'Lost' 10s: 10-plus shows to take the place of 'Lost'
One of the things I've been asked most frequently since we entered the home stretch of "Lost's" final season (and since it ended) is just which shows fans of "Lost" could pick up to perhaps fill the empty hole in their hearts. "Lost" was a show like none other in the way it cultivated a relationship with its fans, but it wasn't so perfect or anything that it will ruin you for all other television shows. Here's a rough list of 10 shows I really like that capture some of what makes "Lost" so special and might help you move past that show and on to some other things.
10.) "A Game of Thrones" (HBO) and "The Walking Dead" (AMC): Now, there are a number of genre-friendly shows coming up all around the programming guide -- including NBC's new show "The Event" and ABC's new "No Ordinary Family," both launching in the fall -- but "Game" and "Dead" are unique in that they're both based on existing properties I already enjoy. If "Game" can capture even a 10th of the political intrigue and exacting world-building of the series of fantasy novels it's based on, it'll be most genre fans' next big TV obsession, and if "Dead" can capture some of the enthralling pacing and bloody zombie action of the comic it's based on, it'll be literally like nothing else on TV.
How they're like "Lost": Both take big, high-concept ideas -- a political battle plays out in a fantasy kingdom sapped of its magic in the former and the dead, well, walk in the latter -- and ground them in well-drawn, evocative characters.
9.) "The Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "The Wire" (all HBO): Sure, these three shows are only on DVD now, but if you never caught them before now, this is the time to check them out. All three have ties to "Lost" in one way or another (the latter two even share recurring cast members with "Lost"), but all three also take the thrilling plot twists and sprawling storytelling of "Lost" and ground it in more realistic concerns. There's no Smoke Monster in any of them, but you do get just as good a sense of both the good and evil that men are capable of.
How they're like "Lost": One of the best things about "Lost" was its giant, intricately constructed world that viewers could get lost in. "The Sopranos'" New Jersey, "Deadwood's" 1870s South Dakota and "The Wire's" Baltimore are all just as big and just as perfectly constructed.
8.) "Community" (NBC): OK, yeah, this is a sitcom and not a twisty drama with science fiction and fantasy elements, but it has both made "Lost" references -- check out two of the characters riffing on Jacob and the Man in Black in the first season finale -- and created a sitcom world that has some superficial similarities to the Island. Greendale Community College isn't a magical place, but it still seems like pretty much anything can happen there at any time, and it's that sense of freewheeling mayhem that keeps the show as fresh and funny as "Lost" was unpredictable and unexpected.
How it's like "Lost": Where "Lost" took centuries of genre fiction and tossed it in a blender set to puree, "Community" takes the last 50 years of the sitcom and every pop culture reference imaginable and blends them just as finely.
7.) "Dexter" (Showtime): It seems like everyone who watches "Lost" watches "Dexter" already, but if you haven't gotten on board with this show yet, then this is the time to do so. "Dexter" can be kind of messy -- sometimes, it seems like the show's writers forget the main character isn't a bumbling, goofy dad who just happens to kill people and is, instead, a very disturbed individual -- but when everything comes together and the story starts to click, there are very few shows like it on TV. Plus, it's one of the few shows out there that can actually be scarier than "Lost."
How it's like "Lost": You know that feeling you'd get as "Lost" plunged pell-mell toward a finale where it was going to pull together a bunch of story threads that didn't seem to fit together? "Dexter" is the only other show on the dial that can pull off that feeling of simultaneously being under perfect control and flying off the tracks.
6.) "The Good Wife" (CBS) and "Glee" (Fox): Hear me out here. If you watched "Lost" for the character relationships and didn't care one whit about the mysteries -- and there are some of you out there -- then there are few shows, particularly on network, that are going to give you as much satisfaction as "The Good Wife." Sure, some of the legal procedural stuff can be kind of boring and poorly plotted, but the character work is often phenomenal, as evidenced by the way that Julianna Marguiles' Alicia Florrick slowly journeys from a wife who is forced to forgive her husband to a woman who's grown her own spine in record time. And if you were watching for the sheer originality of what the show was trying to do, well, "Glee," which also doesn't seem like a natural fit for "Lost" fans, has got you covered. It has fun characters, insane plotting and musical numbers (something "Lost" was sorely lacking in).
How it's like "Lost": You know the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle and how it was kind of stupid? Well, "The Good Wife" actually knows how to pull off a compelling love triangle, where both men vying for our leading lady's affection have their good and bad points. And just like on "Lost," every character on "Glee" can be boiled down to an adjective and a noun.
5.) "Mad Men" (AMC): Did you complain about "Lost" being slow-moving? Then you should probably just skip to item No. 4, because "Mad Men" is going to make "Lost" feel like a cheetah that's somehow learned to drive a race car in comparison. If you can get into "Mad Men's" rhythms, though, there's really nothing else like it on TV for compelling characters, fidelity to the world it has created and plotting that comes ever-so-slowly together until you look back at where the season started and where it ended up and marvel at how far you've come.
How it's like "Lost": One of the best things about "Lost" was the way it felt like if you landed on the Island, there would be so much more to explore than what was shown to you on the show from week to week. The same can be said of "Mad Men's" vision of the 1960s, which feels like the '60s we're familiar with but also feels just slightly classier and enveloping than the real thing.
4.) "The Passage" (novel): I know, I know. Who wants to read? Well, when it's a book that's starting a new, fun series about a post-apocalyptic world where vampires run amok and humanity's last, best hope stumbles across a small encampment of people relying on century-old batteries. With its intricately constructed world, big action sequences, nicely drawn characters and promise of even more thrills to come in subsequent books, "The Passage," written by Justin Cronin and out June 8, is about as good a first novel in a series of novels as you could ask for. (Or if your tastes run more toward fantasy, try Patrick Rothfus' "The Name of the Wind," which has a sequel following it later this year.)
How it's like "Lost": "The Passage" features long sections that function almost as flashbacks into the lives of its characters, making them psychologically richer for when they head out into the wasteland to fight vampires.
3.) "Caprica" (SyFy): Lots of "Lost" fans were also "Battlestar Galactica" fans, and hopefully, they've made the leap to this brainy, sci-fi soap opera as well. Not everything on "Caprica" works, but the show's sheer ambition and scope make it unlike most other televised science fiction programs, which tend to tell smaller stories that are easily closed off within an hour. "Caprica" is interested in what makes people people, even if they're virtual representations of themselves living in the Internet, and it's that big idea at its center that keeps the show humming along past some of the stupider stuff.
How it's like "Lost": Again, the scope of the show is similar to "Lost" in how much it tries to encompass, but the primary comparison point to the other series is in the way all of the characters are sharply drawn and recognizably human. They do stupid things, but you always believe they'd do them.
2.) "Fringe" (Fox): This is everybody's big pick for a "Lost" replacement. And it's easy to see why. One of its co-creators, J.J. Abrams, is also one of the co-creators of "Lost," and it involves an alternate universe that didn't turn out to be the afterlife. "Fringe" doesn't have the epic sweep of "Lost," but there are episodes when it feels like the show just might get there eventually, particularly in the back half of Season 2, when the show grew better at blending its standalone stories with its big tale of two universes colliding.
How it's like "Lost": Again, look at all of the superficial similarities. But even beyond that, the show bears the hallmark of Abrams' productions: characters that are easy to identify with almost immediately who gradually show their true colors as the show goes on.
1.) "Breaking Bad" (AMC): Tightly plotted and sharply constructed while based in terrific character work, "Breaking Bad" has been the only other show on TV these last few years where it's felt like pretty much anything could happen at any moment. Heck, the show even featured a major plot point where an unexpected plane disaster caused grief for many of the main characters. "Breaking Bad" isn't as huge as "Lost," but its Albuquerque feels a lot like the Island, where characters are connected in ways they don't even understand and some unseen force behind the scenes is dragging people into conflict with each other.
How it's like "Lost": "Breaking Bad" doesn't break up the time stream as liberally as "Lost" did, but with its frequent use of flashbacks and flash-forwards, the show has created a sense that everything that happens in its world is happening for a reason.
Five others that might cure your "Lost" jones: "Chuck" (NBC) has fun characters and goofy genre elements. "Human Target" (Fox) is slowly building a mythology to go with its cool action moments. "Justified" (FX) is a bit more of a standalone than "Lost" fans might like but is very well-written and acted. "Sons of Anarchy" (FX) is harder-edged than "Lost" but has lots of awesome moments and plot twists. "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW) can be absolutely, ridiculously stupid but also has moments of sheer fun.
Overrated "Lost" replacement: "True Blood" (HBO) is fun and all but also kind of shallow and stupid. It lacks the soul and verve of "Lost" at its best.
Underrated "Lost" replacement: "Twin Peaks" (ABC) and "The X-Files" (Fox) have both gotten a reputation as completely falling apart, but they're better than that reputation. Check them out on DVD and see what you think.
A personal note: This will be my last piece of "Lost" writing for the Show Tracker blog. It's been great fun, but it's probably time to give it a rest and let the show be for a while. If you absolutely, positively must have more "Lost" talk, you can hear me chatting about the show on this week's episodes of the podcasts AV Talk and TV on the Internet I'll also be appearing on a special edition of "Orientation: Ryan Station" sometime next week. Thanks again for putting up with me all this time, and I hope you enjoyed talking about the show with me as much as I did with you. Here's hoping I see you on another blog, brothas.
--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)
Photos: From top: The "Lost" gang was all ready to go on to the next life, but first, they got together in a church to watch the finale of "Rules of Engagement." (Credit: ABC) "Dexter" (starring Michael C. Hall as the title character) is a good show for "Lost" fans who enjoyed that show's plotting to move on to. (Credit: Showtime) "Fringe," starring Joshua Jackson, left, Anna Torv and John Noble, comes from "Lost" co-creator J.J. Abrams, among others. (Credit: Fox)