Producers: 'Lost' won't end 'with a blackout'

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NEW YORK -- Even after Sunday's controversial conclusion to "The Sopranos," two "Lost" executive producers said Wednesday that they weren't planning a murky ending to their hit ABC drama.

"We will not be ending with a blackout," executive producer Carlton Cuse told an audience gathered in Midtown Manhattan for the second day of Promax/BDA's annual conference.

He and co-creator Damon Lindelof answered questions -- but not any of those questions -- and said that they do have an ending for the show that was fleshed out along with the last three seasons during a recently completed writers' "minicamp" before the start of production in August.

"Lost" will end in spring 2010 after 48 more hourlong episodes, 16 per season. Lindelof said "Lost" has to move from asking more questions to answering the questions posed during the series' run.

"Obviously, we can't wait to the 48th hour to say, 'Here are all the mysteries of the show,' " Lindelof said. But Cuse also noted the reality of the sometimes vociferous and heavily engaged viewership of the show, which uses the Web to advance theories and post explanations and even freeze-frames to parse further meaning.

"I'm not sure there is any ending that will satisfy everyone," Cuse said. "Our hope is that the ending will be ... the logical conclusion of the story."

Cuse said the first season was about the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors landing on the island and realizing they weren't going to get rescued. The second season was about the hatch, and the third season was about the Others.

"Next season, well, we'll talk about that later," Cuse said.

While "Lost" viewers will have to wait till next year to see the next TV episodes, Cuse and Lindelof said in the fall there will be a series of "Lost" mobisodes featuring the entire cast and rolling out first on Verizon Wireless and then probably appearing on ABC.com. They said they're keenly aware of the eight-month gap between last month's finale and the return of "Lost" at the beginning of next year.

"How do you keep the show alive in the minds of the audience in that time?" Cuse asked. They're also planning to go back to San Diego's Comic-Con International, where the show was launched, to address May's Season 3 finale and what they had in mind.

Cuse said the mobisodes, about 90 seconds each, will give the hardcore "Lost" viewer more information that they probably weren't going to get through the show itself. What it won't be, they said, was a mini version of "Lost."

"It needs to be interesting enough and well produced enough that people feel they're getting enough bang for their buck, even if it's free, the bang for their time," Lindelof said.

Lindelof said the negotiations for the talent took a long time, but they wanted to make sure that all of them were involved in the mobisodes.

"Nobody wanted to see two people sitting on a beach that we've never heard of talking and saying, 'Hey, did you hear what Jack and Kate did today?' You want to see Jack and Kate. It's taken us three years to get those deals in place," Lindelof said.

Cuse said that being a showrunner now is much different than it was 10 years ago. "You have to be more of a brand manager," he said. He said there are 37 ancillary parts to the "Lost" brand from T-shirts to mobile phone applications to a planned video game. It led to a discussion of several missteps, including the tie-in novel "Bad Twin" that Cuse said didn't meet their bar and the introduction of two previously unseen survivors, Nikki and Paulo.

The characters came out of "Lost" viewers' questions about why the show focused only on the same 12 characters and not the "socks," the unnamed survivors who provide the background around the camp. Cuse said "socks" comes from the term "sock puppets," which the writers call the extras.

"We're like, 'Trust us, you don't care about those guys,' " Lindelof joked.

They said they realized almost immediately that adding Nikki and Paulo was a mistake, even before the viewer outcry. Many of the scenes they shot would get cut on the editing room floor, not because of the actors but because they were concerned about how they fit into the story. Lindelof said that it was a lesson for the writers to stay true to the show's vision even if the viewers don't seem to like it.

"We buried them alive," Cuse said of Nikki and Paulo. "OK, you guys don't like Nikki and Paulo, there."
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