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'Lost' hoping to settle on end date

Finally, a shocking revelation involving "Lost" that no one saw coming.

The producers of the ABC drama said here Sunday that they want to end the criticism about the painfully slow pace of dishing out revelations in the mysterious drama by agreeing on an end date.

The announcement by producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse was more stunning than what was inside the hatch in season two.

"One of the things we're in discussions with the network about right now is picking an end point to the show," Cuse said in a news conference. "Once we do that, a lot of the anxieties and a lot of these questions, 'we're not getting answers,' will go away. They really represent an underlying anxiety that this is not going to end well or that we don't know what we're doing."

After the session, co-creator Lindelof said he always felt the series about plane crash survivors marooned on a mysterious island could run 100 episodes.

"It feels to me like we're about halfway there right now," said Lindelof. "You guys have seen like 50 episodes. It feels like now that The Others are becoming characters that you're no longer going up the hill. You're starting to come down."

If you're a fan of numbers like lottery winner Hurley (Jorge Garcia), that means the series would end with an abbreviated fifth season in 2009 and avoid staying around too long like "The X-Files." Cuse views the end of that conspiracy series as a cautionary tale.

"That was a great show that probably ran two seasons too long," said Cuse. " 'Lost' is a show that has sort of a short half life."

He realizes that announcing an end date so early would be another example of "Lost" breaking TV rules.

"Being able to determine an endpoint and an ending on our own terms would be actually the appropriate and right finish for this as an experience," said Cuse.

"Lost" hopes to stop the ratings decline in its third season when it returns in a new time slot at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7. The episode almost finalizes the plot line of Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) being held captive by the leader of The Others, Ben (Michael Emerson), and a mysterious doctor, Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell).

To many viewers, the end of the fall story arc couldn't come soon enough. The group appears to include ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson, even if he called the six fall episodes "riveting."

"The show that I really kind of really, really invest in you'll see when you come back, which is everybody together and really that kind of emotional experience," said McPherson.

The cast members who haven't had much to do in this season's episodes seemed to accept it as par for the course for an ensemble show.

"As actors, we like to act, so we like it when we get our chances to do it," said Garcia. "Like any job, sometimes you also like a week off."

Cuse and Lindelof said the series soon will be more like it was in season one -- more character driven than mythology driven.

The slow pace of revelations was exacerbated by ABC's decision to split the season in two parts -- six fall episodes and 16 straight starting Feb. 7. The plan, which was devised after viewers' complaints about all the repeats in season two, has backfired. So ABC is investigating a new plan for next season. McPherson said there is a "good chance" that next season the series will air 22 straight episodes, starting either in the fall of 2007 or the winter of 2008.

McPherson has more immediate issues to deal with. He announced the first two, two-hour episodes of the next edition of the popular reality series "Dancing With the Stars" will air at 8 p.m. Mondays on March 19 and March 26. The first results show will air at 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 27.

"We wanted people to not have to choose between 'American Idol' and 'Dancing,' " he said.

The performance episodes of "Dancing" will avoid Fox's Tuesday edition of "Idol." However, "Dancing" will compete with two popular 9 p.m. Monday dramas, NBC's "Heroes" (which McPherson said in July was his favorite new fall show) and Fox's "24."

McPherson also noted the producers of "Desperate Housewives" have had to devise desperate measures to keep Marcia Cross (Bree) involved. Cross is pregnant with twins and has been advised by doctors to continue bed rest. She will stay on the show through episode 14 or 15. The plot line had her in bed anyway after Bree was injured in a fall.

"We planned for it," said McPherson. "We're actually shooting some of the episodes [with doctor approval] to finish up her arc for the first part of the season at her home in her bed."

McPherson praised the David E. Kelley series "Boston Legal" and gave every indication there is no end in sight for the often politically incorrect series.

"They've done some of the most humorous things that have been done on television," said the deadpan McPherson. "I mean any show where the lead [William Shatner's character, Denny Crane] can say, 'I think that midget I'm dating is my daughter.' I mean that's good television right there. It doesn't get any better than that."


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