The Reality of Writing a Television Show
The question has been asked many times in many ways. Fans have bombarded the air with accusations that the writers were “winging it” and had no idea where they were going.
I think it’s absolutely absurd to assume that Carlton and Damon knew EXACTLY what was going to happen from day 1. There are so many reasons why it is unfair to so harshly criticize these great writers for not making every detail gfit nicely into place. I’m going to write a larger post soon about internal (within the storyline) reasons for this but I’d like to jsut throw a few external (real-world) reasons out there since I’m kinda bored at work.
First off, when writing a Pilot for a television show, how do you know you’re even going to last? FYI, Carlton didn’t even write for the Pilot. JJ Abrams and Damon did the writing. JJ left after the first few episodes, so half the original writing team was not even there for 99% of the shows lifespan.
The biggest external reason, for me, is that when writing a great story, you sort of have to know how long it’s going to be to appropriately set-up introduction, climax, and resolution; a story arc. You have to know how much time you have to tell the story, which Lost writers DID NOT KNOW until late in the 3rd Season. Writers come and go, directors come and go, hell even ACTORS come and go. The actor who portrayed Mr Eko (sorry, can’t think of the name off the top of my head) wanted out of Hawaii; he hated it. So what are the writers supposed to do? Just let him disappear? By the time Eko died, he had had THREE centric episodes (including “The Cost of Living” when he died). They were clearly hoping to make Mr. Eko a central piece in the story. Actor wanted out, therefore character MUST go.. somehow. They did the best they could with the hand they were dealt. Another character/actor disadvantage was Walt. The entire time on the island through the first four/five seasons is a period of a few months (2004-2005). So a few months on-screen is 4-5 YEARS of real-time. “Walt’s actor” shot through puberty in that time, so how do you explain that on the island? You have to get him off, of course, and meet up with him in the future, if you’re going to ever see him again on the show; which is what they did.
The writers are not perfect and the show was not perfectly written. Damon and Carlton have come out (over time) and said the Egyptian references were “a mistake” because they went for an idea and weren’t able to come back to it in a way that explained it within the rest of the story. They admitted they were not able to come back to smaller things like the outrigger shooting, since doing so would mean lots of extra time explaining it and not being able to explain other things that were more important to the core of the story.
Did the writers know that the Man in Black and Jacob would be the rivalry in the end from the Pilot? No. They DID set-out to tell a story based on certain THEMES, like light versus dark. They knew they wanted, at some point, characters to represent those two sides in the end. The story evolved and unfolded over time, and I for one really loved it.
(more to come! maybe when I’m not looking over my shoulder for my boss..)