'Lost': A Few Final Questions

Lost_FLIGHT_815.jpgStarting Saturday, May 22, ABC's epic castaway drama "Lost' goes out in a finale-o-rama planned to last two days and into the wee hours of the night.

The festivities begin with an enhanced version of the show's pilot from Sept. 22, 2004, on Saturday night from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT.

Then on Sunday, May 23, a retrospective special, "Lost: The Final Journey," starts things off from 7-9 p.m. ET/PT, including messages from fans. The final episode then follows from 9-11:30 p.m. ET/PT.

And if that isn't enough, Jimmy Kimmel pops in from 12:05-1:05 a.m. ET/PT, with "Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to Lost." His in-studio guests include Naveen Andrews, Nestor Carbonell, Alan Dale, Jeremy Davies, Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Michael Fox, Daniel Dae Kim, Terry O'Quinn and Harold Perrineau, with guest appearances by Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway and Evangeline Lilly.

There's also a look at three alternative final scenes, as envisioned by executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

Of course, along with the show's fans, cast and crew, "Lost" has also had a huge effect on ABC, which has seen its fortunes dramatically improve since the show's premiere. As part of a syndicated feature story this week, I emailed questions to Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, executive vice president, network scripted programming, for ABC Entertainment Group.

An edited version of her answers appears in print, but my Cuppers get the full Monty. Enjoy! (Questions in bold italics) ...

Of course the ending hasn't aired yet, but the reaction to the episodes leading up to the predetermined finale has been positive. In retrospect, did setting an end date accomplish its intended purpose?


Yes. This decision helped crystallize things for the creators, who at the time felt like they were being forced to swim in place. Every episode since has really forwarded the storyline, driving towards a very specific, and hopefully very satisfying, conclusion.


It's extremely painful to even think about saying goodbye to an iconic show that helped redefine our network, but it was ultimately the right creative choice and I think (ABC entertainment chief) Steve McPherson was very courageous in agreeing to the end date.


In the future, might you create a series with an end point in mind from or near the beginning - and what are the arguments for and against that?


We have entertained this idea before and certainly would again. The UK does it all the time.  It's certainly liberating from an artistic perspective. When you let go of the idea of producing a hundred plus episodes, the creative possibilities expand exponentially. But the financial model has to make sense for both us and the studio involved, and figuring that out is no easy feat.


Furthermore, the model doesn't really make sense for shows that do not have a built in end point, something you can escalate to and promote towards. Obviously, most shows on the air today don't follow this model.


Any plans that can be announced at ABC for any of the "Lost" cast or producers?


Other than Daniel Dae Kim's role in " Hawaii Five-0" (at CBS), not at this time.


Everyone looks for the new iteration of a hit series. Are there specific elements from "Lost" that could be incorporated into a new series or is this a nonreproducible phenomenon?


At its core, "Lost" is and always has been a nuanced character drama, and we are a character-oriented network, so the creation of iconic new characters that are flawed but charismatic/compelling will continue to be a focus for us in development.


The mystery has been a huge driver. The sense of romance. The juxtaposition of danger and wish fulfillment/escapism. The fusion of soap opera and sci fi. We would like to tap into elements of all of these in future shows. But we do believe it is extremely difficult to manufacture a "phenomenon." This show is unique. There is no formula to replicate. It succeeded precisely because no one had seen anything quite like it. It inspires us to continue to think outside the box, search for writers with vision and swing for the fence posts now and again.


We don't have specific plans at this time for any "Lost" off-shoots/spin-offs.


How do you think "Lost" helped change the image of ABC in viewers' minds?


It bought us a lot in the way of respect from the creative community and the world at large. ABC once again became the network for appointment television, and also a network that dares to take risks with new and innovative programming that engages viewers on many different levels.


How did "Lost" change the thinking at ABC?


It changed our thinking in so many ways, big and small. It opened our minds to the upside of serialized drama.  It expanded our palette in terms of tone. We used to be afraid of "dark."  Well there is some REALLY screwed up stuff that has happened during the course of this show, but the lows make the highs, like Sun and Jin declaring their love for one another at the end of season two, THAT much more satisfying.


We used to regard sci-fi with trepidation.  Now we are more open to it when it comes from a more emotionally grounded place. We learned a lot about audience limits with regards to teasing versus providing answers. We learned the importance of including an element of comedy, romance and hope amidst the danger and the value of leaning into the wish fulfillment of reinventing oneself and the exploring the road not taken.


The show also broke so many TV taboos that were prevalent at the time across the board.  At that juncture, serialization was frowned upon. So were soap opera, subtitles, flashbacks. All of which Damon and Carlton employed with abandon, liberating other shows to do the same.


Thanks to "Lost" and the fantastic team behind the scenes, we take more daring risks in our programming choices and also nurture them to give them time to grow the audience.


What have the studio and network learned from developing all of the ancillary "Lost" elements, including those on the Web?


"Lost", with all of its twists and turns, is the perfect show to experiment with on this platform, and the audience just eats it up. It enhances the viewing experience. Since "Lost" has been such a successful and exciting project on and beyond what's on the screen, applying those tools to the next franchise series will be less daunting.