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Lost has never been done before. And it will never be done again.

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Lost has never been done before. And it will never be done again. Oh, they’ve tried: The “next Losts” — Flash Forward, V, The Nine, DayBreak — all ended in commercial and critical failure.

But the tale of plane crash survivors stranded on a freaky-deaky island somehow worked. TiVo and Hulu and Netf ix made it possible for fans to follow it, while blogs and Internet forums made it possible for them to obsess about it.

Yet, at the very beginning, while the rest of the world went crazy over smoke monsters and polar bears, I was a Lost skeptic.

When the two main protagonists — whiny Dr. Jack and wishy-washy Kate — weren’t boring, they were annoying. The constant flashbacks were poison to pacing, ripping us out of the fascinating world of miraculous healing and sci-fi hatches to finally answer the question of… how Jack got that tattoo on his arm. (Spoiler: In the dullest way possible.)

It was only the last minute of each episode, where a shocking cliffhanger would come out of nowhere, followed — boom — by the Lost logo, that kept me clicking “next episode.”

But where bad show-runners, like those at Heroes and 24, take their hit status as signs that they have no need to change, good show-runners, like Joss Whedon and the Lost guys, find their flaws. And fix them.

The producers actually requested a cancellation date from the network, forever banishing “Jack’s tattoos”-style time-filler episodes.

Lost started giving us less Jack and Kate, and more Ben Linus (a Machiavellian sociopath), Daniel Fareday (a twitchy quantum physicist) and Desmond Hume (a Scotsman unstuck in time, Vonnegut-style.) Angsty love-triangle plotlines were out, hard sci-fi brilliance was in.

And the flashbacks? In the Season Three finale, those became flashforwards, and then the island itself — not just the narrative — began jumping around in time.

Suddenly, it became clear: Lost’s themes were embedded in the meta-structure of the show itself. Those obnoxious flashbacks both foreshadowed future time-traveling episodes and underscored Lost’s theme of the grip of the past on the future.

And as Lost became more deeply, unabashedly sci-fi , its characters, counterintuitively, became even better drawn.

Season Four gave us a time-bending, mind-bending episode so brain-blowing that it gave the characters aneurysms. But that same time-travel episode also happened to feature, perhaps, the most romantic love story ever seen on television.

Science fiction somehow populated by humanity: It’s the biggest Lost mystery.

TIVO-WORTHY

24 It’s Jack Bauer’s eighth all-nighter — but the kind where toenails are pulled instead of painted. As Bauer rasps and waterboards his way toward finding Mr. Terrorist Mastermind, we at home, playing the 24 cliché drinking game (“Dammit,” “Perimeter,” “Within the hour?” Drink!), come dangerously close to alcohol poisoning. (Fox, Mondays, 9 pm)

The Deep End If Defying Gravity was Grey’s Anatomy But They’re in Space, then The Deep End is Grey’s Anatomy But They’re in Suits. These fresh faces out of law school have to work 80 hours a week, but will that stop them from hookups? Probably not. Expect terms like “briefs” to be used, with multiple connotations. (ABC, Thursdays, 8 pm)

Spartacus: Blood and Sand As HBO, Showtime and (now) Starz have shown us, if there’s one common thread throughout history, it’s explicit unprotected sex. This latest entry in soft-core history stylishly tells the story of a Roman slave uprising — but it does have a few obvious plot holes. For example: Not all the slaves can be named Spartacus. That’s just absurd. And inefficient. (Starz, Fridays, 10 pm)

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