The first time the “Lost” team attended the William S. Paley Television Festival was March 12, 2005.
I vaguely remember that night because I was covering that packed panel, held at the Director’s Guild Theatre.
One couple at the show’s triumphant return to PaleyFest on Saturday (Feb. 27) night has an even better reason to remember that evening. They met standing in line for the 2005 event and, five years later, they’re married.
After the audience emitted the requisite choruses of “Awwww!” and “Whooo!” “Lost” executive producer Carlton Cuse looked out at the woman and her husband and paused.
“I’m a little worried about what happens to you guys after May 23,” he cracked.
Cuse, who I’m pretty sure was the only “Lost” representative to sit on both Paley panels, was kidding. Or maybe he was two-thirds kidding. Or possibly he was dead serious, but if he wasn’t speaking in jest, the “you guys” in question could either refer to the relatively newlyweds, or else to the nearly 1900 fans who filled the Saban Theater on Saturday, many of whom were lined up around the block hours before and many of whom tweeted every second of the festivities.
I’m a little worried what happens to *all* of us guys after May 23, when “Lost” poses its last questions, delivers its final answers and wraps up its narrative in what nobody expects to be a neat and orderly package. In the interim, though, the show delivered a lengthy and entertaining PaleyFest2010 Q&A for the eager faithful.
[A full-ish report on the “Lost” panel from PaleyFest2010 will be after the break. In true “Lost” fashion, there are spoilers, but I figure they’re vague enough not to offend most readers…]
Moderating the Saturday panel was comedian and self-professed geek Paul Scheer of “The League,” who seemed random initially, but ended up being a fairly inspired choice. Rather than reairing a recent episode before the panel — no “Lost” fan honestly could have expected to be treated to a new episode — we began with a very brief clip from next week’s episode (I’ll let other people spoil it for you if they need to) and transitioned immediately into an epic wave of questions from both Scheer and the audience filling nearly two hours, making this longer and probably more in-depth than any “Lost” panel I’ve attended, including TCA and Comic-Con.
Because Cuse and partner-in-crime Damon Lindelof are old pros at this sort of thing, they weren’t exactly tricked into saying anything they didn’t want to, but armed with a thick pile of queries generated via Twitter, e-mails and his own curiosity, Scheer got a fair measure of candidness and humor out of the available Losties.
One of the things that was most notable, at least for me, was the increased level of inclusion. Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly and Josh Holloway and, in fact, most of the original core cast were absent, with Terry O’Quinn as the lone original cast member (joined on Saturday by Zuleikha Robinson, Michael Emerson and Nestor Carbonell) available. This may be related to production wrapping on Episode 14 yesterday and moving straight into shooting on Episode 15, but it may also be related to the not-unreasonable notion that it’s nice to bring in fresher faces to events like this, especially people like Emmerson, whose round of applause from the crowd surpassed even Cuse and Lindelof.
That spirit carried over to the creative team as well. While Cuse and Lindelof are widely viewed as the masterminds and dedicated secret-keepers on “Lost,” Saturday saw ample time dedicated to executive producer, director and on-the-ground guardian Jack Bender, plus writer-producers Elizabeth Sarnoff, Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis, who chipped in many of the night’s finer punchlines.
“I think what’s really cool about the process, certainly in the writers’ room, is that it functions in a lot of ways more like a jury room,” Lindelof said (“Or a Star Chamber,” added Cuse). “At any given time, suddenly you’re Henry F***ing Fonda and you’re trying to make your case for something, but we all have different opinions about things.”
He added, “We try to become fans and every idea is challenged over and over again.”
Right now, the material that’s being challenged in that jury room comes from the series finale which will air, as I mentioned earlier, on May 23.
And they know there’s a wee bit of pressure.
“Season One and Season Two, people were like, ‘Are you going to answer this? Are you gonna tell me? Are you gonna show the smoke monster again?'” Kitsis recalled. “Now, the thing I get most of all is, ‘Just don’t screw it up.”
But the fact is, some questions are going to be answered in the two hour finale and some simply won’t.
“There’s a lot of little questioned that unfortunately we just don’t have time to answer in the amount of time that we have left,” Cuse said. “Ultimately, the way we look at it is that if the characters don’t care about that question, then we as storytellers don’t care about that question. So, for instance, we’re not going to stop in the finale and explain who the economist was who Sayid shot on the golf course.”
Added Lindelof, “It’s more a choice for us of how to tell a story than it is whether it is to tell it at all. And now that we’re breaking the finale, we’re not at all having the experience of ‘Oh my God, we forgot to do *this*. We’re big fans of the show ‘Top Chef.’ Those guys all run through Whole Foods and they have to pull all of this stuff down, they have to get stuff they might not use in the dish. When they get to the kitchen they have to decide whether or not they’re going to use it. Our process is kinda the same.”
While Cuse and Lindelof remained the dominant figures on the panel, on multiple occasions they kicked questions or credit for a particular piece of inspiration over to Sarnoff, Kitsis and Horowitz. This prompted discussion of the show’s history of pairing writers on scripts.
“I think it’s great, particularly on this show, where it’s so hard to remember anything that ever happened,” Sarnoff said. “There’s somebody there to back you up. And television works so quickly that it’s great. And we’ve had had so many great writers on the show, so it’s been a really nice experience to write with people. You feel less alone, which is nice, because writing is ultimately a very lonely thing.”
When May 23 rolls around, the “Lost” writers plan on doing a different lonely thing, specifically stepping back and not conducting interviews to over-explain whatever they end up doing.
“We feel like the show should stand on its own,” Cuse said. “We’re actually not going to comment on the show after the finale. We want everybody to basically be able to continue the dialogue… and we don’t think it’s really appropriate for us to say, ‘Oh, here’s the official definition for what we meant by any particular moment of the show.’ We want ‘Lost’ to live as this organic entity and we feel like we’re going to do the best written account of the finale, we’re going to put it out there and then we’re going to let everybody have time to digest and we’re not going to say, ‘This is what it’s all about.'”
Mostly, of course, the Paley event was a celebration of both “Lost” and the fans of “Lost,” as Lindelof put it, “We have to respect that the audience is infinitely smarter than us. And they’ve proven to be.
Let’s do a quick rundown of a few spoilers/teases for what’s coming up in the series’ last 13 hours. Obviously, skip over the next pile of bullet points if you want to keep your “Lost” brain virginal, though what was revealed at PaleyFest had, at least to some degree, been leaked previously.
*** Remember the Hurley Bird? Big ugly things that seemed to shriek Hurley’s name as they dive-bomed the castaways? “That’s on our list of things to explain,” the producers said.
*** Charlie will be seen again, in some capacity.
*** Vincent will be seen again, in some capacity. [The producers have been promising us the return of Vincent for years. We’ll believe it when we see him.]
*** Lance Reddick’s Matthew Abaddon, however, will not be back.
*** But Libby’s gonna be back (as we know) and there will be some answers regarding her relationship with Hurley.
*** We’re going to learn soon if, in the Sideways flashes, Desmond changed seats on the flight, or if he disappeared.
*** In the Sideways world, Jack’s baby mama was somebody we’ve seen before. [Not sure why that was notable, but presumably we’re going to learn who, though all bets seem to be on either Julie Bowen’s Sarah or Elizabeth Mitchell’s Juliet.]
*** Asked his favorite moment, Carbonell replied, “To me, it was finally finding out who the hell I am.” Yes, we’re going to get a Richard Alpert backstory of some sort. Regarding what he learned, Carbonell would only say, “It was bizarre and I can’t say anything more than that,” while Lindelof teased that “Ilana and Richard will say things to each other and about each other.”
*** The “Lost” producers have always been candid about how Malcolm David Kelley’s growth spurt derailed Walt’s involvement in the show’s grander mythos, but Lindelof teased “We are working on a way to bring Walt back before ‘Lost’ is all said and done.”
The panel wasn’t all spoilers and non-answers about the finale. There were also some intriguing and hilarious asides and gags.
Some other highlights from the PaleyFest2010 “Lost” panel:
*** There has been unfounded speculation that Disney may jettison Tom Sawyer Island for a “Lost” ride. Naturally, the “Lost” team had opinions on what that would entail. Emerson suggested, “I think there should be a wild ride on a VW bus, with a distracted Hurley at the wheel.” Lindelof, though, said, “Just put people in a black room, spin them around and punch them in the face and tell them ‘You just had the ‘Lost’ experience.'”
*** Carbonell got one of the biggest laughs of the night with a total toss-off, as he mentioned the dangers of flash rainstorms, which include washing off your makeup and causing your guyliner to run.
*** One of Scheer’s best moments came when Bender described Alan Dale’s confusion with the mysteries of his role. Bender recalled, “Alan Dale said to me, ‘What the f*** am I doing on this show?'” to which Scheer added, “To be fair, he also said that when he was on ‘The O.C.'”
*** There have been rumors that O’Quinn is attempting to pitch a new, unrelated series with Emerson. The two have terrific chemistry and clear respect, but O’Quinn opted not to comment on the project. Emerson, however, said “It is a thing we might do on a street corner. Or in a church basement. But with an idea that we’ll eventually move it closer to Broadway.”
*** Given his character’s history of abuse at the hands of other characters on the show, Emerson was asked which of his co-stars punched the best. He replied, “The younger the actor, the more inflamed the performance, the more likely they are to hurt you.” Make of that what you will.
*** Regarding characters getting backstory episodes and suddenly learning everything about themselves, Lindelof interjected “For the record, I’m 36 years old and I’d love to get a script that tells me who the hell I am.”
*** Scheer raised the point that Kitsis and Horowitz have been working together for years, but don’t have a quippy “Cuselof” or “Darlton” nickname. Kitsis noted, “I didn’t know people knew we existed. Name us and we’ll send you a t-shirt.
*** Kitsis also told us about the concept of the “Lost” s*** fairies. That refers to any time they’re up late into the night breaking a script and when they leave they decide it was brilliant, only to come in the next morning and see that it wasn’t good at all. Turns out that this isn’t their fault. The s*** fairies sneak in overnight and ruin those scripts.
*** Lindelof told the audience that Santa Claus isn’t real. I have no interest in explaining the context. It’s probably funnier in a vacuum.
*** Paley Festival events are always preceded by a selection from the Paley Center’s television archives with some tie to the show being paneled. In this case, it was the opening to the “Time and Punishment” segment of “Treehouse of Horror V,” featuring Homer going back in time with the help of a broken toaster. Classic.
Stay tuned to HitFix for more coverage from PaleyFest2010…