By James Hibberd
In a highly unusual move for a broadcast series, ABC and the producers of "Lost" are in discussions to determine an end date for the show.
The date will set a limit to the number of "Lost" seasons to come and will be announced to fans. The show's producers, speaking at ABC's Television Critics Association press tour session, said having a conclusion date will bolster fan confidence in the series' narrative. A timeline for making the decision was not announced.
"It's time for us now to find an endpoint for the show," said executive producer Carlton Cuse. "JK Rowling announced there were seven books in the Harry Potter series and it gives fans [a framework for understanding the arc of the show]. 'The X-Files' was a cautionary tale for us. It was a great show that ran two seasons too long. 'Lost' has a short-half life."
"None of us want to be doing the stalling show," added executive producer Damon Lindelof. "We don't want them to be building sandcastles next week."
Thought the series ratings have dipped this fall, the show remains one of ABC's top-rated programs. During the first season, Mr. Lindelof said the show could run nine seasons if necessary, noting the island has plenty of mysteries. Recently, fans and critics have grown frustrated, however, with the show's continually expanding mythology that keeps piling on new mysteries and characters.
After the panel, Mr. Lindelof suggested the series might cap at 100 episodes, which would only result in two more seasons. But ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson sought to downplay the producers' statements, noting that "we've had those discussions for the past two years."
Earlier while on stage, Mr. McPherson said he agreed with critic complaints that the first six episodes this season pulled the story too far from the group dynamics that made the show popular.
"[The writers] made a clear choice that first installment would be about Jack, Kate, Sawyer and The Others," he said. "For me, the show I really invest in is having everybody together. I thought it was a riveting six episodes, but I like it when they're all together and they're heading toward that again after the break."
Though Mr. McPherson stood by his decision to schedule a four-month break in the "Lost" schedule this season, he reiterated his plan (first reported last month in TelevisionWeek) to try and run next season's episodes without a break or repeats, launching either in the fall or spring.
While at TCA, Mr. McPherson also said that freshman dramas "The Nine" and "Six Degrees," which were pulled from the schedule earlier this season, will likely return to finish their runs before May. But "Day Break" will only be available ABC.com.
Two other dramas on ABC's slate-"The Traveler" and "Notes From the Underbelly"-will premiere by the end of the season.