That deflating (for me, at least) ending aside, you can't argue Lost's status as a TV phenomenon during its run. The show was a massive hit, drawing an average of more than 10 million viewers in each of its six seasons and inspiring one of the most passionate and scrutinizing fanbases in recent memory. The success of Lost had a number of impacts on Hollywood, but one of the biggest was the rise of Damon Lindelof as a writing force. Since Lost, Lindelof's gone on to a lucrative screenwriting career and launched another successful TV series in The Leftovers for HBO. The success of Lost was a dream come true in the long run, but for Lindelof, the initial success of the show was actually something he calls a career low.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lindelof -- primed to launch Season 2 of The Leftovers -- was asked to describe the highest and lowest points of his career. The highest, for him, was the summer between the first and second seasons of Lost. He had a megahit show, he got married, and he took home an Emmy. It's kinda hard to top that. As for the lowest moment, it was what came before that high, when he realized that he was suddenly writing a hit show that he initially thought would end up as a cult hit that was only around for one season.
"That was when I was writing the first season of Lost after finishing the pilot. I had an idea in my head that we were going to make 13 episodes of a cult show. I was going to try to make the episodes as good as possible and then we would be canceled. Suddenly it became a phenomenon, and that did not feel good," Lindelof said. "The ratings were massive and the critical response to the show and the audience response was overwhelmingly positive, and those things made me feel more and more upset and isolated and stressed out."
Among the factors that kept Lindelof stressed: He was still running the show without Carlton Cuse, he was generating scripts every eight days, he was constantly traveling between California and Hawaii, and he was suddenly dealing with immensely high expectations.
"We were hearing ‘jumping the shark’ all the time in the first season. People were already saying it," he said. "They were saying, ‘If they do not answer this mystery satisfyingly, I’m going to be really pissed.’ And so there was all that pressure, and I hadn’t put any thought into any of those things as J.J. and I were writing the pilot, because there just wasn’t any time to doubt it."
Lindelof got through the hard times, though, and Lost remained a hit right up until its final, very debatable, moments. Lindelof remains successful in the wake of the show, and he's even gone back to TV, but his recollection of the early tensions while making Lost still serves as a cautionary tale that success comes with a price.