The Top 10 TV Shows Like "Lost"
Replacing the Irreplaceable? It's Worth a Shot...
With smoke monsters, time travel, ghostly apparitions, and a mysterious, ever-wandering tropical island, there's very little chance that we'll ever come across a television show quite like Lost ever again. I can honestly say that even if I wasn't a huge fan of its ending (don't get me started), the show — taken in as a whole — gave me one of the most delightfully addictive viewing experiences I've ever had in all my years in front of the boob tube. And now that it's gone, the real question is what is there to take its place?
Below I've compiled a list of several TV shows and miniseries which may help soothe the pain of your Lost withdrawal. Because while there may not ever be another Lost, there are certainly other fish in the sea that may have a somewhat similar enough feel to help fill the sad and lonely void which this glorious show left behind.
So enjoy, good luck, and namaste.
What's the Criteria Needed for a Show to Be Like "Lost"?
- Serialization: While television shows such as Star Trek, The X-Files, Fringe, and The Twilight Zone are all fantastic works of fantasy and science fiction, they are for the most part simply episodic "mystery of the week" shows. The main plot of an episode typically begins and ends in that episode. Serialized TV shows such as Lost, on the other hand, have one epic overarching storyline where each episode uses techniques such as cliffhangers to lead one episode directly to the next, like chapters of a novel. This type of story telling gives the entire series a movie-like feel and—when done right—always keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, desperately craving the next episode to come.
- An Ensemble Cast: The characters—we're going to need a bunch of 'em and they each need to be fleshed out, interconnected, and integral to the shows plot. Because while Lost wouldn't be the show we love without its creative mix of intriguing mysteries and mythologies, the series would be nothing if it weren't for the eclectic group of well-developed characters which gave us reason to care what happens in the story in the first place. Any show worthy of comparison must have a well-sized list of unique, dramatically varying characters of its own for us to get to know.
- Mysteries: With our characters now in place, we're going to need some good old fashion mysteries for them to get all mixed up in. It's not necessary that a show have quite as many mysteries as Lost had, but a few are going to be essential to keep us guessing, theorizing, and dying to get to the bottom of.
- Mythologies: Behind any epic fantasy and science fiction story is a well-constructed mythology, lurking just out of reach of each mystery we encounter. While we may spend the majority of our viewing time trying to work out all those individual mysteries on the way, it's the ultimate mythology that should tie everything together at the end.
- 5. Unique and Bizarre Worlds: Now we're not talking about planets here (although that's cool too) but simply strange, unconventional, and new environments that are located outside of the norm. They should ooze with mystery, the supernatural, the weird, and/or the unexplained. This can be as simple as a small, isolated town crowded with quirky and shady characters or as complex as a mystical island full of polar bears and murderous plumes of smoke. As long as it successfully helps us escape from the mundanes of reality into a new and unique world of fantasy then it'll work.
Does It Have to Be a TV Show?
As for whether or not addictive similar programming is restricted only to television shows, the short answer is probably.
Movies, while we all love 'em, are simply way too short to suck you in quite as well as a TV series or even a TV miniseries can (several minis, by the way, are included on the list below.) The more hours we invest in these shows, the more involved we become in the lives of their characters and their world. Just as with a novel, a series has the time to devote hours upon hours to character development, plots, and mythologies. While movies are great in their own way, they're unfortunately limited in this respect. So TV is more than likely the best way to go.
Admittedly, this is far from one of the greatest TV shows ever conceived; and for the most part it's nothing more than a dumbed down version of The X-Files. It consists of two pretty boy ghost hunters who involve themselves in monster of the week bore-fests which are clearly designed for randy tween girls who've yet to expand their horizons beyond the likes of the Twilight series. With that being said, the show does have its good points, such as a fantastic soundtrack and some downright hilarious (intentionally) moments.
But the real reason the show is getting a thumbs up recommendation is for its fifth season storyline which went beyond monsters of the week and into cool, mythological serial territory that's right up there with the greats (complete with an overarching storyline full of angels, demons, and some surprisingly engaging drama.) This 5th season was initially intended to be the last of the show, which is probably why they tried so hard to get it right. If the entire series would have been like this it most certainly would have been a much greater show than it was.
Unfortunately, after they decided to drag the series out beyond its fifth season, things went right back downhill—fast. Nevertheless, this one season was pure gold and highly recommended for any fan of fantasy and mythology in their shows.
9. "Storm of the Century"
In this creepy miniseries written by Stephen King, we have a group of people stranded in their little town, blocked off from all communication with the outside world due to a powerful, claustrophobia-inducing blizzard which has hit their area. If that wasn't bad enough, a mysterious stranger suddenly appears during this "storm of the century" who brutally murders one of the towns residents and appears to know all of the deepest, darkest secrets of all the citizens. His motives and history remain unknown, but the message he gives to all is a chilling one: "Give me what I want, and I'll go away."
Along with The Stand, this has to be one of the most well-made (and non-hokey) miniseries made from Stephen Kings writings. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Storm of the Century was specifically made to be filmed as opposed to being an adaptation from an already published novel. Whatever the case, the story is a pretty solid horror/mystery tale. The only real flaw is that there's not enough focus given on the varied assortment of characters. Not that there's none, but more would have been nice. All in all, it gets the job done.
8. "The Lost Room"
This forgotten Sci Fi Channel miniseries may have not been the most memorable thing to ever hit television screens but it was certainly a unique idea which brought a lot of captivating mysteries that were really fun to watch unfold. The show itself revolves around a mysterious 1960s motel room located outside of normal time and space. Every object from it brings strange supernatural powers to whoever possesses them.
With its quirky characters and repeated revelations of new special powers acquired due to the various objects from the room, the show was really more reminiscent of the show Heroes, It gets the recommendation due to the fun of the mystery of the room itself, which manages to hold your attention and keeps you wanting to know more of just what in the heck is going on.
7. "Twin Peaks"
In 1990, David Lynch, the acclaimed cult director of such weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, came along and brought us Twin Peaks. It was a hauntingly eccentric show about the ongoing investigation into the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer, whose corpse was found washed ashore "wrapped in plastic."
While it's hardly an epic in the classic sense, the mythologies, mysteries, and eccentric list of bizarre characters are all there. As an added bonus, we get some cool and eerie dream sequences with backward talking dwarfs and an atmosphere that's as surreal as it is intriguing.
After its first season the momentum (and quality) of the show died down a bit but it is nevertheless a show that begs to be seen.
6. "Steven Spielberg Presents Taken"
This 2002 Steven Spielberg produced miniseries is by far one of the most unjustly overlooked television experiences there has ever been. Spanning through the Roswell incident of the 1940s all the way up to the early 2000s, the story is the definition of epic. It revolves around the lives of several generations of three families who have each been involved in alien abductions in one way or another. Why are these people being taken and what is the plan of the aliens taking them? You'll have to watch to find out.
The characters of each decade are extremely well written and performed. The ultimate mystery as to who the aliens are and what they want remain to be intriguing throughout the entire 10 part series. If I had to choose one aspect of Taken to take issue with, it would have to be the shoddy graphics of the aliens and spaceships. But it was the Syfy Channel; what do you expect?
Set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in 1934-1935, Carnivale was an odd show with mysteries and mythologies galore and eerie religious undertones of good versus evil. It followed two disparate groups of people; the first consisting of a traveling carnival full of freaks and geeks (led, incidentally, by the same dwarf from Twin Peaks) who have picked up a mysterious, irritable young man (Nick Stahl) who may or may not have supernatural powers. The second group revolves around a minister (Clancy Brown) who makes migrants regurgitate change and who beats himself with a horse whip.
As you can probably tell from that brief description, Carnivale isn't the easiest of shows to explain to people. All I can say is that it's a shame that it never made it to a third season (especially since the second season ended with a cliffhanger.) And while I normally wouldn't recommend a show that was never given a complete conclusion, I'll make an exception for Carnivale. It was just that good.
Besides, it's not like the mysteries in Lost were wrapped up and delivered to us on a silver platter. Sometimes you (sadly) just have to enjoy what you can get. And what we got from Carnivale was pretty friggin' cool.
4. The Stand
Stephen King was a huge fan of Lost while it was airing, often mentioning and praising the show in his articles for Entertainment Weekly. The creators of Lost, in return, were outspoken fans of King as well; they often featured and mentioned his books in their episodes. It seemed fitting to add one of Kings most memorable and well-received miniseries onto this list.
The Stand would be worth the addition even if the above wasn't so. The similarity to Lost is strong with a large ensemble cast full of intertwined characters in a post-apocalyptic world where crazy stuff goes down. The only real downfall of the show would have to be the decision to give Molly Ringwald a starring role. Other than that, the series was aces.
3. "The Prisoner"
The Prisoner was a strange and one-of-a-kind series. It followed an unnamed British agent who, after abruptly resigning his job, is abducted and held captive in a mysterious seaside "village" which is isolated from the rest of the world by mountains and sea. Monitored by security forces and weird devices, the village itself is a complete enigma where nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
Even though it only aired 17 episodes between the years 1967 and 1968, this surreal British spy/science fiction series left one bugger of a jolly good impact (that's how the British talk, right?) whose influence can still be seen in popular culture today. The show is the inspiration for the name Number Six, given to the beautiful Cylon from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica and even cited as being one of the major influences to Lost.
With a very cool and interesting collection of fledgling superheroes and villains, and one of the most awesome plot lines to come around in ages, Heroes was a show destined for greatness. Believe it or not, it actually lived up to those expectations...for the first season at least.
Luckily for us, that first season works very well as a stand-alone show (the final episode only contained relatively minor cliffhangers), so it can easily be watched by itself, without the need of experiencing the horrible seasons that followed.
1. "Battlestar Galactica" (2004 Series)
The story begins with a miniseries that sets the stage for the next 4 seasons to come. The basic plot is that after an old, robotic enemy known as the Cylons resurface and obliterate the Twelve Colonies, only a small group of the planets population make it out alive on a team of ships lead by an old but powerful warship known as the Battlestar Galactica. From there on, the last of mankind's refugees must struggle to survive not only the Cylons who continue to pursue them, but also their own political, social, and relational disputes along the way. They do all of this while attempting to find a long-lost, fabled "thirteenth colony" known as Earth.
First and foremost, do not be fooled by the shows title or that brief plot outline; this is not Star Trek. There are no aliens (not in the typical sense), and there is no fluff. This reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica is an intense, gritty, no holds barred fantasy drama with a socio-political commentary and an epic cinematic value that puts most feature films to shame. It's chock-full of mythology, action, mysteries, and gripping, realistic, multidimensional characters that you'll find yourself loving, hating, and questioning all at the same time. When this show came onto the scene in 2004 it blew both critics and fans everywhere away. Not only is this the most Lost-like show around (as far as basic addictive-vibes and intriguing mysteries go) but in most ways it surpasses that show in its substance, mythology, and its massively epic scale.
It is truly a show which should not be missed.