Lost: The Complete Third Season

Now that everything that’s ever been on television is available for perusal, the critical knives against a serialised narrative come out faster and more vehemently than ever before. Having been burned in the past by seven years of X-Files and disappointed by two of Twin Peaks, eager bloggers pounce on signs of creative lag like panthers. But as this third season DVD of an ambitious and potentially groundbreaking series showcases, if producers tap into that ongoing debate with an open mind, they can actually help shape the show for the better. Lost — plagued by swarming enthusiasts/sceptics from the outset — has been ridiculously overanalysed, to the point that it’s amazing the creators aren’t completely creatively paralysed. And as season three opened with a six-episode "mini-arc” (in large part determined by ABC’s production demands) that ignored many primary characters and seemed to wander aimlessly, many simply wrote off the show as a, ahem, lost cause. But as blog-savvy producers adjusted to that feedback (as the deaths of two hated newbie characters indicated), Lost pulled off a remarkable feat — it ended its third season with a game-changing about-face of brilliant, brain-twisting design. And although two-part finale "Through the Looking Glass” doesn’t contain a commentary track, the rest of the extras on this set are surprisingly revealing for a show that prides itself on the cagey protection of its secrets. The world of the "Others,” extra flashbacks, days spent on set, bloopers and deleted scenes are all quite revealing, but two stand out for their astuteness and willingness to be critical. The former is "The Lost Book Club,” which looks at the show’s literary fascinations, from Sawyer’s wordy explorations (Watership Down, unpublished Lost novel Bad Twin) to the obvious Steven King obsession, including the season three opener with "Other” Juliette defending Carrie as a book club selection. The latter, more critical perspective actually comes out during a handful of commentaries by actors and producer/creators — when the cages that house Sawyer and Kate first appear, co-creator Carlton Cruz comments that when he thinks about the fact that the two will be stuck in those cages for the next five TV hours, he understands why viewers were angry. That demonstration of both a sense of perspective and the show’s evident commitment to improvement (such as streamlining seasons down to 16 episodes a year, instead of season three’s massive 23) renews our faith that despite a couple of minor creative hiccups, hope is not lost. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)