Producers try to decide show's end date

ABC, Touchstone TV and the producers behind “Lost” are actively discussing how and when to retire the hit castaway drama.

According to “Lost” exec producer Carlton Cuse, picking an end date for “Lost” would help the show’s creative team to map the next several seasons as they plot the show’s thick mythology.

“It’s time for us to find an endpoint to the show,” said Cuse, speaking Sunday at ABC’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour. “It’s a struggle for us, because we don’t know if we have three years, four years or more to go. If we had an endpoint, then we could figure out where everything goes.”

Such a move would placate fans of the show, who frequently gripe that they have no indication whether the show’s ever-increasing mysteries will pay off. A set timetable would send a message to viewers that all of their questions will be answered eventually.

“Once we figure out when that will be, a lot of those concerns will go away,” Cuse said. “The worst point is when a show ends and no one cares. We don’t want that to happen. We want to make the shows good for as long as we do the show.”

Cuse suggested the show could end once it hits 100 episodes in season five (“Lost” is currently shooting episode 62). But it’s far more likely that “Lost” would continue at least through its seventh season, when the show’s thesps’ current contracts expire.

ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson said discussions about the endgame for “Lost” are ongoing, but no plan has been identified as yet.

McPherson, Cuse and exec producer Damon Lindelof said they were conscious of the need to ensure “Lost” doesn’t overstay its welcome with viewers.

“None of us want to be doing the show that’s the stalling show — ‘We’re building sandcastles this week,’” Lindelof quipped.

Cuse pointed to “The X-Files” as “a great show that probably lasted two seasons too long.”

“That show was a bit of a cautionary tale for us,” he said.

Determining an end date for a popular franchise isn’t unprecedented; Cuse cited the “Harry Potter” books as a model the show would like to emulate.

“J.K. Rowling announced seven ‘Harry Potter’ books, (conveying a) certainty that that story is drawing to a conclusion,” he said.

As for this year’s split “Lost” season, McPherson said the net would run all 22 episodes of “Lost” straight through next year, perhaps starting in midseason (a la “24″).

In other Alphabet net news, hoofing hit “Dancing With the Stars” is waltzing over to Monday and Tuesday nights, where it won’t have to compete against the “American Idol” juggernaut.

“Stars” will return for its next cycle on Monday, March 19, at 8 p.m. with a two-hour premiere. ABC will forgo a results show that week, instead airing another two-hour edition the following Monday.

The first results show then premieres Tuesday, March 27, at 9 p.m. (The Monday edition pulls back to its regular 90-minute form on April 2.)

ABC execs fiercely debated whether to pit “Stars” head-to-head against “Idol” or move the show out of the way, with proponents of both scenarios arguing their case.

McPherson told reporters at the TCA tour that the net ultimately wanted viewers “not to have to choose between ‘Idol’ and ‘Dancing.’”

“Dancing” “proved it can go on in different places and succeed,” McPherson said. “Our fans would have been upset, ‘Idol’ fans would have been upset if we put them on head-to-head…. Our show is a good show, and there is room for both on the schedule.”

McPherson noted “Stars” will likely still compete with “Idol” several times, as Fox stocks its schedule with expanded and additional segs of the talent competish.

“I’m sure Fox will air as many two-hour ‘Idols’ and as many ‘Idols’ as possible to win 18-49 and beat up on us,” he said.

Asked about this fall’s mixed report card for serialized drama at the nets, McPherson said ABC is developing more shows with a procedural bent this development season.

Pointing to ratings disappointments “The Nine” and “Daybreak,” McPherson said he believed viewers are choosing shows with more of an escapist feel.

“If you look at all three of the hit new shows, ‘Heroes,’ ‘Ugly Betty’ and ‘Brothers & Sisters,’ they all in their own way have an escapism to them,” he said. “It may be hindsight, but you may see an adjustment toward that.”

Also at the ABC session:

  • McPherson addressed the controversy last fall surrounding ABC’s “The Path to 9/11″ mini and said the furor was politically motivated.

“Everything in that movie is backed tenfold,” he said. “It’s odd to have Sandy Berger tell you what’s truthful or not when he was indicted for stuffing documents in his pants for this very subject.”

  • With “Desperate Housewives” star Marcia Cross on bed rest due to complications surrounding her pregnancy, the show’s producers have taken to filming her scenes at her house, while she lies in her actual bed. (With her doctor’s permission, of course.)

  • ABC will air at least two longform projects next season, with the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” entry “For One More Day” (based on the Mitch Albom book) in the fall and “A Raisin in the Sun” (originally slated for this year) next spring.

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