Lost ends tonight, six years after being inspired in part by reality TV

At the same time that The Celebrity Apprentice is concluding its third season, ABC’s drama Lost will be concluding its sixth
and final season. It is, of course, a scripted drama, but as it ends, it’s worth remembering just what inspired it in the first place: a reality TV competition called Survivor.

ABC actually rejected Survivor twice, as James B. Stewart reports in DisneyWar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom. Later, at a retreat, Lloyd Braun, ABC’s entertainment chair at the time, “pitched an idea he called ‘Lost.’ He described the show as a cross between Cast Away, the 2000 movie staring Tom Hanks as a survivor on a desert island, and ‘Survivor.'”

In a review, The New Yorker reported that “‘Lost’ actually was inspired in part by ‘Survivor’–the idea came from Lloyd Braun, who used to be the chairman of ABC’s entertainment division. … Braun hired J. J. Abrams, the creator of ‘Alias’–another ABC show that steals minutes that don’t belong to it–and the co-creator of ‘Felicity,’ to develop the show, along with Damon Lindelof.”

So yes, reality TV is at least in part responsible for Lost, which makes the reason for my Facebook fan/hate group all the more hilarious (“People can hate on my favorite show, Lost, all they want. But NOT when they LOVE and play up REALITY TV. Reality TV is shit and this guy is a delusional prick. I wish the worst for him.”).

Though I did once rip Lost in an essay, saying “one of television’s best casts and most intriguing concepts [was being] destroyed by this half-baked mystery machine stupidity,” I was addicted to the show its first few seasons.

I did, however, drift away once it drifted away from its characters, deferring instead to the nonsense mysteries that were only explained by more questions and insulting viewers by pretending that the show wasn’t about those mysteries even though they were dictating the characters’ increasingly unbelievable actions. It seemed to me like a colossal waste of an exceptional concept, an amazing cast, and really exceptional production values. And watching this final season, it’s improved marginally, but when it wastes characters like Sayid or does something like kill off nearly all the remaining non-white characters for no real reason, it’s hard to still reconnect with the love I once had for the show. But despite its many flaws, Lost has undeniably been a television phenomenon.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.