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TV Review: Viewers get 'Lost' in popular new ABC show

Over 11 million watch ABC's newest drama

Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 15:08

ABC's new show "Lost" is hitting it big with both viewers and television critics alike. At first glance, it's easy to be skeptical about this plane-wrecked saga; after all, who really wants to watch "Castaway" week in and week out? But J.J. Abrams, the genius behind similar ABC drama phenomena "Alias" and the now-retired WB college drama "Felicity," continues to demonstrate that he is arguably one of the best television producers in the business.

What saves this series from being a pointless experiment in marooned survival is its deep investigation into human relationships. That each character has a fully fleshed out personality and past draws you to them - and there are plenty of them to keep our attention. While 48 survivors of the plane crash are on the island, we are only really integrated into the lives of about 15.

The cast is full of talented actors, ranging from experienced entertainers to also first time series actors. Matthew Fox (of "Party of Five" fame) plays Jack, the only doctor on the island, who unintentionally becomes the leader of the survivors. Evangeline Lilly plays Kate, the now typical beautiful costar who has an immediate (and apparently mutual) attraction to Jack.

However, this is not your typical flirtation; within the first three episodes of the show we discover through flashbacks that Kate has a tumultuous past. She was on the fated flight from Australia in handcuffs and being escorted back to the United States by a U.S. Marshal as a dangerous and wanted criminal.

Lilly plays Kate with enough toughness to be make those memories believable but without losing our sympathy or Jack's interest. Her situation adds another mysterious twist because the flashbacks do not divulge what exactly she has done.

All of the characters are strong and fully fleshed out, but the real star of the series is Jack. The rest of the stranded passengers constantly turn to him as a source of strength, and with each episode he seems to be physically bearing the brunt of their needs more and more.

Jack is also the center of some bloody operations and rescue missions, as the show does not spare the viewer from the gruesome scenes that would realistically occur after a plane crash.

Instead of focusing on the gore, however, the plot introduces ethical twists that test our own established opinions of morality as we sit safely on our couches. Adding to the gruesome aftermaths of the plane crash is the presence of a mysterious animal that mauled a character to death in the first episode and continues to be a threat to the rest of the characters.

And then there are the quirky twists that keep viewers guessing. The mysterious appearance of a polar bear on the tropical island, and one character's miraculous healing from his former paralysis are just a few of the incidents that provide plenty of fodder for ABC website feedback forums.

There are many more complex and diverse characters with modern and realistic problems: among Jack and Kate's fellow survivors are a Korean couple who struggle with significant language barriers between themselves and the other passengers, an eight-months-pregnant, single-mother-to-be, as well as a child whose mother recently died and is beginning a new and rocky relationship with his father, played by Harold Perrineau (who appeared in the second and third Matrix films.)

Other characters include Sayid (Naveen Andrews,) an Arab man who deals with race-related suspicions, and Charlie (played by former hobbit Dominic Monaghan,) a washed up rock star doing what appears to be his last stashes of heroin.

Hurley (Jorge Garcia), an obese man, is one of the most likable characters on the island, with a refreshing lack of reference or negative attention to his weight. Terry O'Quinn shines as Locke, an older man who is complicated and mysterious, and appears to have been paralyzed in the flashbacks before the crash.

With "Alias" on hiatus until January, J.J. Abrams and fellow creator Damon Lindelof ("Crossing Jordan") can focus their complete attention on developing "Lost." That intense focus is felt in the individual episodes with the writers seeming to have a tight rein on the characters, completely controlling and developing their situations.

Abrams, in particular, is an absolute master at stretching the plot to its fullest potential. At the same time, he does so without showing his full hand. It's more than enough to keep me, and over 11 million other viewers, faithfully tuning in every Wednesday, for once enjoying the feeling of being "Lost."<$>

@jump:see 'LOST', page XX<$>

@conthead:Complex and diverse characters flesh out the "Lost" cast<$>

@contjump: 'LOST'<$>

@contpage:continued from page 5<$>

@pullquote: "Instead of focusing on the gore, however, the plot introduces ethical twists that test our own established opinions of morality as we sit safely on our couches."

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