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Lost: The Complete First Season

Just as it did 15 years earlier with David Lynch's cult 1990 mini-series "Twin Peaks," ABC-TV shook up the stagnant 2004-05 prime time TV schedule — this time overrun by a rabbit-like litter of multiplying police/law procedurals — with a stunningly original hit brimming with supernatural mystery. Created by "Alias" mastermind J.J. Abrams, along with relatively inexperienced writers Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Leiber, Lost became the water-cooler show of 2004 (alongside ABC's second home run of the year, "Desperate Housewives"), with its ensemble of haunted characters stranded on a remote island following a horrific airplane crash en route from Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles. While many new shows take a few episodes to fine tune their tone and characters, Lost announced its intentions with a harrowing, impeccable, and exquisitely cinematic two-part pilot as the survivors of Oceanic flight 118 sift through the physical, emotional, and psychological wreckage on an idyllic beachfront (filmed in Oahu, Hawaii) littered with smoldering chunks of giant, twisted metal. Just as it becomes increasingly apparent that their rescue is not imminent, so it becomes clear that their tropical refuge is not your ordinary Pacific paradise, what with its occasional ominous rustling of trees accompanied by the sound of thunderous footsteps, and the odd attack by polar bear and more monstrous creatures. Wisely, however, Abrams and company keep their supernatural cards close to their chests, carefully measuring each revelation, always creating more new questions than answers.

What does become increasingly clear (or, at least, apparent) through Lost's 25 mostly terrific Season One episodes, however, is that the doomed trans-Pacific flight may not have crashed by accident as much as by fate — as each episode explores the backstory of one of the 14 principal characters, the survivors seem to have been led to the island as a sort of waystation on whatever emotionally difficult journey put them on that plane in the first place: Magnolia meets Survivor, if you will. For some, their journeys were spurred by key events in painful relationships. Jack (Matthew Fox), a surgeon who quickly emerges as a leader among the survivors, traveled to Australia to reconnect with his estranged, disgraced father; Michael (Harold Perrineau) made the trip to take custody of his estranged 10-year-old son, Walt (David Malcolm Kelly); and Boone (Ian Somerhalder) trekked to rescue his self-centered step-sister, Shannon (Maggie Grace), from herself. Other survivors found themselves down under in more dubious circumstances, like Kate (Evangline Lilly), a fugitive from the law; or opportunist and con-man Sawyer (Josh Holloway), out to settle a lifelong grudge; or the Korean husband and wife, Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim), running an errand for Sun's crime boss father. Still other survivors of the crash came of even less ordinary circumstances, such as the pregnant young Australian Claire (Emilie de Ravin), who was ordered by a spooked psychic to give her baby up for adoption in far-away Los Angeles; or fat Hurley (Jorge Garcia), a lottery winner since cursed by freakishly bad luck; or Iraqi Sayid (Naveen Andrews), searching for a missing political prisoner; or Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), a drug-addicted Noel Gallagher-eqsue rocker trying to reunite his one-hit-wonder band. And then there's John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), a scarred survivalism expert, whose particular strange circumstances and perspective put him in close consonance with the island's eerie vibe.

*          *          *

Lost's characters are fully developed, believably human, and carefully, slowly revealed, with the show's writers laying hints and clues several episodes in advance of greater exposition. The show's technical acuity, as well, raises the bar for network series television, from its beautiful cinematography (mostly by Larry Fong) and kinetic editing to its spare but effective scoring (by Michael Giacchino; although the slow, sad theme suspiciously evokes the melody of Hall & Oates' 1983 hit "One on One"). Adding further quality, Lost's creators know how to craft atmosphere and original thrills, and they are adept at not telegraphing their secrets, resulting in a bounty of eager speculative buzz about just what is going on on the island. Does this all make Lost the perfect TV series? Not quite. At least, not yet. While its characters are rich, and richly performed by the charismatic, and often great-looking, cast, Lost, in all its expertly realized seriousness, may be lacking the wit that has transported similar fantasy-themed shows into enduring cult status (think "X-Files" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). Lost has funny moments — the best of which is an exasperated nod to Internet-based nitpickers on the show's case — but is not by any means infused with wit. Repeat viewings reveal the craft behind the narrative's meticulous plotting, but little else. In fact, the first season offers very little in the way of payoffs, building instead with a drumbeat of perpetual mystery to an end-of-season cliffhanger that left many dedicated fans crankily wondering if they'd been had by TV's most audacious tease artists. This is the dilemma faced by any mystery-based series: Viewers demand both suspense and resolution, followed by new suspense. If Abrams and his crew can satisfy both of these desires in Season Two, and do so in a way that rewards addictive viewing, Lost has the potential to become a truly great series. On the other hand, if Season Two fails to incentivize further viewing with more one-way, dead-end suspense, it may end up regarded a shameful waste of immense talent and promise.

All 25 episodes of Buena Vista's Lost: The Complete First Season are presented across six disks in fine anamorphic transfers (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The pilot episodes (#101 & #102) feature commentaries by Abrams, Lindelof, and executive producer Bryan Burk on the pilot; Episode #104, "Walkabout," is accompanied by a commentary featuring executive producer Jack Bender, co-executive producer David Fury, and Terry O'Quinn; Episode#107, "The Moth," features commentary by Lindelof, Burk and Dominic Monaghan; and #113, "Hearts and Minds" includes commentary by executive producer Carlton Cuse, supervising producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and actors Maggie Grace and Ian Sommerhalder. A seventh disc features two hours of great featurette material, during which Abrams, Lindelof, and others discuss the uninspired original idea and its metamorphosis into Lost, and a great look at the staging of the pilot's spectacular first sequence at the crash site. Also featured are photographs by Matthew Fox, Lost's debut at ComiCon, on-set comedy bits shot for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and the inside joke behind Monaghan's band Driveshaft. Also on Disc Seven are 13 deleted scenes, additional flashback sequences, bloopers, and a salute to Lost at the Museum of Television and Radio's 22nd Annual Paley Festival. Fold-out digipak with slightly inconvenient disc storage arrangement.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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