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Damon Lindelof Reveals That 'Lost' Was Originally Pitched As A "Primitive Melrose Place"

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | September 20, 2013 | Comments ()


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The fine folks over at /Film had a great conversation with Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof about a recently leaked document which revealed the original pitch Lindelof, Cuse and Abrams gave ABC about one of TV’s most polarizing shows. The document is quite lengthy so the amazing Germain Lussier boiled it down to the following salient points:

  • The document claims the show will be self-contained and not have a serialized structure. “We promise.”

  • It says the show won’t fit into one specific “franchise,” but instead can be many genres, such as a doctor show, lawyer show, cop show or character drama.

  • Everything in Lost was supposed to have a scientific explanation.

  • Claims the show will have no “ultimate mystery.”

  • The mystery of “the monster” would be solved in “the first few episodes.”

  • Most of the plane’s passengers were never supposed to show up again.

  • The characters would live in a “primitive Melrose Place” that could be built on a soundstage.

  • Guest stars would be a part of the show.
  • Lindelof, who was apparently not stoked that the document was leaked, explained that sometimes creators have to tell little lies to the networks in order to get their shows greenlit. You don’t say. The language Lindelof and company used in their pitch was meant to specifically address some of the concerns ABC had over the completely batsh*t later seasons of Alias. Lindelof explains:

    So, per J.J., we made a very specific effort in this document to say we were not going to be serialized, we were not going to be genre and we were not going to do what Alias had done. So even though I think it was our intention to do all of the above, we needed to put that in the document because the document was essentially a letter to ABC saying ‘Here’s what the show’s going to be.’

    The whole article is great and a nice insider look into the process of creating a series and, more importantly, getting it to air. Sure, some of the choices Lindelof and Cuse ultimately made were controversial, but I’d much rather the messy show with moments of brilliant emotional honesty over whatever it is that above pitch would have looked like. Without those lies, we wouldn’t have gotten this:

    tumblr_lv38dzpLtp1qfmk4so1_500.gif

    Or this:

    tumblr_ldy86ty8WV1qzzta5o1_r1_500.jpg

    And that would be a shame.




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    Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


    • Batesian

      And on the flip side, shows evolve and change over time, thanks to the alchemical reaction that ideas/characters/performances/etc introduce. For that, I cut Lindelof and co. a lot of slack, and it made for a great ride overall (though the "they're in purgatory!" resolution was a disappointment).

    • Steve Ward

      The island wasn't purgatory. Ever.

    • Batesian

      I never said it was. I was referring to the final season flash-sideways resolution. Cheers.

    • N1GGAZ

      Lost in a nutshell: we'll just make shit up! We'll string along all these viewers with fine acting and direction but we'll just pay ourselves a salary for 7 seasons and say promise that they aren't in limbo. Then we'll call it "flash sideways" and then we'll end it with the biggest WTF Why did I waste all my time value on this? Bottom line the fans got fleeced.

    • Steve Ward

      But... they weren't in limbo.

    • Andrew

      Had Lost actually been a good show, then I wouldn't mind this as much, but I feel that this document and the attitude behind it just highlights the fact that Lindelof, Abrams and the other writers they are most often associated with just aren't very good at writing. And I'm saying this as someone who watched every episode of the show. And I'm saying this as someone who was really hooked on the show and was excited when each episode came out.

      But by the last episode it was clear that the creator/writers had no plan on how to end it. And they never did have a plan and they didn't even care that they didn't have a plan. Which is what this shows. They'll just write whatever they feel like writing, never mind if it doesn't make sense with what came before or especially never mind that I have no idea how I'm going to explain the situation I've gotten the characters into. Whatever.

      Which is why despite it's cheesiness and rough edges that are really beginning to show, I think that Babylon 5 is one of the best serialized television show ever. With that there was a plan from the beginning, with character arcs mapped out over five years and a specific story to tell. And Straczynski was up-front about that from the beginning, and he got his show on the air. Sure there was a lot of hammy acting and some poor plot choices, but taken as a whole it was a pretty terrific example of how to run a serialized show.

      Which is probably the biggest thing to take away. If you are writing a scripted series which is either plot heavy or mystery heavy, have an explanation thought out before hand, even if it's just for yourself. I thought the two seasons of Lost before the last one were pretty great and a lot of that is due to them planning out how they wanted to end the series. It's just too bad that they didn't do that from the beginning.

    • DeaconG

      Of course, JMS had no idea that PTEN was going to go bankrupt, which forced him to try to end the series in four years instead of the planned five; nor did he know that TNT would come in and save their corned beef hash for a fifth season, which left him a mess to clean up. People who bitch about B5's story arc seem to not know about that.

    • Andrew

      And having the first three or four scripts for the fifth season thrown out with the hotel trash didn't help either.

    • ed newman

      So, first they lied to the networks and then they lied to the viewers.

    • Tinkerville

      I usually don't say this (especially after Prometheus) but I'm on team Lindelof. Because LOST would never in a million years have been made if it weren't for them framing it like this to the networks. And given that the first season and a few after that one were absolutely brilliant, I'm glad that they did what they had to do in order to try to make something that was actually innovative and risky.

    • Mrs. Julien

      Mr. Julien wrote a (hitherto unproduced) pilot and episode arc (can't remember the correct term) for a TV show. He made sure to include nudity because they hoped to sell it to HBO.

    • MikeRoorda

      Jesus. I wept openly during that Penny and Desmond scene. Completely came out of left field for me too. Was just minding my own business and then all of the sudden, "Huh. Guess I'm sobbing now then."

    • baxlala

      Oh god. The Constant. Must. Hold back. Tears.

    • DeaconG

      When you absolutely, positively need some catharsis...or just need a good cry.

    • Tinkerville

      "I'll find you. I promise. I'll come back to you. I love you. I love you."

      Sorry. I had to.

    • Well THANKS PAJIBA now I have to go home early from work and open my Blu-Ray complete collection special edition of Lost and watch it from the beginning. AGAIN.

    • And by PAJIBA I mean QUITYOURJROB.

    • Mitchell Hundred

      You were going to do that anyways, though. Don't lie to yourself.

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