A Tangled Web: The Fine Brothers Comment on ABC’s Lost Untangled

Since January of 2008, online video creators The Fine Brothers have been producing a comedic sendup of Lost called Lost: What Will Happen Next? using the series’ own official action figures.  Last week, ABC (s DIS) launched Lost Untangled, an comedic series of Lost recap videos … using the series’ own official action figures.  Granted, “let’s put on a show with action figures” is a concept about as old as action figures themselves.  Still, watching the Fine Brothers series and then watching Lost Untangled, it’s hard not to at least go “hmmm …” and that’s just what online video news sites, Lost fan blogs, and the Fine Bros. themselves have been saying over the last couple of days.

We have not yet been able to obtain a comment from ABC on the topic, but we spoke to Benny and Rafi Fine via instant messenger for a more detailed take.

NewTeeVee:  Let’s get a quick background on how long you’ve been doing this series.

The Fine Brothers: We shot the first episode in December 2007; it went up in January of 2008, coinciding with the season 4 premiere of Lost.  We did five episodes of the first season, and on YouTube, Break and other sites, those episodes have over 4.5 million views to date.

NewTeeVee:  And can you talk a little about the process of shooting the show?

The Fine Brothers: Shooting an episode takes a good 6-8 hour day.  We shot the first season on an original Panasonic DVX 100.  The second season is being shot on a Panasonic HVX.  We shoot ground level to scale, trying to make it look as real and lifelike as possible.  We treat the series as if it’s live action, complete with script and shot sheet.

NewTeeVee:  On to the real devil’s advocate question: Isn’t it possible for two different creators to come up with a “let’s recap/parody Lost with action figures” concept?

The Fine Brothers: First of all, we don’t know or claim that they 100 percent stole this idea from us.  We think there’s thought in the web community that we are upset and/or thinking of legal recourse about this, which is not at all how we feel.  We know they own the intellectual property rights and can, of course, legally do this web series.

NewTeeVee: Obviously, without knowing who created the video for ABC, it’s difficult to know whether they had the opportunity to even view your content.  (ABC was not able to provide a comment in time for this story.)   Though you’ve certainly had a good deal of media coverage for your series.

The Fine Brothers:  It’s been featured not only on nearly every major video site but the top Lost fansites and top TV blogs, including Deadline Hollywood Daily and Sports Illustrated.  Even Heroes star Greg Grunberg (who appeared in the premiere episode of Lost) Twittered and posted the first episode of our second season on his web site.

NewTeeVee: Ultimately, it’s rare that you find a “paper trail” between two similar pieces of web content, as AgencySpy did with HBO’s PostSecret-esque site Web of Secrets.  More often it’s a case of similarities that straddle the line between coincidence and suspicion … like College Humor’s take on the Bud Light Superbowl ad that was awfully reminiscent of a Whitest Kids U Know sketch.   In your case, what caught your attention about the Lost Untangled style?

The Fine Brothers: For starters, the shaking toys just offscreen, like we do — this no-budget way of doing things is not common for networks; figure-based content (like Robot Chicken for example) is almost always stop-motion with animated mouths.  Secondly, Lost to date has not created much blatantly comedic content for their show.  Whoever would have thought that a show that take’s itself so seriously would lampoon itself in the first place.  And to not only take this comedic route, but to do it with action figures …

NewTeeVee:  In the end, though, it’s not so much that you’re accusing ABC of anything; you’re lamenting the opportunity that was lost because they didn’t come to you for the Untangled videos.  Even if they’d never heard of you or Lost: What Will Happen Next, your feeling is that it would have been a much smarter move on ABC’s part to seek out someone already making successful Lost-related web content, right?

The Fine Brothers: We would have jumped to do it, and we know we would have been able to produce an even better product than they made themselves, based off our experience.  Not only that, but we had the ability get the video seen by more people online, not only because of our connections and following but because of the great success story it would have been for Internet filmmakers.  This is the central point we want the web community to understand: that this had the opportunity to be this great moment where the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking of web video led to a network and show wanting to legitimize it … which would have ultimately helped us help them get more people to watch their show.

NewTeeVee: Bottom line — will Lost: What Will Happen Next continue?

The Fine Brothers:  Of course!  We’re in production with JustForLaughs.com on the second season.  It remains to be seen what impact Lost Untangled will have on our show — if sites that post our series will opt not to do so now that they have an “official” action figure show to promote weekly.   But we had a very succesful premiere episode of Season Two, with over 200,000 views so far.

NewTeeVee:  And, of course, you have something Lost Untangled doesn’t: On your island, everyone from Gandalf to Heroes characters can drop in.  That’s got to be worth several thousand extra views right there.

The next episode of Lost: What Will Happen Next premieres on Just for Laughs on Feb. 23.  New installments of Lost Untangled are slated to appear weekly during post-Lost episodes of Life on Mars and at ABC.com.

Update: Rafi Fine’s name was spelled wrong when we first published this story; it has been corrected.