Getting a show on network television is not for the faint of heart. If a program doesn't feature cops, lawyers, doctors or some combination of all three, creators have to just cross their fingers and get down on their knees — they know they need divine intervention to get their shows made.
And yet, “Lost” has survived for the past six seasons, and not only that, it’s become a hit. One of the rarest of rare birds, “Lost” is a dramatic series with more than a twist of the paranormal. It confuses, baffles and frustrates the heck out of its loyal fan base. In return, that fan base went from mere loyalty to actual devotion, if not outright obsession.
But on May 23, fans' umbilical cords will be cut for good as the series comes to an end after six roller-coaster seasons. Now viewers are the ones crossing their fingers and getting down on their knees, hoping fervently that show creators/shepherds J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse know how to put a period at the end of this long, complex, frustrating and wonderful sentence.
No matter how the show resolves, there will be some disappointment along with the closure. But afterward … ah, afterward. In the great empty afterward of post-“Lost” (which is not the same as being “found”), what is an obsessed fan to do?
Go back to the beginning
Naturally, for this show, it’s important to go over the past and see what clues may have been missed or answers that could have been found. Expect a DVD-rental and purchase surge among those who don’t already have their personal copy of the series. Knowing the ending of the show will shed fresh light on every previous episode.
“Lost” may never become a “Star Trek” (reruns alone, most likely run in non-sequential order, would be almost impossible to understand), but there’s a chance to see it again — not for the first time, but the second. And then the third.
Find like-minded programming
It is out there, though nothing quite with the scope of “Lost.” Best advice: Start getting into “Fringe,” a show that will no doubt benefit from the J.J. Abrams imprimatur “Lost” began with. Already that series has its own embedded puzzles and symbols, so it's time to get caught up in the mysteries of the glyphs.
Other sci-fi-tinged shows exist. There are programs such as Syfy’s “Warehouse 13” and “Caprica” to ABC’s “V” (not recommended: “FlashForward,” which is on the verge of cancellation), but thus far they all seem fairly linear and not likely to tweak the imagination the way “Lost” has. Then again, fans looking for a twisty, long-lasting and long-running mythology could do worse than to check in with BBC America’s “Doctor Who.”
And for those who can wait until the fall, Abrams has yet another series coming to a network near you: NBC has picked up his reactivated-spy drama “Undercovers.” Since Abrams was the writer behind “Mission: Impossible III” and “Alias,” let’s just say some fans are already organizing viewing parties.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Start an archaeological dig
Online, that is. In case there are obsessive fans who haven’t thoroughly checked out the peripheral content associated with the series, now’s the time: ABC has already run two alternate-reality games, there are tie-in books and fan art, plus endless hours can be spent searching out the show’s various Easter eggs and unresolved mysteries and questions. (What, you think the finale will tie up every loose thread?)
Or what about some actual puzzles? There are four “Mystery of the Island” jigsaw puzzles that reveal clues to particular seasons and divulge spoilers, but they’re fun just as they are. Warning: You’ll probably need a black light to get the full picture once the puzzles are complete.
Prepare for the inevitable LostCon
Wait, what’s that you say? There have been “Lost” conventions? Well, yes. Of a sort. The series itself had a sneak peek premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2004, and each year since, some members of the cast have put in an appearance there, but that’s not it. An early “Lost” convention was held in 2005 in Burbank, Calif., and in 2008 there was one in Northampton, England. But one planned for last year — Abrams, Inc. — ended up being canceled.
It seems inevitable that a regular LostCon should sprout somewhere in the California area — or perhaps even Hawaii, where the show filmed. In a recent interview, the owner of Lostpedia noted that he’d already registered the domain Lostpediacon.com.
Of course, all of this implies that fans aren’t planning to let the show fade away. “Star Trek” became what it is today after the series was off the air. Without repeated, continued fan interest in the universe and canon it spawned, there would be no spin-offs, no blockbuster Hollywood motion pictures — in essence, no franchise.
Once the show ends, it is in the hands of its fans, who may decide to drop the ball and move on to the next shiny object, or turn it into a kind of fetish. And no one will know whether that can and will happen — until after May 23.
Or, just listen to the gods on this one
Of course, there’s always the advice of Cuse and Lindelof, who will at some point be coming up with their Next Weird Thing. (Apparently called “The Hunted Ones,” if you believe what Stephen King speculated on in his “Under the Dome” novel.) The show’s architects are quite certain fans will find other interesting television toys to play with.
“But we also hope our fans don’t go anywhere,” said Lindelof. “ ‘Star Trek’ fans stayed committed to that show and 40 years later, there’s still this massive fan base. It’s our hope that someone who considers themselves to be a ‘Lost’ fan will still call themselves a ‘Lost’ fan in 15 years — and that they have a fond remembrance of the show.”
“But they don’t have to stop watching TV and movies. They can watch other things,” said Cuse.
“As long as they consider that ‘Lost’ is the greatest thing to ever happen to them,” Lindelof said with a smile in his voice.
Randee Dawn is a freelance writer based in New York, and was born with a remote control in her hand. She is the co-author of “The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion,” which was published in 2009.