Lindelof and Cuse Respond to Critics and Reveal Details about the Story of the Others
"When you're on the beach you can do lovely small character stories. There are some episodes like that coming up, much smaller in scope." Carlton Cuse
Los Angeles -- After two highly acclaimed seasons and numerous honors, including the 2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, ABC's Lost stumbled a bit at the start of year three. The six episodes that ran as a "mini-season" last fall, which found Jack, Kate and Sawyer held prisoner
and tormented by the mysterious characters known as the Others, and which gave relatively little screen time to many of the other established characters on the canvas, were somewhat unsatisfying. The show was still inventive, surprising and handsomely produced, but some of the magic
seemed to be missing. Viewers weren't the only ones taking notice. Critics -- the very group that had exhaustively championed Lost throughout the previous two years -- began grumbling as well.
ABC responded by bringing most of the primary cast members to the January Television Critics Association tour last month to talk up their show before its February 7 return. Executive producers Damon
Lindelof (who co-created the series with J.J. Abrams) and Carlton Cuse were also on hand to ensure everyone that many of the questions and concerns expressed by viewers and critics alike would be addressed as season three continued.
Following the session, Lindelof and Cuse sat with MediaVillage editor Ed Martin to further discuss their thoughts about the
season to date and their future plans for the show. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
MediaVillage: Were you surprised at the level of concern expressed by critics about the direction the story took last fall and their
frustration about the many unresolved mysteries on the show?
Damon Lindelof: In my opinion the really good critics embrace the fact that they're fans. I find there is a very rare instance where your fan brain is having one reaction and your critical brain is having another. The
level at which questions are asked of us is polarizing. You can tell it's personal. If they don't like it, it's like they're almost offended in a way.
Carlton Cuse: I'm a big baseball fan, and I feel proprietary about the Dodgers. I'm not the owner. I'm not the manager. But I feel passionate about the decisions that they make and I take it personally when they make
decisions I don't like. I think you end up in the same sort of position when you are in a position of stewardship on a show like this. Damon and I sit in my office every morning over breakfast and make the creative decisions for the day and decide what we're going to be doing with the show. We use our
own internal compass and barometer, but it's very hard to find that balance between moving the story forward in a way that we feel is intriguing to us as storytellers and answering the concerns of fans and critics. "Are you diverting off onto a new story tangent? Are you getting away from what we like about the show?" It feels very hard to strike the right balance there.
DL: The critics have legitimate [reasons] to say, "We propped this show up. From the moment that we saw it we believed in it. We got behind it. We wrote nice things about it. We picked it as the show of the year." Not that the critics are responsible for the show's success in its entirety, but they're
a big part of it. The fact that so much buzz was building about Lost before it premiered wasn't just based on the premise. I think that same thing sort of continues. "We have a responsibility as critics, because we launched this thing, to now make sure that the people we said it was really good to understand that we agree with them as fans."
MV: What are the critics' complaints?
DL: That maybe the show has now taken a darker turn. That it's too mythological. We're either getting, "We're not in the beach camp enough and we're not with the characters we love" or "You're not answering
enough questions." We find as storytellers you can't accomplish both goals. We have to sort of commit to one or the other. Sometimes mistakes are made. I would argue in some cases that it's just impossible to make everybody happy.
MV: I understand you're going to go back to the beach after the February 7 episode. Once you move the characters away
from the Others' camp, what will be the narrative thrust of the story?
CC: The show is still about the Others. That's what season three is about. It's just a question of how and in what form the show is telling the story about these other characters. When you're on the beach
you can do lovely small character stories. There are some episodes like that coming up, beach-based stories, much smaller in scope and dependent on just character interaction. But we're not abandoning our mission this season, which is to tell the story of the Others. We're going to see that play out in other ways.
Cast of Lost at the TCA Tour
DL: The audience has seen that, prior to the crash of Flight 815, the Others were all living in sort of an idyllic little Wisteria Lane-like community with nice houses and all that. So we also feel indebted to
tell the audience when and if they left that place. Are all the Others over on the prison camp island? Are they going to stay there? If Kate and Sawyer and/or Jack were to escape would the Others then potentially abandon Alcatraz and go somewhere else? Are they more nomadic in terms of the way that they function on the island?
CC: I honestly believe the next
group of episodes is really good and a lot of the criticism of the first six will be ameliorated by the grander view of this year.
Click to read part 2 of the Lost interview.
Click to read part 3 of the Lost interview.
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