Excellent A.V. Club article looking back on Lost. I particularly like and agree with this bit (with the caveat that I do think the first season reached near-art level -something which later seasons then failed to develop) -
“Me, I’m with the creators here. I’ve had a blast watching Lost, and I trust that the final season will be entertaining at times and frustrating at others. (Such is the appeal of the show; it’s fun to get mad at it sometimes.) I’ve never been one to get overly dismayed by the notion that the Lost writers have improvised a lot of the show on the fly. There’s a place on TV for the kind of pre-planned, tightly controlled narrative (as seen on The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc.), but the trade-off is that those kinds of shows are often slow-paced and largely uneventful on any given week. I like that the Lost writers think about what will entertain and surprise an audience from episode to episode, even if that means introducing elements that that prove to be dead-ends. As a pastime, I certainly have no complaints about Lost.
But as a piece of art? Well, I’ll be honest: I look forward to Lost as much as any show on TV, but I don’t think that it rises to the lofty literary level of a Wire or Mad Men or Breaking Bad. The acting’s up-and-down, the writing’s often overheated and/or slipshod, and I tend to be on the side of the fans who think that Lindelof and Cuse are kidding themselves when they downplay the mythology and say that character development is the heart of Lost.
On the other hand, I’m not sure that the mythology is the heart of the show either—at least not for me. I dig the mythology more than the Sawyer/Kate/Jack/Juliet love quadrangle (and I do have questions I want answered), but I primarily love Lost for its thematic concerns and ambitious genre-play. I’ve already talked about how much I get out of the predetermination/freedom business, but I also like that Lost has always been a celebration of storytelling, from the arcane to the archetypal. It’s a genre-hopping story that pays direct homage to nearly every text that’s ever influenced its creators. It’s one long story, made up of a bunch of little stories. It’s a story about how backstories encroach and affect the main narrative, whether it be via time-travel or flashbacks (which are a kind of time travel). And, finally, it’s a story about the repetition of stories, and about which elements can be altered and which can’t.”