Once upon a time, ABC’s Lost was a television phenomenon. Set on a deserted island in the aftermath of a plane crash, the pilot episode alone was riveting. Viewers got to enjoy the spectacle of strangers coming together to survive under hostile conditions, each with an agenda and a rich past. The superb acting, the movie-quality production, and the mystery-laden writing helped make Lost an addictive hit drama.
But now in its third season, many fans worry that Lost has lost its way. Because of the obsessive nature of its fans and producers, each episode became an Herculean task to put out. It wasn’t enough to use a shark tank for the raft scenes-no, the director had to shoot it on the ocean for the sake of “wave realism.” Elaborate sets were devised to make sure that certain shots would show an actress’ reflection on a window-pane against the night sky.
Thus, seasons of Lost have suffered from interruptions in which the next episode simply wasn’t ready and fans had to make due with reruns. Lost has seen a drop in viewership of almost 14%.
Worse, the story seemed to meander in directions that led some observers to conclude that writers were just making stuff up for the heck of it. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart famously asked whether Lost’s writers knew what they were doing anymore, or if viewers could expect to see dancing dwarves and cherry pies, making sly reference to the entertainment disaster that once was David Lynch’s popular Twin Peaks.
But it seems now that the writers of Lost are just as sly. When faced with the reality of falling ratings, and the legacy of shows like the X-Files which may have run at least two seasons too long, they’ve decided to revert to some of their older, tighter, storytelling methods.
More impressively, they announced today that they have started discussions with ABC over when to end the show so that they can plan their storylines accordingly.
Fans have complained that the first six episodes of the season focused too heavily on only a few of the characters. But since Lost only released half the season, forcing fans to wait over the long winter break, they may yet remedy that problem. Executive producer Carlton Cuse said, “By the time we got on through the entire season last year, we feel like we covered everyone’s stories. And I think the same will be true when you see the third season in its totality. You’ll have a much better sense of what everybody’s been doing.”
With the announcement that the end is in sight for the show, fans are sure to have many questions. But the most important question will be whether or not the writers can actually answer all the intriguing questions they have raised, without leaving loose ends.