Makers of the tropical island drama Lost say they're talking with ABC executives about setting an end date for the series.
There's no sense the finale is coming anytime soon. But knowing they have a deadline will help writers of the convoluted drama lay out how they want the story to end, producers said Sunday in a meeting with TV critics here.
"Once we figure out when that will be, a lot of the questions will go away," said Carlton Cuse, an executive producer. Lost is in its third season.
The producers, citing Fox's The X Files, said they didn't want to wear out their welcome. "That was a great show that probably ran two seasons too long," Cuse said. "That is a cautionary tale for us."
Lost is due back on ABC's schedule next month following an extended hiatus after the season's first six episodes and will air uninterrupted through May. The schedule was a direct result of fans' complaints about reruns disrupting their concentration in past seasons, producers said.
It's likely next year that all 22 episodes will run consecutively, much like Fox is doing with "24."
One prominent critic - ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson - said he thought the first six episodes this season concentrated too heavily on the stories of Jack, Kate and Sawyer at the expense of other members of the large cast.
The producers said that will be rectified right away for the season's second half as Lost goes back to the beach.
Lost, which is shifting back an hour to 10 p.m. Eastern time, Wednesdays, on ABC's schedule, has seen a 14 percent drop in its audience this year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Producers contend the numbers are deceptive because of a comparison with the second season, when Lost was a cultural sensation.
The producers concede that it's a demanding story for viewers to keep up with, and not one that people can join in the middle.
"We want them back," executive producer Damon Lindelof said of the lost fans. "We really believe in the show and the audience we're getting. But if we write towards getting them back, we may alienate the audience that we already have."
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