Monday, May 07, 2007

It's Official

As I mentioned in my last post, I think this is a good thing. A very good thing. But for many, it's time to start mourning. Per this morning's Variety:

In a potentially paradigm-shifting play, ABC has agreed to let the producers of "Lost" set an expiration date for the series -- three years in the future.

Skein will now wrap after the production of 48 additional episodes that will be divided into three, shortened 16-episode seasons. Final episode -- the show's 119th -- will air during the 2009-10 season.

In conjunction with the advance order, "Lost" showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have inked hefty new multi-year overall deals with ABC Television Studio to continue with the series until the end. Duo had made setting a wrap date for the show a condition for staying.

Lindelof and Cuse had wanted "Lost" to end after two more seasons. They're essentially still getting their wish: The 48 episodes they'll produce over the next three years is the same number the show produced during its first two seasons.

ABC execs, however, came up with a way to keep "Lost" on its sked for three more seasons. What's more, the 16-episode arcs will run without repeats (a la "24"), allowing the Alphabet to make the show more of an event.

"In considering the powerful storytelling of 'Lost,' we felt this was the only way to give it a proper creative conclusion," ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson said.

"I always said that we would allow the series to grow and give viewers the most compelling hour possible," he added. "And, due to the unique nature of the series, we knew it would require an end date to keep the integrity and strength of the show consistent throughout, and to give the audience the payoff they deserve. "

McPherson also acknowledged that getting Lindelof and Cuse to reup "was critical to me and the network."

ABC Television Studio prexy Mark Pedowitz shared that sentiment.

"We wanted to make sure we had the team responsible for its success in place for not only the run of the show, but so that each of their future series creations have a home at the studio after 'Lost,' " Pedowitz said.

J.J. Abrams, who co-created "Lost" with Lindelof, defected to Warner Bros. TV last year and has been focusing on a new slate of TV and film projects, including the revival of the "Star Trek" franchise for Paramount Pictures. He told Daily Variety that he fully supported the advance wrap decision.

"It is the right choice for the series and its viewers," he said via an email message. "It takes real foresight and guts to make a call like this. I applaud ABC and Touchstone for making this happen."

Lindelof and Cuse, who are putting the finishing touches on the third-season finale, released a joint statement praising what they termed "a bold and unprecedented move for ABC" and thanking McPherson and Pedowitz for making it.

Cuse added that he hoped more shows will be able to follow the "Lost" lead and declare an end date.

"I think for story-based shows like 'Lost,' as opposed to franchise-based shows like 'ER' or 'CSI,' the audience wants to know when the story is going to be over," Cuse wrote. "When J.K. Rowling announced that there would be seven 'Harry Potter' books, it gave the readers a clear sense of exactly what their investment would be. We want our audience to do the same."
Cuse confirmed that devising an exit strategy for "Lost" was key to reupping with ABC Television Studio.

"In making this deal, Damon and I had two priorities: defining an end point for the show and keeping the quality bar high," Cuse said. "To do that we are both fully committed to the day-to-day running of the show right up until the very end. It's also why the 16 episodes per year was key for us. Because our show is so mythological, and because, unlike '24,' we can't reset each season, we need the extra time fewer episodes affords us to really plan out the specifics of our storytelling."

Lindelof and Cuse made public their desire for an end date during the TV Critics Assn. press tour last winter (Daily Variety, Jan. 15).

Cuse and Lindelof also wanted an end date in order to mollify critics of the show who worried producers were simply spinning their wheels as they worked through the show's layer upon layer of mystery.

ABC execs had already been talking to the producers about the idea, but they seemed taken aback when Lindelof and Cuse made the conversations public.

Indeed, it would be understandable if ABC execs had been initially cool to the concept of an early end date.

After all, with major hits a rarity in the network game, the rule is to keep hits on the air until every last ounce of success has been squeezed from them (e.g., "ER" or "The X-Files").
And despite relentless media snarking this season -- and the fact that "Lost" has lost a chunk of its fall 2005 audience -- the series is still a top-15 hit that dominates its 10 p.m. Wednesday timeslot in key demos.

In its third season, it's still drawing as many young viewers as NBC's newer, more buzzed-about "Heroes" -- and that's not counting the roughly 2.1 million viewers who watch the show after its live broadcast or via free streaming on

ABC could be establishing a new formula by which nets find success through serving up skeins with more and more audacious concepts but shorter lifespans than the traditional network hit.
Already, the traditional syndie business model -- the one that required studios to produce 100 episodes of a show in order to recoup their investment -- seems to be fading away in an age of instant downloads and universal streaming.

That may be one reason, according to Lindelof, that McPherson and Pedowitz "never argued that the show should keep going and going. The issue has always been when it would end and how far out in front of that ending should we herald it."

Now that the end has been announced, Lindelof promised there would be no attempts to extend or continue the "Lost" mythology on air in some other way.

"There will be no extensions or enhancements. That number (48) is absolute," he said. And "once you begin to see where we're going, I think the idea of sequels and spinoffs will completely go away."

So if he, Cuse or Abrams suddenly come up with a killer plot thread that doesn't fit into the new timeline?

"We'll do it as a radio play," Lindelof quipped.

As for "Lost," show's end game is expected to kick into high gear later this month with the broadcast of the season finale. Details of the plot are under wraps, but a person who has read the script described it as a major shakeup to the plot.

"It changes everything," the person said.

Nothing's official yet, but ABC has all but said that the fourth season of "Lost" won't premiere until January or February of next year.



Matt G. said...

Man, the consumer really gets screwed in this deal. They should have stuck with 24 episode seasons. I can't imagine the actors will be all that happy either since they'll be tied down for longer for essentially the same paycheck.

Anonymous said...

That is really true, however, I am a bit surprised they went with the shorter season/but more season route, it seemed they were all but screaming one more season for sure, two if we're lucky! Hopefully, this will give the writers ample time to get everything straight!

Renee' said...

Well, now they can have their deadline!

Anonymous said...

So, 3 more seasons with 16 episodes each and thatd be the end? When would be that? 2010? Oh man...

Anonymous said...

I, for one, welcome our 48-episode overlords.

Anonymous said...

So, to confirm, we're talking about 3 additional seasons of LOST each having 16 episodes, right? Does anyone know of a network TV model that is or was in the past similar? All in all, it sounds pretty OK to me. Also, has any network show ever announced an "exit" date like LOST is doing? Seems to be very smart strategy to help retain loyal viewers.

Anonymous said...

Oh I think this is FABULOUS! 16 episodes a season with no interruptions, and a firm deadline to find out all the final answers... BRILLIANT! I'd MUCH rather have it like this than to have the storyline sort of just ramble until the show becomes so bad they HAVE to end it, and then rush some all-encompassing final episode.

This is a GREAT thing, if you ask me. We still have THREE more years of LOST!

PHG said...

anon, that is by far one of my favourite lines to use, and as you showed, you can adapt it to any situation.

Brian said...

To the best of my knowledge, no TV show has ever formally announced the ending to a show this far in advance - and to be honest with you, I doubt anyone ever will again, unless another show comes along with a series-long mystery in the same vein as Lost.

We're looking at having Lost air...

February --> May 2008
February --> May 2009
February --> May 2010

It seems like a really, really long time, doesn't it? I guess they could always swap their runs to the fall instead of the spring, but it's not likely due to the sweeps months involved.

Based on the number of episodes involved, we're already at like 60% completion of the Lost storyline!

Anonymous said...

I'm for it (an announced end date). One of my favorite series was Babylon 5, and one of the reasons it worked was because the whole story arc was predefined, and they could introduce elements and not explain that at that point, letting them be part of the mythology to be explained later. Interestingly that show went long in the tooth because they thought they had to wrap it up in season 4 and did all the big reveals, and then season 5 was completely neutered and i abandoned it out of disinterest.

I also hate filler episodes, and this gives them a chance to craft each episode so something is teased out.

Anonymous said...

i think this is cool news on one hand however it will be a real drag to have to wait over a half a year, from the finale of one season to the opening show of the next.

Anonymous said...

IT CHANGES EVERYTHING???? What developments in this show DO NOT change EVERYTHING????

wow, I am so hoping we can stick out the long stretch together y'all!

Unknown said...

This works out nicely for me because I spend August through February obsessing over football. So my entertainment schedule will look like this:

August - February: Obsess over football
February - May: Obsess over Lost
May - August: Go outside

melodrama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
melodrama said...

Having an end date for LOST is good, but I agree that they should have stuck with only 24 more episodes or maybe 30 max. So now that they chose 48, there should be about 20 "filler" episodes that get us nothing closer to the meaning of the show, kind of like the Paolo and Nikki episode.

But the worst part is their timing on starting the seasons. January/February of each year?! That's really stupid, since most people will be tired of waiting that long to pick up on LOST. If they're going to do 48 episodes, they should make them into 2 longer seasons of 24-episodes each (which would make it almost like this season). And there will be a serious problem with keeping it going for another year longer than planned. I love LOST, but most other people are already frustrated we don't have the answers yet. Just wait another year or two... I'm sure LOST will lose a lot more frustrated watchers by the time it's over.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what's been said--I think they'd be smarter to finish it in the next two years. People who are really dedicated will probably stay with the show for three years, but I can see it losing viewers each year. 2010? Come on!

I started watching "Vanished" last fall, which had a similar structure to Lost--it showed present action as well as flashbacks and had an underlying mystery. I thought it was a well done show, but they cancelled it and the final episodes of the season were only available online. Surely they wouldn't do that to LOST?

Stef said...

I think this is a good thing, too. I really like the uninterrupted runs of the show, rather than slogging through repeats, so this works for me. Waiting until Jan/Feb of each year will be tough, but it works with 24. This means just 4 months of hard core obsession each year, which is probably a lot healther for all of us. Like Matt said, we could have more time outside! :-)

DCrowley said...

Matt, I'm right there with you. Of course, I never minded having football and Lost at the same time... then there'd be something to look forward to every three days.

Here's hoping they keep the hook set with ARGs and the like in the meantime. I know it might be hard to make the ARGs interesting enough to be rewarding without making participation necessary to make sense of the show overall... but I think there are enough uber-fans out there to make it worth their while.

Anonymous said...

I would think this would be better for the actors as well, giving more open time to do outside work and explore other options not available with a full season of episodes.

Anonymous said...

three more years of LOST means three more years on this blog - now that´s what I call really good news :-)!!!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Jacob first mentioned in Maternity leave when a shockingly clean-shaven Tom (then Zeke) spoke to Ethan in the staff Hatch outside Claire's door??? Or did they just not mention Jacob's name, I can't remember???

Anonymous said...

Danny Pickett introduced Jacob, saying that Jack wasn't on "Jacob's List" back in "I Do" when Jack hatched his plan to free Kate & James.