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 V.13 No.43 | October 21 - 27, 2004 

Idiot Box

Ratings Found

“Lost” on ABC

Something very strange has happened in the first month of the new fall season. NBC, last season's big network, has taken a huge plunge in ratings. That isn't the shocking part, though; with the loss of “Friends” and “Frasier,” everyone expected a certain decrease in stature for the long-reigning champ. No, the shocking part is the suggestion of who might be the new number one network: ABC.

ABC? The sewer-dwelling Disney purchase? The network that brought us “The Benefactor?” Well, it remains to be seen. CBS, with hit shows like “CSI” and “Without a Trace,” is poised to own the top spot. Still, the fact that ABC is winning any ratings battle any night of the week is a major coup. Much of the credit lies at the feet of “Desperate Housewives,” the Sunday night sensation that has all but put the final nail in the coffin of ABC's long-struggling “Alias,” and the J.J. Abrams-produced drama “Lost.”

While Abrams' critically praised but ratings-deficient spy gal series cools its heels until midseason, the hip TV creator's new show is this season's biggest water cooler hit.

“Lost” follows a group of airline crash survivors as they struggle to stay alive on a mysterious tropical island. Basically, it looks like a fictional version of “Survivor”--which is part of the show's appeal. Viewers are able to pick their way through the show's large ensemble cast, knowing some are disposable and some will stick around for the entire season. Like “Survivor,” viewers are likely to decide on their least favorite people, heckling each for their stupid survival choices and secretly wishing for their quick expulsion from the island.

There's Jack (Matthew Fox), the hunky but tight-lipped doctor. There's Kate (Evangeline Lilly), a could-be escaped convict. There's Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), the drug-addicted bassist for Drive Shaft. There's Sayid (Naveen Andrews), the resourceful Iraqi soldier. And that's just a taste of the shows 14 major characters, each one of which seems to be harboring some major secret.

If the show was just about the characters and their adult reenactment of Lord of the Flies, it would be interesting. But Abrams has thrown in a “Twilight Zone” twist. Seems that the island is inhabited by giant, unseen monsters that hide in the jungle, let out bloodcurdling screams and occasionally drag someone into the treetops. As if that weren't enough, there's at least one polar bear and a mysterious fleeting fellow in a black suit. What the hell is going on here? Guess you'll have to stick around all season to find out.

Whether or not Abrams can maintain the show's mystery for more than one season remains to be seen. The show isn't exactly zippy in its narrative, but it does have some nice storytelling twists. By showing each survivor's story in flashback, we get some nice, little, self-contained tales. The secret behind “Colonel” Locke's (Terry O'Quinn) eerie sense of invulnerability, for example, was a subtle little stunner.

For now, anyway, “Lost” is an intriguing mystery, worth checking out on a weekly basis and gleefully deconstructing with your coworkers. Keep up the good work ABC. ... And lose “The Benefactor.”

“Lost” airs every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on KOAT-7

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