It’s hard to remember now, but Lost was once a television phenomenon like no other. The numbers, the hatch, and The Others enraptured millions from its 2004 pilot right up until the finale in 2010.
The common consensus is that adventures on the island ultimately ran out of steam in later, post-“We have to go back, Kate” years – but that wasn’t always the plan. Co-creator Damon Lindelof has opened up about the original outline for the ABC series, including a three-season run.
“There were all of these compelling mysteries and so we were saying, ‘We wanna have this stuff answered by the end of Season 1, this stuff answered by the end of Season 2, and then the show basically ends after about three years,’” Lindelof told Collider. “That was the initial pitch.”
But, in television, it’s never that simple. While Lindelof would later be able to stick to his desire for a shorter run in the three-season The Leftovers and just nine episodes of Watchmen with HBO, ABC pushed back.
“[ABC] were not even hearing it… they were just like, ‘Do you understand how hard it is to make a show that people want to watch? And people like the show? So why would we end it? You don’t end shows that people are watching.’”
Eventually, ABC allegedly agreed to set an end date for the show – but on its own terms: 10 seasons. That never came to pass, as Lindelof eventually reached a compromise during negotiations around Lost’s third season.
Lindelof was set on a longer fourth season to wrap the story up which still involved “a number of the characters” getting off the island and later returning for the final run. When ABC offered just nine episodes, the two parties settled on slightly shorter seasons up to season six, a marked departure compared to the 20-plus episode seasons we got in the show’s first two years.
Lost, for all its flaws and faults, remained entertaining right up until its divisive finale. The fact we’re talking about what could’ve been a decade on speaks to how popular the show still is. But maybe, just maybe, season 10 would have revealed the mystery of the polar bear. Now we'll never know...