MADISON (WKOW) -- ABC's hit show lost is groundbreaking in a variety of ways.
It's using the Internet as a promotional tool like never before.
And it's also one of the most complex shows in the history of television.
The huge cast.
The sets and effects that rival those in Hollywood.
They're all expensive things about ''lost'' that network honchos usually shy away from.
But the success of similar, high-priced serials on Showtime and HBO in the past decade have been hard to ignore.
"All of a sudden major networks want to do big budget, big star, serialized dramas in prime time," says UW Professor Michele Hilmes, "And Lost was the result of it."
Hilmes has studied the history of serials on TV and says there was a day when ''Lost'' wouldn't have stood a chance.
"Serials were considered a lower form of art" she says, "and if you're thinking of selling in syndication, its a lot easier if you can slot any episode wherever you want."
Despite that, ''Lost'' is syndicated.
And its international cast makes it a popular choice for foreign markets, and a good source of income.
But Hilmes says the key to continued success for such expensive serial dramas is how their DVD fares in the stores and rental shops.
''Lost'' stands to benefit there, because there are so many questions in the show, they're hard to catch the first time." says Hilmes, "I think now it's become it's hallmark. It's so complicated, the most complicated show on television, so many people are saying, lets just see if we can figure it out."
But duplicating such interest in future shows may be a tall order according to Hilmes.
"I think there will be a backlash and a move toward less spectacular, less sci-fi plots in prime time"
But a different kind of serial might still do well.
Hilmes says what ''Lost'' should teach the networks is that whatever they do, depth is important.
"I think the thing that attracted people to lost wasn't special effects, the plane crash and black smoke and trees that move, but the storyline. And I give credit for how it was really innovative in it's use of back stories and very complex narrative that went backwards and forwards in time."
Old fashioned storytelling apparently never goes out of style.