Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse caused quite a ruckus in January at the TV Critics Press Tour when they announced that Lost would be ending after two more seasons. ABC quickly responded that while they and the producers had been discussing an end date, they hadn’t come to an agreement. Four months later, its been announced that the Lost producers are getting their wish — sort of.
ABC has agreed to set an end date for the popular series in three, not two, years, albeit with three abbreviated seasons. Each of the next three years of Lost will be made up of only 16 episodes (versus the usual 22-24) so the total number will be about the same. The last episode, the 120th, will air presumably in May 2010. Its unknown at this point if this new schedule will mean that any of the Lost actors’ contracts will need to be renegotiated to keep them on board.
Of course, this new plan is all contingent on the series actually being renewed for fifth and sixth seasons. Thus far, ABC has only renewed Lost for its fourth season which is scheduled to begin airing in early 2008 (likely February) and will run with no repeats.
This new deal with ABC assures that the creative team will steer the mysterious drama through to its conclusion and continue to develop new projects for the network. The duo had made Lost’s firm end date a condition of their continuing with the series.
This move will likely help the show in the ratings. ABC hopes viewers will be more likely to stick with the series if they know the show has a firm end date — versus the overly drawn out storylines of shows like The X-Files. The network can also make each season return of Lost into an event along the lines of HBO’s The Sopranos or Deadwood.
Cuse hopes that more shows will declare future end dates and said, “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. 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.”
Series co-creator J.J. Abrams, who is now working with Warner Bros. TV and on a new Star Trek film, supports the decision and told Variety, “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.”
But can the producers and network really let Lost go after only three more seasons? How many times have we been told that The Sopranos was over? Lindeloff says it won’t happen to Lost. “There will be no extensions or enhancements. That number [48″] is absolute. Once you begin to see where we’re going, I think the idea of sequels and spin-offs will completely go away.”
And if the producers some up with an incredible idea that doesn’t fit into their plans? “We’ll do it as a radio play.” Lindelof joked. I don’t think they could come up with a better twist than this one. Stay tuned!