Lost a Decade Later: How Television Consumption Has Changed

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Lost aired its final episode ten years ago. I remember watching it live, in the dark, with my sister and my best bud next to me on the couch.

When the show finally came to a close, there was about a minute of silence. We would each come to our own feelings on the finale, but what sat with me the most in those immediate moments was that Lost was, well, over.

Television was different back then.

Sideways Hugo

Lost was with me throughout my teen years, ending its run mere days after my high school graduation. Due to how the show aired, it was a near-constant part of my life.

Mostly airing between September and May, the show aligned perfectly with the school year. One night a week was dedicated to watching Lost, but that was merely the launch point.

For my friends and I, the day before airing was dedicated to predicting what we thought would happen, and the day after dedicated to discussing how wrong we were.

The days in between were spent with random theories or character beats whenever they popped into our heads, and with late-night reruns playing while we studied for exams.

Over the entire school year, Lost spent as much time with me as many of my friends did. It brought us closer together through our shared love and frustration of the series, and it became a steady part of our lives.

A Shared Reaction

And then it was over.

A staple part of my life was just gone. Discussions fizzled out. Different shows started playing in the background.

Lost was gone, but television continued to grow.

What would come to television in the 2010s was unprecedented, with excellent series after excellent series just pouring out onto our screens, and in so many forms!

There were mini-series, anthology series, shows that debuted on streaming services with entire seasons dropped all at once, and of course, networks and cable continued to churn out shows.

Fake Family

With all of these new forms of television, I waited for another show to once again settle into my life — but it never did.

And as I see what television has become, I don’t think I will ever have another show like Lost.

Shows aren’t as constant anymore. They come in bursts.

It’s an event when Stranger Things comes back onto Netflix. I can’t get away from the news that it is returning, and I see the promotional materials popping up on my social media at every turn.

When the season finally releases, the buzz is everywhere in the immediate aftermath, with theories and character opinions flooding the net.

Desmond Pic

And then it’s all just gone, and the next show is getting promoted.

The first three seasons of Lost aired for most of the year, and the final few seasons aired over periods of about five months. The show had time to settle into the routines of our lives -- to become a steady friend.

In many cases, television has gone from being a steady friend to becoming more like a vacation period -- incredibly exciting but gone too soon.

Even shows that still air weekly fall into this trend. With shorter episode counts being more common, ten weeks of Better Call Saul is all you get. Here in an instant, gone in a flash.

It could be gone for a long time, too, as yearly seasons are no longer standard practice.

Sideways Characters Collide

I don’t believe this has hurt television as a medium in any significant way; if anything, these new practices have enhanced the storytelling.

Shorter seasons are much easier to manage for everyone involved in producing the shows; writers have the time to nail down their stories, and actors have the time to pursue other projects. The shorter seasons also allow for consistent airing schedules.

Back in the Lost days, you had to do research just to know when the show would drop its next new episode. Network scheduling was incredibly sporadic. 

It was frustrating, but it did keep the shows around and in our heads for a much larger portion of the year.

Now, instead of new shows having a constant presence in our lives, we have a constant presence of new shows.

Still Sunny

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall -- doesn’t matter anymore. TV season is every season. New shows premiere throughout the year, and we can watch them at any time.

Thursday night primetime? I worked hard today; I’ll just record it and watch it tomorrow.

It’s standard for others to pick up shows days or even years after you've watched them, and in many cases, they can binge them all at once. People have experienced six years of Lost in a matter of days.

Television is anytime, anywhere nowadays, with a new suggestion on your feed just as quickly as you finished watching your last one.

These advancements in television are incredible. It’s a beautiful thing that everyone can watch TV how and when they want and at their own pace. 

Alive Sayid

There is more content to share, which means more opportunities to connect, and the quality of the stories being told has undoubtedly risen.

Shows still act as social catalysts and create friendships -- it’s just different now.

We still discuss, we still hypothesize, and we still love our favorite series -- we just do it over a much quicker period.

I’m not saying one of these ways is better than the other; I love shorter seasons, and I love consistent scheduling. 

But I miss the discussion that surrounded Lost for five to nine months at a time and that shared experience of everyone going in blind. With people watching shows at different times, that shared mystery is gone.

Aaron's Moms

The closest I’ve seen to that old school consumption methodology was Game of Thrones. It aired week to week. People held gatherings; the hype was real.

For me, though, it still felt like such a short chunk time. Game of Thrones was everywhere for the ten weeks it aired, then gone, and while the ending will stick in many viewers' heads and get discussed on many discussion threads for years to come, it's easy to just hit play and go on to the next series to ease your pain.

The odds are that whatever you choose to watch next will be a heck of a series, too. There has been an insane number of great shows the past decade, with many of them owing some part of their success to shorter schedules, streaming services, and the flexibility consumers have had to find them.

I’ve watched a lot of shows since Lost, and while I’ve occasionally been sad to see some conclude, I haven’t felt that same sense of loss since May 23, 2010.

The New Jacob

For much of 2004-2010, Lost was in season, prompting discussion, bringing us closer, and giving us something to look forward to -- together. The scheduling may have been inconsistent, but the series itself was a consistent part of our lives.

My sister, my best bud, and I shared that silence because we realized that we were leaving that part of our lives behind. 

Little did we know we were about to leave that particular era of television consumption behind us, as well.

Tommy Czerpak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Lost Quotes

Find a suitcase. If there's anything you want in this life, pack it in there, because you're never coming back.

Ben [to Jack]

Why there is a dead Pakistani on my couch?

Hurley's mom