'Lost LA' series debuts Wednesday on KCET

LOSTLA-subwayterm.jpgLA's original Subway Terminal Building downtown.

For several months KCET has been developing a new series on Los Angeles history based on Nathan Masters' excellent blog posts for the station. Both grow out of Masters' work for the LA as Subject project at the USC Libraries, and USC is a partner in the new show — meaning access to the libraries' vast archives of photo and historical materials. "Lost LA," the new show, premieres tonight at 8:30 with segments on Santa Ana winds and the grizzly bears that used to roam here, part of a theme of looking at wild Los Angeles. There are three episodes of "Lost LA" in the can and related content online at To be clear, these shows are about history and things that aren't here anymore, or that maybe remain in hidden form, but the half-hours probe deeper than the Huell Howser and Ralph Story explorations that KCET made its reputation on back when it was a PBS station.

There was a well-attended launch event for Lost LA last night at the Ace Hotel that buzzed with enthusiasm for Masters and his show, which is the first new local on-air offering by KCET in a while. Not coincidentally, the new season of "SoCal Connected" also debuts tonight, also with stories about LA nature and wildlife. Stories about mountain lions, coyotes and the like sell tickets and web clicks these days, and as further evidence of how ingrained stories about the natural side of LA are built into the current KCET's DNA, former producer and website editor Zach Behrens recently left to work with the National Park Service team that researches Santa Monica Mountains lions, coyotes, frogs and bobcats.

From KCET's flackage on "Lost LA:"

Based on KCET’s “LA as Subject” web series written by LA historian Nathan Masters (, LOST LA is the latest broadcast special to come out of KCET’s online to on-air incubation model where high-trafficked web content is produced for broadcast.

A digital destination for related content will be featured at, which will host web-exclusive content and the most popular L.A. As Subject stories, allowing readers and viewers to rediscover the history of LOST L.A. through written and video storytelling. An exclusive web preview segment of the WILD L.A. broadcast episode featuring L.A.’s lost grizzly bears premieres online today. Viewers and readers can join the conversation on social media using #LOSTLA.

“We are very excited to work with USC Libraries to extend the reach of the LA as Subject stories, among our most consistently popular web destinations, to a broadcast audience,” said Juan Devis, SVP, Content Development and Production. “We have some fascinating stories to tell about Los Angeles through the lens of emerging filmmakers and we’re pleased to be able to educate our viewers about the region’s past with their debut work.”

A co-production of KCET and USC Libraries, LOST LA brings Southern California history to life by marrying the extensive collections housed at the USC Libraries and among L.A. as Subject member archives with innovative forms of documentary storytelling from fresh new voices in filmmaking.

“To inform and inspire—those are essential contributions of great libraries to creative and educational achievement,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries. “Lost LA unites those functions in a series that is itself an inspiring accomplishment. I’m grateful to our partners at KCET and among L.A. as Subject members for bringing the important stories in all our collections to a tremendous audience in incredibly inventive ways.”

The three-part series, which Masters hosts, explores stories from L.A.’s past that have been lost to folklore, including wildlife and wildfires; the Elysian Hills before Dodger Stadium’s construction; and defunct tunnels, canals and hills. The nine filmmakers, utilizing techniques that range from rotoscoping to cinema verité, bring the primary sources of L.A. history to the screen in surprising new ways.

“Los Angeles has forgotten, buried, or rewritten much of its history,” said Masters. “It’s torn down landmarks, recast its Mexican past as a Spanish romance, and written entire cultures and communities out of its official historical narratives. Drawing upon the city’s archives, this series gives an authentic voice to some of those stories, bringing to light what might otherwise be permanently lost.”

Next week's installment looks at the Elysian Hills on the north side of downtown before the construction of Dodger Stadium, looking farther back than the often-told story of the famils evicted from Chavez Ravine for an ill-conceived public housing project. The Feb. 10 show will look into defunct tunnels such as the original subway tunnel under downtown, and the lost Venice canals, to ”detail how the modern metropolis has altered its topography to better suit its needs."

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