Lost - Season One Review

Note: I don't refer to any event beyond the first few episodes so this review should be pretty much spoiler free.

His eyes open rapidly - no flicker of recollection and the questions fly through his mind. Where am I? What's happened? What am I doing in these shrubs? What's this in my pocket? Have I been drinking? Slowly, Jack (Fox) gets on his feet and finds his way through the undergrowth to the beach. A scene of devastation awaits him - the carcass of a plane is strewn over the beach, survivors clutch their wounded limbs as they try to help one another. Jack's medical background wakes up immediately and he throws himself into helping the injured expecting the rescue team to be there within hours. But that just doesn't happen... Days go by with no sign of anyone else but themselves. Sayid (Andrews) suggests that the cockpit should contain a transceiver but the cockpit is nowhere to be seen. Kate (Lilly), Charlie (Monaghan) and Jack volunteer to go looking for it in the forest.

ABC must be counting their lucky stars when two of their new series of 2004 topped the audience charts. Desperate Housewives took the first spot but close behind followed Lost, an unusual new series that mixed elements of The Lord of The Flies and Robinson Crusoe with the more straightforward thrills you come to expect from the likes of JJ Abrams. Starting with a large lead cast (fourteen main characters in total), the show has succeeded at skilfully making effective use of the characters lives before the crash whilst still keeping the main story of the marooned islanders trundling along at a decent speed. The storytelling is equally well assisted by the cinematography which makes great use of dolly shots and steadicam as well as natural settings giving the show a unique, organic look that sets it apart from the rest. The casting has chosen mostly quite experienced performers (O'Quinn, Perrineau, Daniel Dae Kim,Yoon-Jin Kim) with relative newcomers such as Evangeline Lilly - this helps tremendously to give the show gravitas and steadies the boat, preventing the series from becoming too much of a Friends meets Castaway.

Like all series, the quality varies a fair amount between the episodes and there is the odd moment when the characterisation is less than perfect -the first two episodes feature some of the worst character building threads of the series which may have been inevitable to get the ball rolling though they are still quite jarring in contrast to the rest of the season. Personally, I found every episode which focuses on the Korean couple, Locke or Walt and Michael to be the best. Conversely, I find the bizarrely popular Charlie strand to be the weaker episodes despite a good performance from Monaghan as a washed out rockstar. Still at the end of the day, Lost is the type of show that may not be as good as my benchmark, Twin Peaks, but comes very close to it. There are occasional lapses of good taste such as the use of Jack and Kate's bonding story in the Pilot but, crucially, I'm happy to suspend disbelief and just go with it. That is what makes it special and means we'll be seeing more than a few seasons of Lost. The key issue from here on for the producers is to give Lost as long a shelf-life as they possibly can which can often work against overall quality - let's hope they have the decency to call it day when they should and not spoil it by dragging out à la West Wing...

The DVD:
The set comes in a Twin Peaks style presentation - a plastic sleeve slides off to open a gatefold system with two discs lodged in each section.

The image:
Very nice indeed - there are some minor issues with the blacks being slightly patchy but globally this is a vivid transfer with a sharp image. I actually found it maybe a little too rich on the colour front but it seems to be very similar to the C4 broadcast. All episodes are anamorphically transferred though most of the extras are full-frame.

The sound:
The 5.1 mix is good with a fine use of surrounds for atmospherics but doesn't really add much to what I heard when transmitted beyond a better frequency spectrum and better basses. Still a good soundtrack but very much a TV show soundtrack not a cinema one.

The extras:
Ouch! There's a lot of these and there's also some Easter Eggs hidden here and there such as an alternative show opening (it's hideous I promise you). Here's the breakdown of all the extras I found:

Disc 1:
Audio Commentaries on Pilot (parts 1 and 2) and Walkabout:
Pilot 1 & 2 - JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelhof and Brian Burk talk through the making of the pilot pointing out mistakes (such as Jack's amazingly clean shirt) as well as all the problems pitching the show at the right level (a too gruesome crash could have lost too many viewers to make the series viable) and the usual topics of writing, directing and Matthew Fox's tattoos. They're pretty honest with a lot of the absurdity of the show ("this was a plane full of the most beautiful people ever") and manage to keep on talking throughout most of the two episodes. They tend to avoid spoilers but it's probably best watching the series before watching this. They also reveal one of their ideas on how to end the pilot if the series wasn't picked which is without doubt one of the worst ideas I've ever heard.

Walkabout - Director Jack Bender, writer David Fury and actor Terry O'Quinn (John Locke) comment on the episode. O'Quinn is not in the same location as Fury and Bender so it means their interaction is a little strange. It's a lot drier than the previous one and mostly sees them describing what's on the screen with quite a lot of silence as they just end up watching the episode (which is by far one of my favourites).

Lost Scripts Scanner: DVD-ROM feature (Windows only) which allows you to read the full scripts for the first two episodes in parallel with the episode.

Disc 2:
Commentary on the Moth with Burk, Lindelof and Dominic Monaghan (Charlie). Monaghan works really well on the commentary taking the mickey out of a lot of the episode ("Oh no! Droogs in my family! What am I going to do!") but the rest seem to be running out of interesting things to say

Disc 4:
The final commentary is on the Hearts and Minds episode with both the co-writers of the episode (Carlton Cruse and Javier Grillo-Marxuach) as well as the two main stars of that episode, Maggie Grace and Ian Sommerhalder. Again the two actors are phoning in their commentary so it means the interaction happens between both pairs but not much crossing over. The co-writers do the vast bulk of the talking which makes sense but sidelines the actors for a lot of the episode.

Disc 7: The extras Disc
Most of the extras find themselves onto this disc subdivided into three sections:

  • Departure
  • Tales from the Island
  • Lost Revealed.

Departure contains the following:

  • The Genesis of Lost (9 mins) takes us through how the show came to be and how Abrams became involved. Interviewing most of the main people behind it, it's relatively interesting without being fascinating.
  • Designing a Disaster (8 mins): How the plane from the pilot was dismantled and used.
  • Before they were lost (23 mins): Cast and directors talk about their roles and how the casting changed the characters based on the actors as well as the near misses such as Evangeline Lilly almost not making the show due to visa complications. The audition tapes are interlaced into this feature but some more are available for each character in a separate section (24 minutes) - you'll also discover how almost every single male actor was tested for the Sawyer character.
  • Welcome to Oahu (34 mins): follows the making of the pilot behind the scenes with interviews with the actors and crew on set.
  • The Art of Matthew Fox (7 mins): photography by Fox put to music and with him commenting on it. He's got a good knack for photography so it's worthwhile looking at.
  • Lost@comicon (2 mins): The cast appear at a the comicon festival before the series was aired on TV and Monaghan and Lilly recall the events.

The following section Tales from the Island is less plentiful with three extras in it:

  • Lost on Location: a series of behind the scenes films on eight different episodes. They all last between 5 and 10 minutes and are interesting enough but really bordering on fan interest more than genuine interest.
  • On set with Jimmy Kimmel: A painfully unfunny host travels to the set and gets the cast involved in his sketches. It's embarrassing all round for the 8 minutes it runs for.
  • Backstage with Driveshaft (7 mins): The making of the song that made Charlie famous.

Finally, comes Lost Revealed which contains the best extras:

  • Two short airport flashback scenes that didn't make the cut: both very good but neither were crucial to the episode so probably were cut.
  • Deleted scenes: A whole slew of them (13 in total for 15 minutes of running time) - some need redubbing and the image quality of all of them is not on par with the rest of the series but they are all interesting though tellingly none reveal anything we didn't already know from the series.
  • Blooper reel: Five minute of bloopers - enough said.
  • Live from the Museum of TV and radio (11 mins): an excerpt of a Q&A session with the cast and crew which is relatively entertaining especially hearing Naveen Andrews original accent and some pretty weird questions are being asked.

Given that the R2 release is going to be staggered in two parts, it makes no sense not buying this version - you get the full series for what you'll have to pay for the first part of the series in the UK. The extras are maybe a little too numerous but a lot are very good and worthwhile watching - fans of course will be delighted to see the series getting this kind of treatment with little missing from it. Lost is an excellent series which has been given a deservedly good DVD release.

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