It's all connected?
Fans say there's evidence that ties 'Lost' and 'Heroes' together, but creators don't buy it
Across the Internet, the screen-grabbing obsessives -- the ones who deal in frame-by-frame analysis of ABC's "Lost" -- were getting in a lather about the NBC hit "Heroes." It had to do with a brief scene a few weeks ago, when Nathan Petrelli, the caddish politician who can shoot into the air like a bottle rocket, grumbled about what might happen if word got out about his powers.
Officials could "round us all up, stick us in a lab on some island in the middle of the ocean," Nathan said. And within nanoseconds, the clarion call clanged out in cyberspace: "Heroes" mentions island! It must be a reference to "Lost"!
Yes, "Lost" and "Heroes" air on different networks, tell different stories, and exist -- as "Lost" producers point out -- in totally different time frames. (The "Lost" castaways live, after all, in the fall of 2004.) But to their most devoted fans, the shows have come to represent a sort of yin and yang of serial TV, in constant battle for the title of the Mystery Show That Does It Better.
"Lost," the word goes, is deeper and more cinematic; "Heroes" is pulpier and better-paced. And the way fans sometimes talk, there seems a cosmic cyber-wish for the shows to somehow merge -- to meld into a single supernatural drama that doles out questions and answers in acceptable weekly doses.
Indeed, some seem to believe it's already happening. One fansite, darkufo.blogspot.com, has posted pictures of a "Gannon Car Rentals" brochure, held by Hiro in "Heroes," and Hurley and Claire in "Lost." It also shows off photos of a suncatcher in the background of a trailer in "Heroes," and a similar, fleeting image from a torture video in "Lost." Some fans have noted casting coincidences: Greg Grunberg, who plays Matt Parkman on "Heroes," had a short stint as a doomed pilot on "Lost."
And on a recent Entertainment Weekly blog, Jeff "Doc" Jensen half-jokingly floated the idea that the Dharma Initiative, a fictional company in "Lost," created the super-folks who populate "Heroes." (He added, "Oh, like they would ever admit it if this were true!")
A vast conspiracy? That would be wish-fulfillment at its most geekishly appealing. So it might cause disappointment, in certain circles, to reveal that the heads of both shows claim absolute ignorance.
"Really?" said "Heroes" creator Tim Kring in a telephone interview last week, when told about the eerily-similar car-rental brochures. Then he quickly came up with the same mundane theory that "Lost" executive producer Carlton Cuse had suggested a day earlier.
Some fictional names, Cuse explained, have been cleared, for legal purposes, for use by TV studios: Oceanic Airlines, featured prominently in "Lost," also turned up in the movie "Executive Decision." So it's not such a stretch to imagine that a pamphlet for "Gannon Car Rentals," preprinted and free of legal strings, might have wound up in the hands of the "Heroes" prop department.
"Sometimes," Cuse said, "a rental-car pamphlet is just a rental-car pamphlet."
As for that suncatcher? Nothing intentional, producers swear. But the thought of a link gets Kring talking a bit like a fanboy himself. "That's fantastic! That's so great!" he said. "What if this is sort of happening on some sort of bizarre cosmic level, and we're not even aware of it? That's the best conspiracy."
It's not that there aren't connections between "Heroes" and "Lost"; there are deep ones, in fact. But they generally have to do with the trajectories of Hollywood careers and the legal vagaries of show business. In short, they're less about international mystery and more about "Crossing Jordan."
That's the NBC medical-examiner drama that Kring created; it premiered in 2001, and had on staff an up-and-coming young writer named Damon Lindelof. Toward the end of the third season, Lindelof recalls, he asked permission to meet with "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams, who had an idea for a show about a plane crash on a desert island.
As Lindelof recalled last week, Kring "was incredibly gracious," and helped Lindelof get out of his NBC contract and become a co-creator and executive producer of "Lost."
And, a few years later, when Kring was working on a pilot about genetic mutations and superpowers, he called his old colleague Lindelof to bounce off some ideas.
"We had a couple lunches, had a couple beers, he would talk to me about some of the ideas he was having . . . sort of pick my brain," Lindelof said. To good effect. It was Lindelof, it turns out, who suggested the plot-twist ending of the "Heroes" pilot: That idealistic Peter Petrelli, who believed he could fly, should plummet off a building and be rescued by his brother Nathan -- who actually could. (It was Kring, Lindelof said, who added the idea that Peter has powers, too.)
For the most part, Lindelof said, he offered generalized advice about the overarching truths he had learned after the first season of "Lost." The show aired for two seasons before "Heroes" joined the NBC lineup and became a breakout hit, routinely topping "Lost" in the ratings.
"Don't be afraid to make it really expensive," Lindelof said he told Kring. "Don't be afraid to have a large, sprawling cast. Don't be afraid to kill people off."
And Kring said the success of "Lost" made it easier to pitch and plot his own ambitious show. "Lost" pioneered the model of a "parity" pay scale, which made a large ensemble cast seem more affordable. And the scheduling woes that have angered "Lost" fans made Kring extract a promise from NBC: set the schedule in stone. Knowing he would face a pair of six-week breaks, he said, allowed him to plot out a couple of mini-cliffhangers.
But the conceits behind the shows are different, too, Kring said. And because he's not locked in space or time, he has the easier job. "We're not positing the central mysteries that you have to wrap a story around," he said. "It frees us up to tell a story at a different pace."
Lindelof and Kring haven't talked shop in a while; both say they're immersed in their own shows. But the brain-power link between the series has continued. Writer Jesse Alexander moved to "Heroes" from "Lost" (he knew "where the bodies were buried," Kring said). So did writer Jeph Loeb , a comic-book veteran who has known Kring since the '80s, when he co-wrote the movie "Teen Wolf" and Kring wrote the screenplay for the sequel, "Teen Wolf Too."
It was Loeb, Kring notes, who wrote the "Heroes" episode that featured Nathan's desert island speech. So it might have been a shout-out, Kring said, to his former colleagues on "Lost."
Lindelof didn't take it that way. He's a comic-book aficionado himself -- he wrote the graphic miniseries "Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk" -- and said he thought that was a reference to Genosha , an island in the Marvel Comics books where mutants are exiled.
"It didn't even occur to me that it was a wink-wink to 'Lost,' because our characters don't have superpowers," he said.
Then there's the recent reference to "fish biscuits" -- the unappetizing food that Sawyer gnawed in an outdoor cage on "Lost" -- on Hiro's fictitious blog on the NBC "Heroes" website. Here, Kring claims ignorance, as well. He doesn't write the blog. But it was probably a pop culture reference, he says. Which makes him wax a little philosophical.
"We've often asked ourselves the question -- and this is something that a lot of people never think about -- does 'Heroes' exist in the same world that 'Lost' does?" he said. "In our world, do Claire's friends watch 'Lost' on television?"
And if the characters on "Lost" exist in the world of "Heroes," the chance for a TV rendezvous gets even more complex. Getting them together, after all, would require a trip to the past.
It could only be done by Hiro, the "Heroes" character who has the power to bend time and space.
And Lindelof has a thought.
"If there was ever a crossover," Lindelof said, "he would pop up, appear on the beach for, like, two seconds. He'd look at Hurley and he'd say, 'Hello,' and Hurley would say, 'Hello,' and then he would disappear again. And that would be it."
Cuse, Lindelof, and Kring all agree that's unlikely to happen. The shows are produced by different studios and networks -- all with different lawyers -- and the paperwork hurdle would likely be insurmountable. But Kring, for one, says he loves the idea.
"If we could talk them into doing it," he said, "we'd do it."