'It's the best show ever': how showing Lost to my kids made me love it anew

This article contains spoilers for a series that ended 11 years ago

It started with Heroes. We watched season one, then I said, “We’re just going to pretend there are no more seasons because they are not very good.”

“How does that happen?” the 13-year-old asked “Oh, all sorts of reasons,” I said. “For example, once they made the best television pilot of all time and everybody loved it. And then the show ended up just terrible.”

Immediate there was a clamour to watch “just the pilot”. And at the end of that startling, brilliant, plane-crashing, character-establishing, super-expensive 90 minutes, as they sat wide-eyed, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. Indeed, we were in for the entire six seasons, including that one where they all sit in cages eating fish biscuits while the scriptwriters try to figure out what the hell to do.

As a family (minus the big teen, who thinks anything made before 2016 is ancient history) we watched all 121 episodes of Lost, dished up one a night on weeknights, right through lockdowns two and three.

“Just think,” said the 11-year-old about halfway through season two, “You said this wasn’t going to be very good and it’s the best television show ever made!!” At this point, she was still convinced they were all in Walt’s comic book, not necessarily a worse idea than the way showrunners explained everything.

“Uh oh,” I said.

But, bit by bit, Lost sucked us back in.

Take away the hype, which the children had never seen; take away the nonsensical cliffhangers required by network advertisement breaks (sample dialogue from every single episode – Character: But why? Island Character: I can’t tell you that yet.

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Actually, if you can break free from your bourgeois expectations of “getting any of your questions answered” there is so much more fun in this show than I remembered.

Lost is a terrific character piece with some wonderfully developed love stories, some great timey-wimey stuff and, in Ben Linus, a glorious villain. (And in Charles Widmore a completely pointless villain. Still, always nice to see Jim from Neighbours).

A plane crash on a desert island beach sets the scene for six seasons.
A plane crash on a desert island beach sets the scene for six seasons. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy

Here is what we learned on our great Lost rewatch:

1) John Locke is annoying from the moment he first appears and, had he survived, would have totally gone full Q-Anon. Few are the characters more irritating as pass-agg woodsmen than they are as a murdering smoke monster.

2) As we had to point out to the children, it’s a glaring omission that there are no gay people in Lost. No, not even Daniel. All the men are given a blonde at the end, except for Jack who gets a super-hot brunette, because he’s, like, complex. That’s even before we get to poor old “Special Walt”, binned because the actor dared to grow up.

3) Speaking of growing, while it is salutary that the women stay Hollywood stick-insect thin throughout, by about season three the men are over the vests and get adorable non-desert-islandy paunches.

4) The children cottoned on immediately to one truth I had missed first time round: Hurley is the full-on star of this show, and all his episodes are the best ones, #theresnosuchthingsasthekoreanwar

5) Sun and Jin speaking Korean for six years and breaking out the English only as they are dying is disappointing. Also Sawyer shouldn’t have called Jin Chewbacca, even if it was a bit funny at the time.

6) Never, ever let Juliette anywhere near you if there’s anything wrong with you, she’s a sucky doctor.

7) I had no patience for Desmond “helllooorgh brrrrrutthheerrr” Hume the first time round – but adored him the second, simply because the children did, spotting very early on his angelic nature shining out from every frame. I hope that lovely actor isn’t still just waiting for the day David Tennant actually turns down a part.

8) Fanfic was only really getting started in the 00s and quite a lot of it came out of this show. But, it turns out, if hurt/comfort is your fanfic genre of choice, boy, is this the show for you. Someone gets stabbed and stitched up tenderly while making attractive wincing faces roughly every 15 minutes.

9) There has never been a character forgiven for killing and torturing so many people simply because he is totally dreamy as Sayid. He also gets a blonde at the end, as opposed to Nadia, the Iraqi woman he crossed the world and for whom he risked everything. Hey ho.

Totally Lost … Jenny Colgan’s children with the Dharma mugs they got for Christmas.

10) CJ Cregg is in it! I know, you’d forgotten.

11) Nobody is remotely impressed enough that in every single iteration of past, present, future and sideways time, Miles can hear the dead! He can hear the dead! Nobody else gets superpowers but Miles can hear the dead!!!!!!!!! Everyone takes this completely for granted. What a waste of a spin-off series opportunity.

12) The children were delighted that after divorcing that plank of wood Jack, the same actor, Julie Bowen, went on to marry Phil Dunphy in Modern Family, whom they adore and considered a much better prospect.

13) Re: the finale that ruined everything. Yeah, of course they should have gone Garden of Eden, but if you’re not expecting answers (or Michael) this time around, it’s actually rather lovely: the idea that when you die, you walk among those who touched you in life. Even if the drunken horrible father (“Christian Shepherd”, hidden symbolism fans) gets something of a free pass. And it would be a more cynical family than ours that didn’t let out a great cheer when Vincent makes his final appearance.

At the end I asked the children what they liked best about the show.

F, 13: “The character development. Like, to begin with, Jack was really caring and helped everyone, then he just got really annoying for no reason.”

Me: OK, fair point.

D, 11: “I liked that they are all so lucky they get to go to a magical island! And then they get really confused, and most of them are dead! But! Kate and Sawyer aren’t!”

Somewhere around the end of season five (the 70s one), my husband and I realised we had lost track of what was happening and I checked the transmission date.

Sure enough, it was May 2009. And the girl who had cuddled up next to me every night of lockdown – who had developed an unswerving devotion to Charlie that withstood even repeated exposure to his awful song You All Everybody, that showed us you shouldn’t write off an entire TV show made with love and passion and commitment just because it didn’t specifically please your precise needs at the time – well, that was the month she was born, so we’d definitely missed a bit. Turns out, she was our constant all along.

Lost comes to Disney+ on 23 February


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