More than 20 Years Before “Lost” — “The New People”

There was a good deal of time-trav­el in the ABC hit series Lost, one of the more ambi­tious and pop­u­lar shows of the past decade. But nei­ther Jack, Sawyer, Hur­ley, nor any of our oth­er beloved 21st cen­tu­ry cast­aways ever went back to the year 1969. If they had, and if they’d had access to a TV, they might have found them­selves watch­ing a show about — them­selves.

Well, sort of. The New Peo­ple ran on Fri­day nights on ABC from Sep­tem­ber 1969 through Jan­u­ary 1970 (It last­ed only 17 episodes). We’ll take a shot at sum­ma­riz­ing the gen­er­al premise, which might ring a cou­ple of bells:

A plane crash­es on a remote island in the Pacif­ic, leav­ing its mot­ley group of sur­vivors strand­ed and fight­ing about what to do next.… As they explore their new home, they find an entire town, ful­ly stocked with pro­vi­sions and weapons, but creep­i­ly emp­ty. Soon the sur­vivors dis­cov­er that this island was once set up .…to be an Atom­ic Ener­gy Com­mis­sion test­ing site!

No Lost fan can live with­out a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, but we’re pret­ty sure there was noth­ing fishy in the com­mon­al­i­ties, and in the end, are we not all chil­dren of Gilli­gan? Fur­ther­more, there’s a good deal more to the plot, which includes racial con­flict, ado­les­cent angst (the sur­vivors are all col­lege stu­dents), and a healthy dose of Lord of the Flies-style chaos. Full episodes are not online, but at TVob­scu­ri­ties you can find a wealth of relat­ed con­tent, clips, links to reviews, and even the theme song, with lyrics.

Also, be sure to check out the episode guide, which real­ly does intrigue. Num­ber 12, for exam­ple:

The Pied Piper of Pot. Step­pen­wolf  thinks his fel­low islanders are too uptight, so he grows potent mar­i­jua­na that threat­ens to send the stu­dents into a har­row­ing, one-way trip.

The New Peo­ple was pro­duced by Aaron Spelling, who went on to bring us Char­lie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, and Bev­er­ly Hills 90210, among many, many oth­ers. But we’re not sure if he ever did come up with anoth­er char­ac­ter as com­pelling as Step­pen­wolf.

(Thanks to Bryan Thomas)

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

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  • ShaW says:

    This reminds me of the very idea behind post­mod­ernist con­cep­tion of recy­cling the old ideas through copy and paste com­mon­ly known as the “pas­tiche”: a new prod­uct / idea / con­cep­tu­al the­o­ry will be intro­duced to the mass­es which in fact is sim­ply noth­ing more than a resus­ci­tat­ed ver­sion of a for­got­ten orig­i­nal prod­uct / idea / the­o­ry. Orig­i­nal­i­ty is almost dead togeth­er with it the orig­i­nal author­ship.

  • Andy Apaoala says:

    The odd thing about this ABC show was it was 45 min­utes, not a half-hour or hour… it came on at 8:15, right after ANOTHER 45′ show called “Music Scene,” which aired at 7:30 — they pro­gram­ming block was designed to com­bat NBC’s stran­gle­hold on the 8–9 PM Mon­day time slot owned by “Laugh In.” It did­n’t work, the shows ran about 17 episodes, and depart­ed to the “Land of the Lost Pro­grams.”

    Both “Lost” and “The New Peo­ple” owe their exis­tence to the ground-break­ing nov­el and its film adap­ta­tion, “Lord of the Flies,” writ­ten by William Gold­ing.

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