
Commentary by executive producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk and actor Dominic Monaghan on The Moth
Commentary by executive producer Carlton Cuse, supervising producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and actors Maggie Grace and Ian Sommerhalder on Hearts and Minds
The commentaries are quite good, as they provide an informative look at the production of the episodes, going into such topics as shooting on location, troubles with weather, technical issues, characters and story developments. There are times throughout pilot commentary where the participants call for the show to be stopped, and the presentation cuts away to a featurette about the scene currently playing, or that general section of the episode.
The last disc contains plenty of additional supplements, starting off with "The Genesis of Lost", which details how the show started off with an idea that needed a whole lot of work, and then ended up in the hands of JJ Abrams and company. "Designing a Disaster" is a piece devoted to how the crash on the beach was built, and as massive and detailed as the scene looks in the show, the process of actually getting it together seems more intense than I'd even imagined.
"Before They Were Lost" is a lengthy featurette that goes into very pleasing depth about how each of the main actors were approached to do their roles, and how the characters were developed and often rewritten around the actor's strengths. Furthermore, we also hear some very interesting discussions of how there were some very big changes made to the pilot, as well as some troubles, such as trying to get Canadian Evangeline Lilly cleared to work in the U.S. Also included in this section are glimpses of the casting tapes.
"Welccome to Oahu" is a detailed and insightful look into the making of the pilot episode. The sort of fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes effort takes us into the shooting of the episode, as cast/crew had to deal with difficult, muddy conditions and
"The Art of Matthew Fox" is a moving gallery of still images from the scrapbook that he gave as gifts to the crew who worked on the show, with narration from Fox and music from the show in the background. Fox's comments provide thoughtful discussion of the photos and the story behind them. "Lost in ComicCon" is a featurette showing the massive response that the audience of thousands had to the showing of the pilot episode at the confrence.
The next section of the supplements starts off with a series of featurettes about working on location. The first piece looks at the cast working with the boars, who were not particularly cooperative, given the fact that others had been feeding them - no food, no interest. Later on, the boars were replaced with CGI ones. Finally, the original "boar stars" were replaced by a different set of trained boars that were brought in. The remainder of the featurettes in this section deal with the filming of specific episodes, and I'll list the episodes featured: "House of the Rising Sun", "Confidence Man", "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", "Whatever The Case May Be", "Hearts and Minds", "Special" and "Exodus". Next up is an uneven (goes on a bit too long for its own good), but mostly funny bit from the Jimmy Kimmel Show, where Jimmy visits the set and tries to figure out what's going on on the series. There's also a "backstage with Driveshaft" featurette.
In the final section of the supplements, we get a set of bloopers that are pretty amusing at times and sometimes just okay. Two lost flashback sequences are next, one for Claire and one for Sayid. Both are certainly worth watching, although they don't reveal a ton of information or anything like that. There are also thirteen deleted scenes, and although nothing too major, they're pretty enjoyable.
Finally, we get an interview at the Museum of Television and Radio with the cast and the creators. Everyone's obviously having a lot of fun, and the questions and answers are pretty goofy, and yet provide some decent information and insight at times. Last, but not least, if you haven't already seen the series, watch out for the Season 2 promo that plays before the menu on the first disc, as it does spoil some things. Also, don't watch any of the special features before the show itself if you've never seen the series.
Final Thoughts: "Lost" is downright spectacular, and the level of tension present in even some of the quieter patches of the series is exceptional. The performances are fantastic, and the writing is marvelous. I can't wait until the next season. The DVD set also gets high marks, with excellent audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements. "Lost" is a must.