ABC and Fox brace for battle of titan

'Lost,' 'Idol' face-off in end-of-season showdown

ABC and Fox are headed for an end-of-season smackdown that will pit the season-enders of two of TV’s hottest shows against each other.

Alphabet has decided to expand the frosh finale of the JJ Abrams/Damon Lindelof thriller “Lost” to two hours and, more importantly, schedule it for the last night of the season: Wednesday, May 25, from 8-10 p.m. That will place “Lost” directly opposite Fox’s two-hour season four finale of “American Idol.”

Abrams and Lindelof had planned for a 90-minute “Lost” wrap-up, but once the final script came in longer than expected, the decision was made to expand the finale to two hours. As a result, Abrams-produced “Alias” will air its season finale at 10 p.m. May 25.

The three previous “Idol” finales have been among the most-watched TV events of their respective years, making ABC’s gambit something of a risk. But given the intense loyalty of “Lost” fans — as well as the promise of a finale that will reveal the answers to some of the show’s many mysteries — Alphabet execs think they’ve got the goods to compete.

“It was all driven by the creative,” ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson said. “These guys have worked really hard to deliver for this first season, and to have it come to this great climax. They’ve delivered at the highest level, and it made sense to put it on regardless (of the competition).”

McPherson said the move is consistent with how ABC has played the ratings game all season long. “All year, we’ve focused on ourselves,” he said. “I don’t want to change what we’re doing because of what others are doing. If you let the strategies of others alter your plans, you’re making a mistake.”

Indeed, ABC kept “Lost” on the air opposite the season premiere of “Idol,” and the ABC drama did just fine. Net also didn’t blink on Sunday nights, keeping original segs of “Desperate Housewives” on vs. the Grammys and Golden Globes — and handily beating both kudofests.

“There’s an audience for ‘Lost’ that’s proven to be incredibly loyal,” the ABC topper said.

A Fox spokesman noted the net has always planned to air the two-hour “Idol” finale on May 25. “Since ‘Idol’ launched this season, the schedule has been set,” he said. “We plan to keep to that schedule.”

Scheduling is a bold move for ABC, which risks limiting the potential upside for the “Lost” finale by forcing a TiVo crisis for auds who are fans of both “Idol” and “Lost.” While it’s not unheard of for blockbuster events to face off, nets often will yield to the dominant skein.

Indeed, CBS will air the season finale of “Survivor” on May 15 — thus avoiding the finale of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Calendar also suggests NBC will broadcast the finale of midseason drama “Revelations” the Wednesday before “Idol” and “Lost” wrap.

McPherson said he’s seen “a top secret extensive outline” of the “Lost” finale, which he labels “phenomenal.” He declined to give plot details but said the finale actually plays out over three hours, beginning with the penultimate episode airing May 18.

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