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Old 02-16-05, 08:20 AM   #1

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Star-Ledger Article - Damon Lindelof interview

Some interesting quotes from one of the creators of the show.


Here's the article written by ALAN SEPINWALL cut and pasted:

They've created a monster
The mysteries on 'Lost' will be solved -- eventually
Wednesday, February 09, 2005


DAMON LINDELOF understands your suspicion. Really, he does.

Lindelof is the co-creator of "Lost," ABC's intricately plotted hit thriller about plane crash survivors stranded on a tropical island where nothing is quite as it seems. But he's also a fan of shows like the one he writes, and he's been burned enough times in the past to sympathize with "Lost" viewers who are starting to wonder if he and J.J. Abrams know where the story is going, or if they're just piling mystery on top of mystery to hide the fact that they're making it up as they go along.

"As a member of the community who loved 'The X-Files' for all those years and felt bummed out by the end of it, all I can say is, we're cognitive of trying not to go down the same path," says Lindelof.

"The X-Files." It always comes back to "The X-Files," whose success at blending thriller elements with sci-fi staples and a complex "mythology" made shows like "Lost" possible, and whose ultimate creative failure made viewers hesitant to buy into those later shows.

"X-Files" creator Chris Carter and his writers used to swear up and down that they had the entire series mapped out, that they knew the answer to every question raised and would reveal it in due course, that the fate of Mulder's sister, the goals of the Cigarette Smoking Man's conspiracy, the origin of the black oil, etc., would all make perfect sense and be satisfying to the fans who had speculated about them for years. And when it became blindingly obvious that answers were either not coming or didn't track with what had happened before, the official story changed. It was the fault of the show's huge success, they started to say; if "X-Files" had only run five years with no movie or later seasons, everything would have wrapped up neatly, but the need to keep going ruined the master plan.

"Lost," with its monsters, miracles and mysteries, represents the best of "X-Files," but halfway through season one, some viewers are starting to worry that it may represent the worst of "X-Files," too.

What is the monster? Where is this island? How did anyone, let alone several dozen people, survive a crash that should have pulverized everyone on board? How can wheelchair-user John Locke suddenly walk? Does Walt have psychic powers? How many people were already on the island before the crash? Is Claire's baby really destined to be evil? Why would Kate orchestrate a violent bank robbery to recover a model airplane? Was Jack's father really in the coffin?

And that's a very partial list of mysteries the show hasn't gotten around to answering yet.

"Every mystery that we present on the show -- what is the monster, where does Ethan come from, why hasn't Claire had her baby yet -- all of those are questions that we know the answers to," asserts Lindelof. "But how and when we present the answers isn't set in stone."

The "how and when" is the million dollar question. Lindelof is aware of the very thin tightrope he and Abrams walk with this show. One of the biggest mysteries from the pilot episode was the source of the 16-year-old French distress signal that some of the castaways picked up on a dying transmitter. The writers hadn't planned to answer that until late this season, but then decided they needed to throw the audience a big bone early on so people would believe more answers would be coming in time.

And in typical "Lost" fashion, the solution only raised more questions -- Exactly what happened to the French woman's colleagues? How does she still have power to send the signal? -- that Lindelof insists will also be answered at an unspecified date.

"Now they know the source of the 16-year-old transmission, and the audience goes, 'I'm not satisfied.' Well, if you're satisfied, you'll stop watching. We have to walk that line. It's not easy, and hopefully we won't betray the audience."

Carter's five-season plan for "X-Files" sounded nice in theory, but Lindelof knows it can't work in an open-ended industry like network television.

"Basically, a television show is, you're starting a race where no one tells you where the finish line is," he says. "If someone told me, 'You're going to run 6 miles,' I would run a lot faster than I would run if you told me I was going to run 26 miles. We don't know how long we're going to be on the air for. It's a business ... We can't hide behind the commerce of it, but at the same time, I can't say to (ABC president) Steve MacPherson, 'I'm only doing five years of the show,' because he'll say, 'Great! We'll bring in new guys after you leave and they'll continue to do the show.'"

With no way of knowing how many seasons to plan for, the "Lost" writers have to carefully dole out information without providing so much closure that the audience up and leaves.

"When the audience demands answers, we'll give them to them," he insists. "But I will say, as a viewer, sometimes people say they want something but they don't really want it. 'Moonlighting' ended when David and Maddy got together, and I was right there saying, 'I want it! Get it over with!,' or (with 'X-Files'), 'I want Scully to stop being skeptical! She's seen enough weird stuff to not be skeptical!' But once she started believing like Mulder did, the show wasn't the show anymore."

But no matter how well they pace things, Lindelof also worries that the final answers will disappoint.

"Inevitably, of course you'll be let down. How can I or J.J. or anyone else possibly be better than your imagination? You don't know what your imagination is, but you have very lofty expectations. If I show you what the monster is at the end of season one, nobody in America is going to be like, 'That is so much better than what I thought it was going to be.' In fact, 100 percent of the people who see it are going to say, 'Wow, that is not as cool as I thought it was going to be.' So what did you think it was going to be? 'I don't know, but I was imagining it would be much cooler.' We think it's pretty cool, but we know people are going to be bummed out."

While waiting to hand out answers, Lindelof has to concern himself with other matters, like maintaining the show's complicated narrative structure, where half of every episode is a flashback to the pre-crash life of one of the 14 regular characters. At this point, we've seen early glimpses of everyone except laid-back everyman Hurley (it's coming later in the season), but Lindelof says not to expect many more flashbacks featuring the younger characters.

"It's tough. We can do lots with Jack, because Matthew Fox can probably play anywhere from 22 to the age he is now, but we can't go back very far with Boone because Ian Somerhalder is going to look the age that he is, no matter how you try to disguise it."

In other future developments, "I can say that there will be other mystery things arising that will make the 'monster' pale in comparison to what you're going to want to find out. We're still trying to be firmly ensconced in the world of science fact. I don't think we've shown anything on the show yet that has no rational explanation in the real world that we all function in. We certainly hint at psychic phenomena, happenstance and being in a place where they probably shouldn't be, but nothing is flat out impossible. There are no spaceships, there isn't any time travel."

And after two episodes in a three-episode span featured major characters dying, only to miraculously return to life, Lindelof pledges not to cry wolf again.

"I promise you: The next time you see a dead body, that person's going to stay dead."

Alan Sepinwall can be reached at asepinwall@starledger.com, or by writing him at 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J. 07102-1200.

*end of cut/paste*
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