Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lost's pilot is a masterclass in writing for syndication and binge-watching

No matter your thoughts on how ABC’s Lost evolved over the years (or its bizarre vision of “heaven”), nearly everyone can agree that its pilot is a pretty perfect piece of television. Not only does it introduce a rich, freaky mystery laden with possibility, but it compellingly introduces a core ensemble of no less than 14 characters while also laying out the rules of its “flashback” structure.


A new video essay from Ideas At Play digs deeper, using specific examples from the series to illustrate how the pilot helps bridge the gap between two eras in TV consumption. Where once networks produced pilots primed for syndication (i.e. replay value), the rise of streaming culture has created a new viewer: the binge watcher. Lost represents both modes, with its flashback structure telling complete stories on their own and its main storyline more or less screaming at viewers to immediately watch the next episode.

Lost is a character-driven show, first and foremost, and, using character arcs, filmmaking choices, and particular edits, the essay shows how the pilot emphasizes the many ways in which character will be the vessel by which this story is told.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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