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For the last few years, the media has discussed concerns with network television, from overdoing the reality genre to competition from cable, video games and the internet. In a recent Entertainment Weekly, an article discussed the fact that some comedies are going into syndication for remarkable amounts, simply because there aren't any new sitcoms successful enough or ready to go into syndication.

JJ Abrams, who gained TV success with the popular WB drama "Felicity" and then followed up with "Alias", somehow managed to sell ABC on an idea about a group of plane crash survivors trying to survive on an uncharted island. The series could have easily gone wrong in so many ways, such as seeming like a dramatized version of "Survivor".

"Lost" opened with Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox, in a great effort) waking up on an island. As he slowly regains conciousness, he steps into utter chaos. The wreckage of the plane, engine still working, fuel still dangerous, looms large over the scattered debris. After a few seconds of surveying the damage, Jack goes into action, helping the injured and trying to direct people to safety. It's here that we meet some of the survivors, including Locke (Terry O'Quinn, in an exceptional performance), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Charlie (Dominic Monaghan, of "Lord of the Rings"), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Shannon (Maggie Grace).

It's not long before the survivors have gathered what materials they can from the plane, and have gathered together to sit out what they find will be a very long wait. With Jack being the only doctor on the island, the group begins to look to him and consider him their leader. With not a lot of hope in sight, the survivors are certainly not comforted by the presence of something sinister in the forest, as well as the hints that they are not the only ones there. To add yet another layer to the proceedings, throughout the season we find that many of the survivors are not entirely who they seem.

The fourth season of "Lost" starts to open out the series, giving hints of a grander, more epic adventure to come. The fourth season starts with "The Beginning of the End", a fitting title, given the fact that the creators of the series have announced their intentions to end the show with the sixth season. The prior season ended with Jack managing to make a call, despite the warnings of Locke and Ben. The call connected to a freighter somewhere off the island, and those who answered the call said they would soon arrive.

When the first members of the team - pilot Frank (Jeff Fahey), Miles (Ken Leung), a ghost hunter; Daniel (Jeremy Davies), a physicist; and Charlotte (Rebecca Mader), an anthropologist - Jack and Kate quickly grow suspicious, as the group seems clearly interested in something else besides a rescue of the islanders. Locke separates himself from the group, taking other members of the castaways - such as Hurley - along with him. Some - such as Sawyer - debate whether or not to leave the island, given that they aren't sure what's waiting for them at home is any better. While the struggle to find out what the newcomers are looking for is difficult, the castaways have greater foes awaiting on the freighter - as well as a character from their past.

Meanwhile, flash-forwards throughout the episodes show the few who managed to get off the island - a group dubbed the "Oceanic 6" - and the troubled lives they now lead. One of the most interesting elements of the season is Ben, as the character has gone from an enigmatic figure to becoming a far more mysterious figure with greater power and reach (as well as a connection to the island's smoke monster) than the castaways thought he was capable of.

While Desmond isn't given as much to do this season, the character once again is the focus of the season's best episode - like season 3's "Flashes Before Your Eyes", season 4's "The Constant" offers a rich, complex story and contains some powerful and emotional moments - telling more details about the story would spoil it. Other highlights of this season include: "The Beginning of the End" (the survivors debate the intentions of those supposedly coming to rescue them), "Cabin Fever" (Locke looks for Jacob's cabin) and the finale, "There's No Place Like Home".

The fifth season of the series starts the run towards the end of the series and the result is a fascinating ride that eventually breaks the castaways into two different times. As the season opens, a group of the castaways - the "Oceanic 6" - have returned home under a story that they were the only survivors. However, their memories of those they left behind on the island still haunts them.

Additionally, while they were overjoyed about the idea of being able to go home, the six survivors soon find out that their idealistic views of how their returns would go doesn't match up with the reality - Hurley is on the run from the police, while lawyers try to take Aaron away from Kate. Meanwhile, those left on the island are suffering from the effects of frequent time jumps, bouncing through time like a skipping record. As the jumps continue, the effect on the survivors becomes increasingly brutal.

Soon, the castaways find that all roads lead back to Ben Linus, who has been informed that he only has a short period of time to get all of the castaways back together in order to have them all be present for the window of opportunity that they have to get back to the island. Still, despite their predicaments back in the real world, convincing them to return isn't going to be so easy for Ben and Jack - nor was it for Locke (who we see trying to convince the six in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham", one of the season's best episodes.) Despite being told that he has to recreate the circumstances of the original flight as best as possible, Ben is unable to convince one character to return.

As the season progresses and the return for the Oceanic 6 occurs (the set is called "The Journey Back: Expanded Edition", so this isn't really a spoiler), something does occur to separate the group between two different time periods, with Kate, Jack, Sayid and Hurley finding themselves on the island in the late '70's. They are surprised to find Sawyer, Jin, Miles, Juliet and Daniel, who wound up in the '70's and managed to work their way into the Dharma Initiative. Sawyer has become the security officer for the group, and has started a relationship with Juliet (the two are cute together, making the whole introduction of Kate back into the picture later in the season unfortunate.)

Meanwhile, Sun, Ben, Frank (who, in one of the season's most darkly funny moments, realizes that he's once again found himself in a very wrong place at a very wrong time) and another survivor hunt for clues on the island in present day and those stuck in the '70's attempt to come up with a plan that may set things right again, although in violent fashion. The season also reveals the mysterious Jacob and sets up a conflict that has gone on for centuries and is far bigger than the conflicts the show has presented previously. As Jacob informs an unnamed individual at the start of the finale, "It only ends once, anything that happens before that is just progress."

There's so much more to this season, as well, including the history of Whidmore, more regarding the terrifically eerie Eloise Hawking (Fionnula Flangagan, in a classic performance; we also see the character at younger ages this season) and even whatever happened to Rose and Bernard. This is an excellent season of the series (and the finale ends in a way that certainly makes one wonder how season 6 will proceed), but the only main criticism that I have with the season is that is that the pacing is a little slow at times around the middle, but once it starts moving into the second half, the season begins really picking up intensity and momentum.

"Lost" is another instance where, while watching the season on TV is terrific, watching it again on DVD - where the flow doesn't break - is also just as enjoyable. Like "24" and several other shows, not having commericials is really quite wonderful, allowing the episodes to flow without their rhythm being broken up every several minutes. It definitely allows one to savor the show's many positives, including the carefully structured details of the plots, as the show's reveals and differing perspectives on various subplots somehow manage to seem organic and not mechanical.

The performances are just about perfect, as the show's creators have brought together a great ensemble cast that has wonderful chemistry with each other. O'Quinn is certainly the highlight from the original cast, but there isn't a wrong note within the rest of the cast. Cusick, Emerson and Mitchell also provide exceptional supporting performances, as well - it's absolutely ridiculous that Emerson didn't win the Emmy awards he's been nominated for. Davies, Leung and Mader also fit into the series superbly - all three are superbly cast and create characters who all play their cards close - although in different ways, from the nervous Davies to the sarcastic Leung to Mader's chilly exterior. In season 5, Davies really becomes a highlight - the character becomes far more developed and quite fascinating.

The cinematography is also marvelous, capturing the beauty of the Hawaiian settings (as well as the different locations/sets for the flashbacks) and yet also giving them a certain eerie quality. Composer Michael Giacchino's magnficient score compliments the mood of the scene perfectly, whether emotional or chilling.

The show's fifth season is another stellar effort from all involved, and I can't wait to see how the series manages to close the story in season six, which starts on 2/2/10.

Season 5 86. 501 21 Jan 09 Because You Left
87. 502 21 Jan 09 The Lie
88. 503 28 Jan 09 Jughead
89. 504 4 Feb 09 The Little Prince
90. 505 11 Feb 09 This Place is Death
91. 506 18 Feb 09 316
92. 507 25 Feb 09 The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham
93. 508 4 Mar 09 LaFleur
94. 509 18 Mar 09 Namaste
95. 510 25 Mar 09 He's Our You
96. 511 1 Apr 09 Whatever Happened, Happened
97. 512 8 Apr 09 Dead is Dead
98. 513 15 Apr 09 Some Like It Hoth
99. 514 29 Apr 09 The Variable
100. 515 6 May 09 Follow the Leader
101. 516 13 May 09 The Incident (1)
102. 517 13 May 09 The Incident (2)


VIDEO/AUDIO: : "Lost" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is really quite marvelous, as the image remained impressively rich and detailed throughout - in my opinion, an improvement over regular broadcast quality. The presentation did occasionally show a little bit of slight shimmer, but no pixelation, edge enhancement or other concerns presented themselves. Colors were absolutely stunning, with perfect saturation and no smearing. Black level remained deep and strong, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.

The show is presented by Buena Vista in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix of the episodes is quite stellar, with the surrounds coming into play throughout to deliver distinct environmental sounds and sound effects, as well as some reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is first-rate, with very crisp, clear dialogue, effects and music.

EXTRAS: Writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis offer a commentary for "He's Our You", while producers/co-creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof provide a commentary for the season opener.

"Making Up For Lost Time" is a 14-minute documentary that does a very good job giving an overview of both story/continuity issues involved with the time travel aspects of the season and the production issues that have to be considered (dressing sets for different time periods, for example), as well. While not a terribly lengthy piece, it actually does get a lot across.

"Building 23 And Beyond" sees star Michael Emerson heading to the California production office - which is certainly quite a distance from the show's Hawaii sets - and meeting with the writers, production assistants, editors and other members of the crew.

"Mysteries of the Universe" is a spoof of an '80's TV series (and looks like an old VHS copy) that takes a look at the Dharma Initiative. "Lost on Location" offers 7 short on-set featurettes, while "An Epic Day With Richard Alpert" watches as actor Nestor Carbonell go through the final day of filming for the season, bouncing between two different units filming at once.

We also get a set of about 13 minutes worth of deleted scenes and a very funny gag reel.

The Blu-Ray edition boasts additional *Blu-Ray exclusive* bonus features, including "Lost University".

From the Press Release: "Viewers will be able to join LOST executive producers Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, the cast of “LOST,” and a panel of esteemed experts for a vast array of courses at LOST University, delving into the themes and storylines regularly explored on the groundbreaking television series. Through this robust, engaging, multi- semester experience, students will gain a better understanding of the story, unique insight to the mysteries of “LOST,” and perhaps even valuable clues as the show heads into its final season. “LOST University” will be accessible through several portals, starting now with www.lostuniversity.org, where “LOST” fans can enroll beginning September 22, 2009, months before the university goes completely live on December 8, 2009. The main campus of “LOST University” will live on the “LOST: The Complete Fifth Season” Blu-ray disc and will be powered by BD- Live.

Each visit to LOST University through the “LOST: The Complete Fifth Season” Blu-ray disc will connect viewers to a unique and exclusive experience, powered by BD-LIVE technology. Upon launching the innovative interface, students immediately get access to their personalized lesson plans, compelling HD Audio-Visual presentations and communication from the LOST University faculty and staff. Like any real university, campus life at LOST University is not solely focused on higher learning, pop quizzes and homework. Through an extended web experience, students will be able to pay visits to the campus bookstore to purchase LOST U merchandise, or discuss their school experience and “LOST” theories through study-groups on the LOST University message boards. Potential students will even have the opportunity to prep for the LOST U experience in advance on www.lostuniversity.org with story and character refresher courses and advanced reading suggestions... all providing information vital to getting up-to-speed with the world of LOST as it heads into its final season."

Clips From "Lost University": JUNGLE SURVIVAL BASICS WITH THE CAST OF “LOST” - Class Clip: Professor Josh Holloway and Evangeline Lilly

INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS OF TIME TRAVEL - Class Clip: Dr. Clifford Johnson, Theoretical Physicist at USC; Sean Carroll, Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology; Dr. Nick Warner, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Professor of Mathematics at USC.

"Lost University" is one of the bonus features exclusive to the Blu-Ray edition of "Lost: The Complete Season 5".

Final Thoughts: The show's fifth season is another stellar effort from all involved, and I can't wait to see how the series manages to close the story in season six, which starts on 2/2/10. The DVD set for season 5 offers very good audio/video quality, as well as several enjoyable bonus features. Recommended.

DVD Information

Lost: Season 5 (The Journey Back: Expanded Edition)
5-DVD Set
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Dolby Digital 5.1
731 minutes
Subtitles: English/French/Spanish
Rated NR
Dual Layer:Yes
Available At Amazon.com: Lost Season 5 (DVD),Lost Season 5 (Blu-Ray)