Lost: this ban that embarrassed the whole team

Lost: this ban that embarrassed the whole team

The production of Lost was greatly impacted by a limitation imposed on it by the fact that it aired on US national television. Indeed, she was not allowed to say certain words, prohibited by US law.


The team of Lost, the disappeared, created by JJ Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof was confronted with a reality imposed by the TV channel which broadcast them and which weighed on the scriptwriters as well as the actors of the series.

In October 2020, at New York Comic-Conthe producer of the series Carlton Cuse confided what was this real limitation that impacted the series:

The only thing was on the dialogues. We felt a bit limited by the limited number of exclamatory words allowed by national television.

Indeed, national American channels such as NBC or (in the specific case of Lost) ABC have a very strict policy in terms of possible profanity and profanity on screen. Disseminating “obscene, vulgar or indecent” content is illegal between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.


The Castaways of Lost

The definition official vulgarity on US national television is complicated, because according to the Supreme Court, it concerns any “extremely offensive” language considered a public nuisance. A very broad definition, then.

“It’s funny because reading the scripts, they were full of insults, Cuse remembers. “Except we couldn’t say certain things on screen, so the funny thing is that we put them in the descriptions.”

Cuse gave an example to illustrate his point:

It could give: ‘Then they find a f***ing hatch, they are f***ing surprised and wonder what’s in this sea**’.

“We tried to convey the intensity [verbale] scenarios to our actors so that they convert this intensity knowing that they could only say ‘damn’ or ‘thin'”[damninVO)”[damnenVO)”


The creators of Lost have therefore composed with the very strict rules of the dialogues allowed on television, but also other obligations such as cliffhangers during the episode to keep the viewer in suspense during the numerous advertising breaks and a duration of the season including they would have gone well (25 episodes of 42 minutes for the first season or 23 in season 2).

Would the series have had a completely different tone on a platform or a cable channel with a freer tone and an ad-free format? We may one day have the answer if ABC launches a reboot!

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