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N.J. spawns a pair of cutting-edge TV guys


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N.J. spawns a pair of cutting-edge TV guys

Source - northjersey.com

The two hottest new series of the season - "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" - have more in common than just stunning success and the fact that they both air on ABC: New Jersey guys have had a big hand in making these serialized dramas what they are.

Teaneck native Damon Lindelof, 32, is a co-creator and executive producer of "Lost," which fulfills a dream he'd had of working with producer J.J. Abrams. And Kevin Murphy, 37, of Tabernacle - a Drew University graduate whose "Reefer Madness" movie musical recently bowed on Showtime - is a writer and co-executive producer of "Desperate Housewives," whose deliciously convoluted plot lines keep even his own mother guessing.

As the first-season finales of their hit shows approach, Lindelof and Murphy chatted with a home-state TV writer about their thriving shows - and careers.

  • With 'Lost,' Damon Lindelof finds an audience DAMON LINDELOF

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Job: co-creator and executive producer of "Lost."

Age: 32.

Grew up in: Teaneck.

Series credits: "Nash Bridges," "Crossing Jordan."

"What was cool about growing up in New Jersey, especially Bergen County, is it was very diverse. ... I literally went to high school with people of all different races and ethnicities and backgrounds. That broadened my horizons as a writer. It made me interested in other people's stories."

Everyone who previewed the "Lost" pilot knew that it was good. What wasn't clear - not even to co-creator Damon Lindelof - was how broad the audience would be for a show about a group of plane-crash survivors on a strange island.

But here we are, nearly eight months after the show's debut and just a few episodes from the two-hour season finale, and millions of "Lost" fans are addicted. "I thought it would be more a cult show than a big hit," Lindelof says. "I'm in awe of how many people like the show. We set out to write what we thought was cool and weird and funny and scary - all the things you're not supposed to do on network television. For years, [it was assumed that] the audience is not intelligent enough to track a complex narrative. But audiences are very savvy." He adds, "There's something about the show that people really relate to. I don't know what it is, which is good. If I did, I would pander to it."

Lindelof is on the phone from California. ("Lost" films in Hawaii, but a fellow executive producer is the one usually there to oversee the production.)

How the 32-year-old Teaneck native got to where he is - little more than a decade after graduating from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in film - is an amazing story of talent, luck and pluck. "As soon as I graduated Tisch in '94, I hopped in my car and drove out to L.A.," Lindelof says. "I didn't know anybody here. I came with my college roommate."

He worked at a series of internships and industry jobs, all the while writing his own stuff on the side. "I never thought anything was good enough to share with anyone else," Lindelof says. "I was just practicing."

Eventually, he decided that the pace of moviemaking was too slow. A friend was producing a television show called "Wasteland" ("If you blinked, you missed it," he says) and he got a job as a writer's assistant. "That was my break," says Lindelof, who was promoted to writer and penned several "Wasteland" installments before it was canceled after 13 episodes in 1999.

From that, he got agents and a writing job on the final season of "Nash Bridges," then moved on to "Crossing Jordan" for that show's first three seasons.

Then came "Lost."

The project began as a sketchy concept formulated by Lloyd Braun, then-ABC Entertainment Television Group chairman. "He wanted to do a TV show about a plane that crashed on an island. That's all he had," says Lindelof.

Braun took the idea to "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams, who was not bowled over. "He said, 'I don't know what that TV show is.' He didn't have a lot of time. And he said, 'If you guys bring me a writer I can work with [maybe], but ... I think the appeal is limited.'

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