Finding their way after Lost

Not leaving, no. Moving on.

Where are we going?

Let’s go find out.

It’s been three years since Lost went off the air. It came along at the same time social media gave us a way to interact across the globe in real time and gave rise to what we now call second screening. The show’s sprawling mysteries and rich character development fed perfectly into these new platforms. Fans took online communities to more engaged levels than any show previously, debating theories and sharing background information on things mentioned in the latest episodes. In that way Lost was probably the first truly social television show. Its serendipitous timing helped it create some amazing bonds with its viewers.

That worked out marvelously for ABC and the show itself while it was on the air. How has it worked out for the show’s stars since May 23, 2010? Have their careers continued to grow or have they sunk like poor Michael’s raft? The answer is mixed.

Some found new lives with new characters. Michael Emerson is killing it as secretive computer genius Harold Finch on Person of Interest; Daniel Dae Kim is doing just fine on CBS’s remake of Hawaii Five-0. Emilie de Ravin floated for a while before landing on Once Upon a Time, which is led by former Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Everyone’s favorite Scot, Henry Ian Cusick, found parts on Scandal, Fringe, The Mentalist and ABC’s recently canceled Body of Proof. Ian Somerhalder didn’t even make it to Exodus but will always be Boone, even though his star has risen on The Vampire Diaries.

Others (no pun intended) have roles in the works that could put them back on TV’s map. Naveen Andrews and Josh Holloway will be on CBS this fall. Holloway sans locks (again, no pun intended) as some kind of cyber cop in Intelligence, and Andrews opposite Stephen Lang in Reckless. Holloway improved as much as any of the actors who stayed with the show from start to finish so hopefully CBS is giving him something to work with. Andrews also has a huge role opposite Naomi Watts as Princess Diana’s lover, Dr. Hasnat Khan, in Diana, which will be released later this year.

Yunjin Kim, who doesn’t do much American work, co-stars with Alyssa Milano in ABC’s upcoming summer drama Mistresses. It’s hard to come to any conclusions about her post-Lost career because I simply don’t pay much attention to Korean entertainment.

A couple fan favorites landed roles on new shows that never made it beyond infancy. Jorge Garcia had a role in FOX’s Alcatraz in addition to three appearances on a Matthew Perry show you’ve never heard of. Terry O’Quinn starred in the short-lived 666 Park Avenue after appearing in 11 episodes of Hawaii Five-0 with Daniel Dae Kim. Elizabeth Mitchell did V and now co-stars in Revolution. Dominic Monaghan’s post-Lost career still hasn’t taken off after Flash Forward was unfairly canceled.

Matthew Fox tried his hand at a movie before Lost was even over. Since The End his most notable work has been the freakish way he transformed his body for the Alex Cross movie, not his role opposite Tommy Lee Jones in some World War II movie. He’s also in World War Z, a zombie movie. Yikes.

Evangeline Lilly is a face for L’Oreal Paris but her only acting work has been in The Hobbit, which she began just three months after giving birth.

This is surprising and probably disappointing to a lot of us who still want to see our favorite stars every week. I think the way we expect actors to move from one successful show right into another ignores how difficult it is to find success in Hollywood. Networks just finished announcing their fall lineups full of new shows that will most likely fail or sputter for a season or two before being put to sleep. Few will make it beyond that and fewer still will become legitimate hits. To expect this handful of actors to be in those few shows is asking lightning to strike twice.

I also have to wonder how much their strong identification with one character might hurt them. O’Quinn did well on 666 Park but will we ever see him as anyone other than John Locke? To his credit, Michael Emerson plays his character so well on Person of Interest that I rarely think of Ben Linus. (Much of that is probably due to his character’s limp.) It’s a sort of catastrophic success unique to Hollywood: Being so good at your job that no one can forget it. Time will tell if Josh Holloway can make us forget Sawyer or if Evangeline Lilly’s freckles will always make us think of Kate.

As Lost’s stars find new roles, on television or the big screen, they will find a dedicated portion of their new viewers who look quite familiar, thinking back and smiling at the show they shared together, with a simple message:

We’ve been waiting for you.

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It’s Complicated

Let’s talk about relationships.

I inadvertently created quite a stir the other day when I set my Facebook relationship status as single.  Readers bombarded me with questions, but there’s no story to tell.  I was going through the profile settings, setting my hometown, adding siblings, etc and the relationship status was there, too, so I set it to what it is, which is single.  Simple as that.  Everybody just calm down.

But I am coming off a long relationship. Six years, in fact.  Great years.  Its end is still fresh, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to make that level of a commitment again, if ever.

I’m referring to TV, of course.  This isn’t the time or place to rehash my feelings about the way Lost ended.  But the end of one relationship naturally leads to thoughts about the next one, so the question is posed: Will I ever be as into another television show as I was into Lost?

I got to thinking about this when a co-worker sent me a link to the trailer for one of NBC’s new fall dramas titled “The Event.”  It is a great preview, but my first reaction was, “Maybe if it were a movie I’d watch. I don’t know if I want to be strung along for another six years again.”  I tried starting a new TV relationship even before Lost went off the air. (That’s okay to do in television show relationships because TV shows aren’t people who have feelings.) I became a fan of ABC’s Flash Forward, but the network yanked it away after its only season.  Really, I’m pretty much over that.  Fox has J.J. Abrams’s Fringe trying to reel me in, but it has been too up and down to want to give it any serious commitment of time and thought.  In Fringe’s case, we stick together because it can be fun sometimes, but if the show and I are honest with each other, neither of us is really excited about us being together.

Critics and people who get to see TV shows before the rest of us gave (cursed?) both of these shows – along with V and maybe one or two others – the tag of being a possible successor to Lost before they ever went on the air. None of them have been able to live up to it, but a classic relationship line may apply: It’s not you, it’s me.

Their failure may be the fault of viewers like me who aren’t ready to make a multi-season investment in a new TV show.  I’ll tell any network execs reading this that I am not in a place to watch one episode of a show and not learn what it was really about until four years later, as was sometimes the case with Lost.  I don’t expect “the event” to be revealed in the fifth episode of “The Event,” but I do expect to be told what the hell is going on in an upfront and honest way.  If the writers try to pull the same shady trickeries that Damon and Carlton did, I’m changing the channel before you can say women can’t have babies on the island.  Lost was that one that may only come along once in a lifetime.  As a viewer you recognize that and you commit to going that extra mile to stick with it.  Barely one month removed from its end, it’s hard to picture myself being willing to do that again.

All of that assumes that I even want a new long-term TV relationship.  Maybe I just want something nice, light and simple.  I watched an episode of Criminal Minds last week and you know what? I liked it. It entertained me. I might even watch it again, and if I still like it, I’ll watch it some more.  How do you like that?

Maybe Facebook is onto something when it lets you set your relationship status to “It’s complicated.”