Behind the Secrets of 'Lost'

When we do we have to go in and explain to them how it's going to pay off. Our rule has always been when we introduce a mystery on the show we have to know what the answer to that mystery is. So if a polar bear comes running out of the jungle in the pilot we had to have a conversation of OK, where did this polar bear potentially come from? Is it a figment of Walt's mind, did he manifest it from the comic book? Then we have to know that. Or is it a remnant of a Dharma Initiative experiment? We have to know that in order to know what role the polar bear is going to conform to.

ABRAMS: The fact is it's a weird show and the network is remarkably supportive of what we do. To a point where it's like shocking sometimes. There are moments when things are pitched that they kind of get reluctant to commit to or they want us to reconsider. Usually those are moments that end up being things that they end up sort of celebrating later and agree that it worked well. The point is it's a collaboration and it's always in negotiation. But it's been incredibly fruitful I think for everyone.

TAPPER: You talk about network executives being a litmus test and I wonder if it's because you have the writers --I imagine very well read, trying to push the envelope, always looking to do something unusual -- and maybe, although I certainly wouldn't say that anybody at ABC is not well read but maybe there's a little bit more of an audience feel to the people that you have to sell the stuff to.

CUSE: Absolutely. The process of making the show is sort of a, you know, it's a remarkably insular one. We sit down there -- 10 writers in total including Damon and myself and J.J. -- and we create ideas and stories for this show and we all can get very excited about things. But then you bounce them off somebody else and you see OK, did we go too far? Are we unfolding the mythology too quickly? Are we making the kind of choices that are going to confuse the audience?

LINDELOF: And it's not about who is right or who is wrong. It's more a matter of checks and balances. There have to be Democrats and Republicans. There has to be a Supreme Court to watch over the executive branch or else you have complete and total autonomy and the reality is, is sometimes we'll have a whacky idea and then we self edit. We'll look at each other and go, "OK, that's awesome. How the hell are we going to sell it to the network?" And then you have to sort of reverse engineer the idea so that it's a little more palatable.

It's almost like you have to get it by them. They are a goalie in many ways. But everybody has the same goal which is for people to love the show and as wide of an audience as possible to enjoy the show.

CUSE: And for us the goal is to always try to be bold in our storytelling choices. I think when "Lost" is going to fail is when it gets boring and banal and bland. And so by making bold story choices we run the risk of falling on our faces. We're all kind of geared to being ambitious, and if we're going to fail let's fail on that side of the equation.

LINDELOF: Yes, our goal is if we can't end spectacularly at least we'll fail spectacularly. Nobody wants to go out with a fizzle.

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