Truth be told, there’s really nothing new or innovative about being trapped on an island.
It’s a story scenario that’s been done many times, yet once the obscure TV show The New People was rediscovered, comparisons were immediately made to Lost.
As a fan of old TV shows, finding out about The New People was a trip, especially because I’m a huge Rod Serling fan and realized he wrote the pilot.
The basic story is forty mostly young people go down in a plane, and land on an island that used to be a test site. There’s buildings, food, supplies, vehicles, even mannequins standing around to simulate people for the tests, and the new inhabitants start a fresh society.
The New People first aired on September 22, 1969, and was on Mondays from 8:15 to 9:00 P.M. It was in a forty-five minute time slot because it followed a show called Music Scene that went from 7:30 to 8:15.
The New People was produced by Aaron Spelling around the time he had The Mod Squad, but was still years away from his Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, and Love Boat glory.
The pilot episode is all anyone’s been able to find of the show other than some stray commercials for it on YouTube, and the rest of the series could be in a vault somewhere waiting to be found again.
Recently on Facebook, myself and several friends wrote back and forth about The New People. One person named Phil Hansen wrote, “TV Guide actually brogutht his [up] to JJ Abrams attention: he said it didn’t inspire LOST but if he had known about it beforehand, Charlie’s band could have been called The New People!”
And my friend Richard Harland Smith wrote, “As I understand it, Lost Flight from the same year was intended to be the pilot for a very similar series, albeit not restricted to college-age kids, but was released theatrically instead of a stand alone feature.” (Lost Flight was a Universal TV movie from 1969 with Lloyd Bridges as the captain of a plane that goes down on an island, and he tries to mediate a power struggle between the passengers. Its listing on imdb has called Flight “an adult version of ‘Lord of the Flies.'”)
The New People pilot is fun to watch as a piece of retro kitsch, but I have to admit it’s not one of Serling’s best, and it tends to be a bit preachy and heavy handed. I also have to say it’s dubious JJ Abrams ripped this off because it’s a pretty obscure pop culture artifact. I mean, I doubt he saw it when he was just out of diapers or could have remembered it at that age, and I don’t think it was ever repeated anywhere.