The lawsuit from a television producer that claims that ABC's Lost was created by him 32 years ago may sound ridiculous, but even if his claims are true, he's still ignored what makes the show the success it is.
TMZ.com has the list of similarities between Lost and his unproduced drama (also called Lost, he claims) that producer Anthony Spinner filed as part of his lawsuit, and while it looks as though his 1977 pilot about the survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island has more than a few shared elements with the popular ABC show, it also raises the question about what makes Lost the show it actually is.
I can forgive Spinner's comparison of the similarities between the shows' characters - although, it's worth pointing out that none of Lost's characters seem particularly original or even interesting when given the one-line basic description that Spinner provides, and to an extent, that always seemed kind of the point of them; that they were stock characters we were familiar with as viewers, plunged into an unfamiliar environment - even when the comparisons border on the "One of my characters was a man, as well" line:
Survivor suffers from a drug addiction (Kyle) - Survivor suffers from a drug addiction (Charlie)... Ethnic minority character (Coby) must deal with racial slurs especially from one character (Butch) - Ethnic minority character (Sayid) must deal with racial slurs especially from one character (Sawyer)
But it's the description of plot similarities where Spinner's comparison of the shows starts running aground. Even supposing that Spinner's Lost was real - and, to be honest, we're not entirely convinced that that's the case - the situations that he describes it sharing with ABC's Lost seem more like situations that the latter show used as misdirection or McGuffin in order to get viewers lured in for the real story:
Raft built but destroyed by natives... Killing off of a lead... Leads attempting to kill one another, committing suicide, dying of illness... Use of trip-wires and makeshift weaponry... Use of flashbacks to the regular life of each character before being marooned as both a source of content, style, and a means of character development
I mean, yes, Lost did all of those things, and the flashbacks in particular were a defining gimmick of the show's first seasons, but... they're not really what the show was about, you know?
(You could even argue - if I were a more argumentative sort, I would - that the flashbacks were as much about priming the audience for narrative that takes place in more than one timeframe simultaneously so that they wouldn't be confused when the time travel element of the show really kicked in, as they were about character development. But I'll get to that in a second.)
All of this raises the question, in an around-about way, of what Lost is really about. And here's where I piss off at least half of everyone reading this by saying that, should this lawsuit come to trial, ABC should defend themselves by pointing out that, like Battlestar Galactica, Lost really isn't about the characters. Don't get me wrong; both shows had characters we empathized with, believed in and rooted for - not to mention had crushes on and built fansites for - but, when it comes down to it, the characters in both shows? Pretty much coincidental to the important stuff.
Stephen spent some time yesterday worrying that Lost's big finale will disappoint as many people as Galactica's did, and that made me think about why BSG left so many people upset (as well as why I thought it was perfect when I watched it, and felt that fall away the more I thought about it). What I realized was that I only semi-agree with the idea that Lost puts character first. Galactica showrunner Ron Moore has talked more than once about feeling lost as to how to put together the finale of the series until he realized that the show's mythology came second to the show's characters, and that's why it felt satisfying at the time and less so as soon as the warm fuzzy glow faded; yes, each character got their moment and their earned (un)happy ending - well, almost - but at the expense of logic and plot in many cases, and that's what kept us watching, much more than the human drama, as good as it was: the sense that there was a bigger point to it all.
The same is true, I think, of Lost, but to a greater extent; as much as characters like Ben, Locke and Desmond may stay with you, I would still rather find out the answers to all of the questions of the show's mythology than watch any of them have happy (or unhappy) endings, and I doubt that I'm that alone in that. Lost, by design, is as much about the larger questions as it is about any of the characters' individual journeys, and if it ends up going to Galactica route, it'll end up upsetting fans much more than Ron Moore's robot-montage final sequence could even have imagined. It's one thing for Spinner to say that he created Lost in 1977 - and, given the show's time travel aspect, it'd be wonderfully fitting to discover that the whole thing is some ARG-esque parable about a writer who saw Lost then ended up thrown back in time and pitched the show in 1977, knowing it would fail, so that he could file a lawsuit in 2009 - but Lost isn't really a show about characters marooned on an island after a plane crash; it's a show about time travel and destiny and the big questions that you can only really address successfully in science fiction that just happens to feature people whose plane crashed on an island. Which may or may not be an island after all. Unless Spinner can show that that's what his show was always going to be, his Lost will, at most, be an awkward footnote in the history of our favorite island drama.