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LOS ANGELES (USA TODAY) - A polar bear. Time travel. A paralyzed man who not only survives a plane crash, but can suddenly walk.

Ah, a night to get lost inLost. Seven cast members and two executive producers,Carlton CuseandDamon Lindelof, gathered at PaleyFest Sunday to talk to a large, enthusiastic audience about the groundbreaking, mind-bending series that became a pop-culture phenomenon when it premiered in 2004.

The brainy, six-season ABC drama, which followed the survivors of a plane crash on a remote island, revealed its characters' lives with memorable flashbacks and flash-forwards while examining the mysteries and secrets of their new home.

"I would hope the legacy was that it challenged the assumption that you had to make a lowest-common-denominator show to be successful. I think we made a smart, intelligent, complicated show and the audience embraced those elements that networks used to be afraid of," Cuse said on the red carpet at theDolby Theatrebefore the panel, part of a two-week annual celebration of TV put on by ThePaley Center for Media.

When asked aboutLost's influence on shows that followed, Lindelof looked back to shows that influencedLost. (Both he and Cuse said ABC could decide at some point to reviveLostin some form, but that they had told the story they wanted to tell and would not be part of any future project.)

"WithoutThe X-FilesorTwin Peaksor evenBuffy(the Vampire Slayer) orAngel,Lostnever would have existed," he said, seeing a further connection toRod SerlingandThe Twilight Zone. "It's really exciting whenLostgets lumped in with those other shows."

Lostachieved a special status in that later shows have been defined by it,Henry Ian Cusick(Desmond) said on the carpet. "Whenever you see a new show coming out - it happened withThe EventandFlash Forward- it was always hailed as the newLostand everyone wanted to try to match it or beat it," he says. "I don't think anything has come close yet."

For the actors, busy with other projects, the night was a chance to reunite with people they hadn't seen in a long time. As Yunjin Kim (Sun) began a red-carpet interview, her attention was drawn to co-starsMaggie Grace(Shannon) andIan Somerhalder(Boone). "My body is going that way almost, because I want to go and give them a big hug," she said.

OtherLoststars, includingJosh Holloway(Sawyer),Jorge Garcia(Hurley) andMalcolm David Kelley(Walt), discussed their memories during the evening tribute. Somerhalder, whose Boone was an early island casualty, recalled the pilot in a red-carpet interview.

"It stands out. We were watching this huge polar bear running through the jungle. And I just thought, 'What a bizarre sight,' " said the actor, whose current series, CW'sThe Vampire Diaries, will be featured at a PaleyFest panel Saturday. "I thought, 'This is a pretty phenomenal experience.' "

Garcia saidLostwas the only show of its kind when it premiered and that the advancement of online communication allowed viewers to engage the show in new ways. "They had opportunities, with the boom of social media, to talk about the show with people across the country and around the world."

During the panel, which was moderated byThe League'sPaul Scheer, the producers discussed a variety of matters, including the decision to have Boone die in the first season (Cuse: "We wanted to defy this television convention" that major characters couldn't be killed. "No one was safe"); their response to fan - and their own - dislike of added characters Nikki and Paolo (Cuse: A season-long story was "condensed in one single episode where we buried them alive"); and the need to tell some actors about their jaw-dropping backstories.

"It would be pretty useful information to know that you were in a ... wheelchair," Lindelof said of Terry O'Quinn's suddenly ambulatory Locke, drawing big laughs from the audience. He remembered fellow co-creatorJ.J. Abramsnoticing O'Quinn would walk a half-mile from the Hawaiian beach set during breaks in pilot shooting. "J.J. goes, 'That guy's got a secret.' I go, 'What is it?' And he's like, 'You figure it out.' "

The producers once again rejected some viewers' conclusion that the characters were actually dead during the whole run of the show, with Cuse explaining that a closing finale scene of the plane wreckage without any people around it "exacerbated" the problem. They said they aimed for "a spiritual ending" because the show was about people lost in their own lives and seeking redemption.

At the panel and on the red carpet, theLostalumni acknowledged that some fans didn't like the series finale, but they said they were proud of it.

"What I hear (from viewers) is that the show meant something to people. I think a lot of chatter about the finale is overblown," Cuse said. "Maybe the haters don't come up to me, but I hear so much from people who are so positive about the show. That's just a wonderful feeling."

By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY

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