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Lost
in
a
Good
Story:


Serial
Creativity
on
a
Desert
Island


The
intent
seems
to
have
been
to
alleviate
one
of
the
oldest
problems

of
the
continuous‐serial
form,
that
of
stimulating
and
maintaining

interest
in
plot
points
in
an
acceptable
manner—what
I
will
hereafter

refer
to
as
the
"surprise/acceptability
problem."

Marc
Dolan,
“The
Peaks
and
Valleys
of
Serial
Creativity:

What
Happened
to/on
Twin
Peaks”


In
a
column
in
Entertainment
Weekly
entitled
“Lost’s
Soul,”
Stephen
King

offers
some
fascinating
speculations
on
what
lies
ahead
for
a
series
he
has
touted
as

the
best
on
the
small
screen.
“There’s
never
been
anything
like
it
on
TV
for
capturing

the
imagination,”
he
insists,”
except
The
Twilight
Zone
and
The
X‐Files.”
And
yet
he

fears
Lost
might
succumb
to
the
same
serial
narrative
fate
as
the
latter,
a
great

series
that
ended
badly
because
it
violated
the
Nietzschean
dictum
to
“die
at
the

right
time,”
remaining
faithful
instead
to
what
King
deems
“the
Prime
Network

Directive:
Thou
Shalt
Not
Kill
the
Cash
Cow.”
“I
could
have
throttled
the
executives

at
Fox
for
doing
that,
and
Chris
Carter
for
letting
it
happen,”
King
rants,
and
he
has

no
desire
to
experience
déjà
vu
all
over
again.


As
ABC’s
Lost
continues
to
be
a
mainstream
top
ten
show
and
an
international

cult
phenomenon,
engendering
enthusiastic
fan
behavior,
the
extraordinary
tests

faced
by
the
Lost
castaways
may
pale
by
comparison
to
those
J.
J.
Abrams,
Damon

Lindelof
and
company
have
and
will
face.
Not
since
Lynch
and
Frost’s
Twin
Peaks,

another
rule‐breaking,
genre‐defying
ABC
series
that
started
strong
but
flamed
out
in

its
second
season,
and
Carter’s
X‐Files,
a
Lost
ancestor
text
with
a
perplexing

mythology
that
perpetually
promised
but
seldom
delivered
solutions
to
the
myriad

puzzles
it
raised,
alienating
its
fans
in
the
end,
has
an
episodic
television
series
been

required
to
navigate
a
more
dangerous
narratological
Scylla
and
Charybdis.

How
can
Lost
sustain
its
suspense
while
retaining
the
good
faith
of
and

credibility
with
a
deeply
inquisitive
viewership,
determined
to
puzzle
out
its

mysteries?
Can
it
become
a
“long
haul
show”
(Sarah
Vowell’s
term)
while
maintaining

immediate
water
cooler
buzz?
How
can
Lost’s
creative
team
out‐imagine
its

obsessed,
ingenious
fan
base?
(“People
who
post
online—they’re
infinitely
smarter

than
anyone
working
on
the
show,”
J.
J.
Abrams
effused
on
The
Jimmy
Kimmel
Show.)

The Collected Works of David Lavery 2

The
conundrums,
and
pitfalls,
of
“serial
creativity,”
as
Marc
Dolan
has
cogently

articulated
them,”
are
enough
to
intimidate
any
narrative
genius.
Must
Lost,
of

necessity,
eventually
disappoint?
A
“serial
killer,”
if
you
will,
is
loose
in
the
medium

of
television.
Will
it
claim
Lost
as
its
latest
victim?

When
given
the
opportunity
to
colonize
the
dream
space
of
a
South
Pacific

island,
Abrams
and
fellow
prime
mover
Lindelof
both
felt
the
need
for
it
to
be

something
more
than
Gilligan’s
Island,
Cast
Away,
Robinson
Crusoe,
Lord
of
the
Flies,

Survivor,
Watership
Down,
Alice
in
Wonderland,
The
Stand,
A
Wrinkle
in
Time—all

identifiable
Lost
ancestor
texts.
To
a
question
about
why
his
new
creation
needed
a

monster
and
all
the
other
mysteries
of
the
island—why
it
couldn’t
just
be
a
drama

about
survival—Abrams
replied:


It
wouldn't
work
for
me.
Personally,
[the
monster
is]
what
interests
me.

Someone
else
I'm
sure
could
do
the
show
with
that
absent
from
it
entirely,

but
it
wasn't
the
version
I
was
interested
in.
.
.
.
Increasingly
it
became
clear

that
it
was
about
adding
an
element
that
was,
for
me,
hvper‐real.
.
.
.
It's
just

my
tendency.
Whether
it's
smart
or
successful
storytelling
or
not,
it's
just

what
interests
me.
(Gross
36)


Lost,
of
course,
is
not
just
a
series
about
a
monster,
and
its
ongoing
enigmas
are
not

just
island‐specific.
It’s
an
anthology
series,
as
well,
with
the
complex,
fecund,
multi‐
genre
pre‐crash
backstories
of
fourteen
characters
(fifteen,
if
we
count
Vincent
the

Dog)
to
tell.

Despite
such
narrative
potential,
Lost’s
ongoing
development
has

nevertheless
faced
challenges
from
both
above
and
below,
from
network
doubts
as

well
as
fan
demands.
Both
before
and
during
Lost’s
first
season,
ABC
made
its

concerns
about
the
show’s
course
well
known.
A
Daily
Variety
story
reported
in
July

2004
that
the
network
had
expressed
alarm
over
the
series’
fear
factor,
evidently

worried
too
much
of
the
scary
might
drive
away
viewers,
especially
in
Lost’s
early

evening
time
slot.
In
mid‐season,
Joss
Whedon‐alum
David
Fury,
who
had
been
a

major
contributor
as
both
writer
and
director
for
both
Buffy
the
Vampire
Slayer
and

Angel,
reported
in
an
interview
in
Dreamwatch
that
network
interference
had

intensified.

“We
didn’t
run
into
[it],”
Fury
would
admit,
“until
roughly
around
episodes

nine
[“Solitary”—written
by
Fury]
and
10
[“Raised
by
Another”].
We
were
starting
to

The Collected Works of David Lavery 3

make
some
choices
that
definitely
terrified
the
network.
There
was
a
feeling
on
our

part,
particularly
Damon’s,
that
we
need
to
goose
things
and
take
it
a
bit
further.
So

in
terms
of
“network
interference,”
there
were
a
lot
of
meetings
at
that
time
about

the
direction
of
the
show”
(DiLullo
41).
Why
would
a
network
that
once
had
the

audacity
to
air
Twin
Peaks,
one
of
the
most
bizarre
series
ever
to
air
on
the
small

screen,
be
apprehensive
about
the
plans
of
Lost’s
creative
team?
Had
not
the

greatest
puzzle
TV
had
proffered
since
the
question
of
“Who
shot
J.
R.?”
in
1980—
“Who
killed
Laura
Palmer?”—been
satisfactorily
answered
right
there
on
ABC?
Laura,

it
was
quite
clear,
had
been
killed
by
her
father
while
under
the
control
of
BOB,
a

psychopathic
supernatural
parasite
emanating
from
the
ghostly
Black
Lodge
which

manifested
periodically
in
Glastonbury
Grove
outside
the
town
of
Twin
Peaks!
As

Twin
Peaks
finally
began
to
disclose
its
“answers”
in
its
second
season,
such
as
the

identity
of
BOB,
the
ratings
had,
of
course,
plummeted.

But
that
was
so
last
century.
Surely
ABC
couldn’t
be
worried
that
its
new

Goose
That
Laid
the
Golden
Nielsens
would
be
destroyed
by
the
“goosing”
Abrams,
et

al
were
contemplating.
Weren’t
the
fans
anxious
to
be
goosed?
Fury,
who
has
since

left
the
show,
admitted
to
“a
frustration
.
.
.
as
a
viewer,
in
that
I’d
like
some
clearer

answers
[to
Lost’s
mysteries],
but
those
answers
were
resting
in
the
area
of
sci‐fi

and
that’s
where
we
had
to
draw
the
line.”

Using
a
metaphor
drawn
from
one
of
Lost’s
genetic
ancestors,
Fury
even

managed
to
find
a
way
to
make
this
triangulation
sound
like
a
good
thing:
“We
are

respecting
the
network’s
desire
to
not
make
the
show
too
‘out
there’
too
fast.
.
.
.

We
were
trying
to
approach
the
show
from
the
Scully
perspective
and
always
try
to

have
a
reasonable
explanation
for
everything,
despite
anything
that
seems
out
of
the

ordinary.
That
was
our
self‐imposed
mandate
because
the
networks
are
scared
of

genre
television”
(DiLullo
41;
my
emphasis).

Hyper‐conscious
of
the
classic
"surprise/acceptability
problem"
Marc
Dolan

identifies
(see
the
epigraph
above),
Fury
knew
very
well
that
such
a
situation,
as

King,
too,
has
reminded,
has
inherent
risks:
“there
is
the
challenge
of
how
long
an

audience
will
be
invested
in
the
show
and
in
these
characters
without
getting
enough

concrete
answers.”
If,
Fury
thought,
“we
answer
some
of
these
questions,
and
if
we

do
it
in
the
most
reality
based
way,
I
think
people
will
feel
cheated.”
On
the
other

hand,
supplying
answers
to
Lost’s
enigmas
“in
the
most
interesting
sci
fi
way”
could

well
result
in
“alienat[ing]”—a
telling
word
choice—“the
core
audience
of
the
series”

(DiLullo
41,
42).
Did
I
mention
that
Fury
is
no
longer
with
the
show?

The Collected Works of David Lavery 4

Now,
at
the
beginning
of
its
second
season,
with
Lost
the
most‐imitated
show

on
television
and
all
the
networks,
judging
by
this
fall’s
offerings,
no
longer

concerned
that
SF/fantastic
story
lines
might
drive
viewers
away,
the
series
remains

firmly
perched
on
the
horns
of
its
indigenous
creative
dilemma,
though
we
have
at

least
now
gone
down
the
hatch.
Lindelof
and
Cuse’s
three‐part
finale
last
spring
gave

with
one
hand
and
took
away
with
the
other.
We
were
left
wanting
to
know
more

about
the
crash
itself,
but
only
saw
the
survivors
boarding
the
plane
and
learned

nothing
new
about
the
flight
itself
or
the
crash.
We
longed
for
insight
into
the

mysterious
numbers,
and
though
the
proliferating
4,
8,
15,
16,
23,
42
had
repeated

cameos,
they
remained
inscrutable.
We
saw
(and
heard)
more
of
The
Monster
than

ever
before,
and
yet
it
still
dwells
in
the
mystery.
We
met
The
Others
(we
think)
but

still
have
no
idea
who/what
they
are
and
why
they
were
wearing
winter
clothes.
The

hatch
was
opened,
but
we
still
had
no
idea
until
this
week
where
or
to
what
it
lead.

And,
by
all
indications,
the
fan‐base
was
not
entirely
pleased
by
the
lack
of
answers.

Entertainment
Weekly
reports
that
throughout
the
summer
of
2005
the
cast
had
to

endure
“the
brunt
of
fan
angst.”
David
Fury
had
insisted
last
season,
after
all
his

laments
about
network
interference,
that
Lost
“is
and
always
will
be
an
unfolding

mystery”
(DiLullo
41).
Did
I
mention
he’s
no
longer
with
the
show?

From
the
outset,
Abrams
and
company
have
insisted
the
story
they
want
to

tell
is
complex
enough
to
take
years
to
tell
(Nelson
12).
ABC
Entertainment
President

McPherson
confirmed
that
“We
have
a
good
sense
of
where
a
lot
of
the
bigger
arcs

and
mysteries
are
going
well
beyond
this
year”
(Hibberd).
We
could
be
Lost
for
a
very

long
time,
but
if
we
remain
at
the
same
time
completely
“lost,”
then
the
series
will

have
failed
to
triumph
against
the
intimidating
challenges
of
serial
creativity
on
a

desert
island.


Bibliography

Armstrong,
Jennifer.
“Love,
Labor,
Lost.”
Entertainment
Weekly
9
September
2005:

28‐32,
41.

Dilmore,
Kevin.
“Of
Spies
and
Survivors.
Amazing
Stories
No
608
(February
2005):
20‐
24.
(Interview
with
J.
J.
Abrams)

DiLullo,
Tara.
“Deepening
the
Lost
Mystery.”
Dreamwatch
5
(March
2005):
40‐43.

(Interview
with
David
Fury)

The Collected Works of David Lavery 5

Dolan,
Marc.
“The
Peaks
and
Valleys
of
Serial
Creativity:
What
Happened
to/on
Twin

Peaks.”
Full
of
Secrets:
Critical
Approaches
to
Twin
Peaks.
Ed.
David
Lavery.

Detroit:
Wayne
State
U
P:
30‐50.

Gross,
Edward.
(February/March
2005).
Man
on
a
mission.
Cinefantastique
36
(1):
34‐
36.
(Interview
with
J.
J.
Abrams)

Hibberd,
James.
“’Lost’
Finds
Top
Spot.”
Television
Week
3
Jan.
2005:
19.

King,
Stephen.
“Lost’s
Soul.”
Entertainment
Weekly
9
September
2005:
150.

Nelson,
Resa.
“Television:
Lost
Breaks
out
as
the
Cult
hit
with
Mass
Appeal.”
Realms

of
Fantasy
April
2005:
8,
10‐12.

Vowell,
Sarah.
“Please
Sir
May
I
Have
a
Mother?”
Salon.com
2
Feb
2000.

http://www.salon.com/ent/col/vowe/2000/02/02/vowell_wb/index.html.


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