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STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MSRP: $59.99

RATED: NR
RUNNING TIME: 1068 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Commentary by executive producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Bryan Burk on the pilot
• Commentary by executive producer Jack Bender, co-executive producer David Fury, and actor Terry O’Quinn on Walkabout
• Commentary by executive producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk and actor Dominic Monaghan on The Moth
• Commentary by executive producer Carlton Cuse, supervising producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and actors Maggie Grace and Ian Sommerhalder on Hearts and Minds
• The Genesis of Lost
• Designing a Disaster
• Before They Were Lost: personal stories and audition tapes
• Welcome to Oahu: The Making of the Pilot
• The Art of Matthew Fox
• Lost@ComiCon
• Lost: On Location
• On Set with Jimmy Kimmel
• Backstage with Driveshaft
• The Lost Flashbacks: Claire at the Airport, Sayid at the Airport
• 13 deleted scenes
• Bloopers from the set
• Salute to Lost at the Museum of Television and Radio’s 22nd Annual Paley Festival

There’s a new trend in television shows on DVD – the latest season is released before the new one starts airing. It helps new viewers catch up, and it’s really great for fans who want to gear up for the new year. It’s especially helpful for shows with tight continuity, like ABC’s smash hit Lost. It would be daunting to jump into the second season without knowing a thing that happened before, and after a year it’s easy for even regular viewers to forget just what the heck happened at the beginning of this twisty series.

Plus, it’s pretty nice that this is essentially the best TV on DVD set ever released.

THE FLICK

Many shows take time to warm up, to gel the characters and figure out what kind of story works. Lost is the opposite – the two hour pilot is easily the strongest episode of the first season, and possibly ranks with the all-time great network TV episodes.

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Meet Joe Black Man

Oceanic Air Flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles crashes on a remote desert island in the South Pacific, thousands of miles off course. The show drops us right into the action, as we meet our hero Jack waking up in a strange jungle. He sees a seemingly anomalous Labrador and follows him out to a tropical beach which has become a hellscape. Airplane wreckage is strewn everywhere, along with the bits and pieces of those who died and the stunned forms of the 47 other people who survived. For forty minutes director JJ Abrams plunges us into the terrifying aftermath of the crash. It’s some of the most intense TV ever.

As if it’s not bad enough for the 48 survivors that they’re stranded, they soon discover that they’re not trapped on just any old island – it’s a full fledged Jules Verne-style mysterious island, with polar bears wandering in the jungle, a mysterious repeating 16-year old SOS message in French and an unseen but huge – and deadly – monster stomping through the trees.

But all of the drama isn’t external. Each of the castaways carries a secret, and through often ingenious flashbacks we learn who these people are, and how they came to be on this particular flight. And as the season goes on we learn about the surprising connections they may share, as well as the darkness that they each carry with them.

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A scene from the 87 dollar remake of The Terminator.

The island mysteries could get old quickly, so what makes the show work is the richness of the characters. Lost is unlike almost any other TV drama – the characters were written to fit the actors that were cast. In fact some of the actors were cast and then had characters that didn’t appear in early drafts created just for them. And amazingly the casting is close to uniformly incredible. Actors you would never expect to deliver depth and humanity do so; actors you would have expected to dislike or be annoyed by quickly become favorites.

It’s a testament to the writers and the actors that a show with such a huge cast – there are fourteen leads – that there are so many characters who could be your favorite. There’s Jack, the heroic doctor who should be much more annoying than he is, especially when you consider that actor Matthew Fox was previously best known for his cancerous turn on Party of Five. There’s Kate, the bad girl, played by Evangeline Lilly with great intensity – especially since it’s her first major role. There’s Josh Holloway as Sawyer, the sexy Southern con-man who is not who he seems to be. Lord of the Rings star Dominick Monaghan is Charlie, a smack addict one-hit-wonder rock star. Naveen Andrews plays Sayid, a former Iraqi Republican Guard communications expert who was trained in brutal ways to facilitate communication. The Stepfather’s Terry O’Quinn is the slippery mystic and woodsman Locke. Daniel Dae-Kim and Yoon-jin Kim are Jin and Sun, a Korean couple divided from the rest of the survivors by a language barrier. Fan favorite Hurley is the comedic relief, played by Jorge Garcia. Siblings with a strange relationship Boone and Shannon are played by Ian Somerhalder and Maggie “The Fog remake” Grace. And finally there’s the uncomfortable father and son team of Michael and Walt, played by Oz’s Harold Perrinau and Malcolm David Kelly.

Phew. That’s a lot of people.

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The creepiest Mentos ad ever.

I was a passionate fan of the show during its first season. I tuned in to every episode and watched the mysteries unfold and the castaway’s tangled histories slowly be revealed. The show is rich with clues, and half the fun was discussing the little pieces of information that would be doled out in every episode. But by about the halfway point of the season, unrest settled in. The primetime TV schedule just isn’t that conducive to a serialized mystery. Lost would go into repeats for weeks at a time, often a month or more. The 24 episodes were stingily stretched over 8 months. The mysteries would become frustrating as a result – you would be intrigued one week, have to wait two weeks for a new episode, not get any information on what had last intrigued you, and then have to wait another two weeks for a new episode. I remembered that being a loyal Buffy fan was similar in the final seasons, as the storyline would be interrupted again and again by the network schedule. It turned out that Buffy seasons worked great as a whole, and I was hoping that Lost would be the same.

I’m happy to report that this is the case. One of the biggest complaints that I had was that the castaways seemed to accomplish little to nothing over the course of the season. How long would it take these jerks to get their act together and begin creating some sort of society? Watching the show in big chunks on DVD allows you to really feel that the season spans just one month on the island, which is the case, continuity-wise.

But it’s the obliteration of delays that makes the whole season work better as a story. Episodes that take leisurely detours away from the mysteries and tribulations of the island for character backstory feel much less like an imposition and more like a change-up in the pacing. On the other hand, experiencing the season in big chunks puts many of the flaws in bas relief – the mysteries feel almost arbitrary, and occasionally it’s hard not to get the impression that things are being made up as they go along (and the more you learn about the genesis and making of the show from the excellent bonus features, the more you realize that may well be very true).

The biggest problem, though, is how the show loses some focus as it goes along. Until one of the characters come up with the idea of building a raft, there’s nothing driving the island story forward. The characters are too caught up in daily business to start really investigating the strange elements that the audience is most interested in.

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"Kuato! No! Stay in there!"

Things pick up very significantly, though, and the season’s final third features some great stuff, especially a character death that is played quite unlike most other TV deaths – slow, lingering and without a feeling of hope, heroism or redemption.

Lost is completely engrossing entertainment, and it features a level of storytelling complexity that’s so rare in American television that I don’t know to what I could possibly compare it. In the 24 hours of episodes on this set, creators JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof and their writing staff and actors have created a world that I love being in. I hope that the next season of Lost, which starts September 21st, is as good as this astonishing first season.

9.0 out of 10

The Look

The show is presented in glorious widescreen, which is very, very nice. The transfer here is almost uniformly gorgeous. There are some moments where things get grainy, but the impression I am getting is that is the fault of the original print, as it looked like that on television. Still, most of the episodes are presented with crystal clarity, which could be too bad as now the cave sets look more like they came from an episode of Star Trek than ever.

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"Hey, Mister? You’ve got red on you."

9.4 out of 10

The Sound

Just watch any scene that flashes back to the plane crash. Listen to the noises the mysterious jungle monster makes. Hear thunder crashing all around your living room. There’s a wonderful, deep and active mix on this DVD, but one that never sacrifices the dialogue. After all, TV is just radio with pictures.

9.4 out of 10

The Goodies

Earlier I said that Lost Season One is the best TV on DVD set ever. This is where I explain that. The 24 episodes of the series are spread over six DVDs, and there’s a seventh disc devoted to extra features, including the most comprehensive behind the scenes documentaries I have ever seen on a TV show DVD.

Remember when a movie would come out on DVD and the features would be extensive and meaty? This is a throwback to that time before gussied-up EPKs were presented as special features. Disc Seven has so much on it that it took me two tries to get through it all.

The disc is divided up into three sections:

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"We’re live at the tenth annual Middle Earth Open."

Departure – The featurettes here essentially walk you from when the show was first conceived through the first public showing at last year’s San Diego Comicon. There’s fluff here, but no filler – Buena Vista and ABC seem very fully aware that this is a show that will live on long past its initial network run, and they’re taking the time this early on to forge a creation myth for the show. That’s not to say that I don’t believe what we’re told here, just that Lost‘s corporate parents are very much shaping our view of what the genesis of this show was. At any rate, the stuff here is very detailed, even if it’s all full of back patting (and why wouldn’t it be? The show’s a big hit and hasn’t been around long enough for anyone to get that pissed off).

The Departure section also has audition tapes for the castaways, as well as a look at Matthew Fox’s onset photography, which sucked less than I ever imagined. The only disappointment here is the fairly lame Lost@Comicon bit, which is pretty much nothing.

Tales From the Island - The real meaty part of this is Lost on Location, a number of behind the scenes/making of featurettes for various episodes. Lots of great information here. The clip of Jimmy Kimmel visiting the set is, like his show, retarded. Backstage with Driveshaft is a cute look at Charlie’s one hit, but it replicates information from elsewhere. Still, Lost on Location has a ton of stuff, redeeming this section.

Lost Revealed - This section is mostly never before seen clips. There’s The Lost Flashbacks, which contains two flashbacks cut from Exodus Part 2, the season finale. All of the flashbacks that episode showed the characters at the airport right before getting on that last flight – the two bits that got cut had Claire meeting the pilot and Sayid trying to buy a tie. It’s pretty obvious why these got cut, but many fans were looking forward to seeing the pilot, who is played by JJ Abrams regular Greg Grunberg.

There are more deleted scenes, which are again mildly illuminating but not compelling. You didn’t miss much when these were cut out, but there are some nice character moments. There’s also a blooper reel, which is actually fun. Many blooper reels suck – it’s not funny seeing people just forgetting their lines or cracking up. These bloopers are well chosen – good old fashioned people falling down, Dominic Monaghan cracking wise and funny reactions.

The disappointment in this section is Live From the Museum of Television and Radio, a panel discussion with most of the cast and the creators. It’s edited to hell, and the only thing you’ll get out of watching this is a sense of the camaraderie among the actors. Which, for fans, is a cool thing to see.

All of these sections include a "Play All" option (as do each of the discs), which is nice.

There are some commentaries on select episodes. The two hour pilot has the best stuff, and the commentary actually is longer than the episode. At times JJ Abrams asks to stop the film and we see behind the scenes footage as he continues to talk about one specific shot or choice. It’s a very good commentary.

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United Castaways of Benetton.

The other commentaries are fine, but my one complaint is that there are not enough of them. I got the impression that these commentaries were recording while the first season was being filmed – the actors are all beamed in from Hawaii. That would explain why none of the great later episodes have commentary. Still, much of the cast is underrepresented.

The previous record holder for Best TV on DVD Set was Shout Factory’s release of Freaks & Geeks. That set had commentaries – sometimes multiple commentaries! – on every single episode. While Lost can’t match that, the sheer volume of the features on Disc 7 takes it over the top. The fact that these features will actually leave you with real information and not just keep you mildly entertained is what seals the deal.

9.5 out of 10

The Art

The case is housed in a slipcover, and when the cover is on, things look really nice. But once you have the case out, the DVD case is just three images stripped together. The color scheme of grey is a touch weirdly industrial.

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Oh, what a feeling! When we’re dancing on the ceiling!

A note on the case itself – the DVDs are in that newfangled case where two discs are placed on top of one another, which looks nice, but when you want to get the back disc out you have to take the front disc as well. It’s not like you’re losing a limb or something, but it’s annoying.

8.8 out of 10 

9.1 out of 10