My Fantasy Island

My stranded-on-a-desert-island survival kit contains sunscreen, toothpaste, mascara, my hair dryer and a lifetime subscription to Vogue. And tequila and a bottle of margarita mix.

And George Clooney's stranded on the island with me. And we have a cook, and a personal trainer. And a nice condo – beats finding shelter in a dark and damp cave.

I'm hopeful that this island has a good library, and a gym, and hell, my survival kit might as well include a laptop computer with a wireless Internet connection so that George and I can order out for dinner, when we can't stomach another wild boar, or yellowtail, or mango or whatever else our chef likes to prepare.

Of course, I'll be skinny – hello, stranded on an island here – and tan, but my skin would never look weathered, and I'll never develop skin cancer, or gray hair, or even hairy legs. I'm not sure where I will plug in my hair dryer, but I'm quite positive that I will always look really, really, ridiculously hot.

We'll be happy, on this island, George and I.

Okay, so my fantasy more closely resembles an exclusive resort in Bora Bora than a desert island – or even "Gilligan's Island," for that matter. But I'm no "Survivor" wannabe, and thankfully, neither is ABC's new hit series "Lost."

The show's premise may sound familiar: 48 characters are stranded on a remote Pacific island, and not all of them will make it through the entire season. Except on this show, the losers aren't voted off by a jury of their peers; they are picked off by a scary, possibly prehistoric monster that lives in the jungle.

And while the pilot episode's horrifying plane crash may look realistic – "hyper-real," creator J.J. Abrams called it – the inventive plot twists, the nail-biting suspense, the smart writing and the nuanced character development assure the viewer that "Lost" is most definitely not a new reality show.

The series begins when a man named Jack (Matthew Fox) wakes up in a Bamboo forest and realizes that his plane has gone down and, miraculously, he and 47 of his fellow passengers have survived with no more than a few scrapes and bruises. He's dazed and he needs stitches himself, but people need help, so Jack heads back to the scene of the crash where he organizes rescue efforts, examines other passenger's wounds, and searches the wreckage for food, water and medical supplies.

Jack's got his own secrets – as do all of the survivors – but all his fellow castaways see is Jack the heroic surgeon; he's chiseled and decisive and he almost immediately becomes their reluctant leader.

While viewers eventually learn more about the ill-fated passengers in a series of flashbacks, most of the survivors are complete strangers to one another. Some cling to the hope that they will soon be rescued, and remain on the beach, while others reason that it's safer to set up camp in the jungle, near fresh water and sheltered from the beating sun – out of sight of a passing plane or ship.

Many seize the opportunity for a fresh start. Nobody knows who they were before the crash; they can be anyone they want to be on this deserted island. But this also poses a threat to the struggling group. They don't know who to trust and, of course, looks can be deceiving. The band of strangers must learn to work together if they are to survive.

There's level-headed Kate, (Evangeline Lilly), who soon becomes Eve to Jack's Adam. She's pretty and smart but, as the viewers learn early on, she's a criminal. In flashbacks, we see a U.S. Marshall on the plane sitting beside a handcuffed Kate. What did she do?

Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) is a faded rock star and heroin junkie. Sayid (Naveen Andrews) is a strong, handsome Middle Eastern male, between the ages of 18 and 35, which makes him an immediate target of racial profiling by some survivors. We learn later that he's also a former military communications officer in the Iraqi Republican Guard.

Sawyer (Josh Holloway), a rogueish-yet-cute redneck, accuses Sayid of being a terrorist and crashing the plane. But it's Sawyer who seems to be the dangerous one. Most of the others assume Sawyer was the bad guy on the plane; he's prone to violence, and no one trusts him.

Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) are a traditional Korean couple who isolate themselves from the group. But wife Sun has a secret – she took English lessons back in Korea and had planned to leave her husband and escape to America. Instead, she boarded a plane with her husband.

Single dad Michael (Harold Perrineau) recently gained custody of his nine-year-old son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), after the death of his ex-wife. The father and son are strangers to each other.

Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is a mysterious older man – the only one who has actually seen the noisy beastie that is terrorizing the survivors. He says he's seen the soul of the island and it's magical.

And then there's Malibu Barbie brother-and-sister team Boone (Ian Somerhalder) and Shannon (Maggie Grace), who gives herself a pedicure while the others are struggling amid the fiery debris, and happily finds her bikini in the wreckage.

Of course, the themes are readily apparent – man versus man, man versus beast, man versus nature. Which is the greater threat: the harsh island or the spooky monster in the jungle? Or is it one of their companions? One is forced to wonder: will this unlikely group succeed in establishing some type of desert-island civilization, or will it spiral into "Lord of the Flies"-style chaos?

At times, it's unclear what is real and what only exists inside the survivors' heads. Even the scary beastie – perhaps it's only the incarnation of their own fears and personal demons.

Happily, the show has made it out of the forest, so to speak. About 18 million viewers tuned in to the Sept. 22 premiere, making the thriller ABC's most-watched drama debut in nine years. Subsequent episodes attracted between 16 million and 18 million viewers (blame playoff baseball for the dips), and the show's Nov. 3 episode helped ABC secure a ratings win for the night. About 18.6 million viewers watched "Lost" – up 2 million from the week before. In the age of reality TV, it's refreshing to see a show with real actors and real writers winning the network ratings wars.

And unlike reality stuck-on-an-island TV shows, the characters on "Lost" are good looking. So when they're running around, scantily clad, in the sun and surf, we don't cringe. Instead of fat, naked Richard (from "Survivor"), we get to look at a shirtless Matthew Fox – who fits into my tropical island fantasy quite well.

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