'Lost' maps out new directions

Endgame, continuous season mulled for ABC drama

ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson insisted that despite claims that the megahit "Lost" had lost its way creatively during the kickoff of its third season in the fall, he believes the show is in fine shape, thank you very much.

"You know, I liked it. I think that (executive producers) Damon (Lindelof) and Carlton (Cuse) made a clear choice that that first installment would be really about the experience of Jack and Kate and Sawyer and the Others," McPherson said Sunday during the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel. "I thought it was really a riveting six episodes, and the production values, I think they exceeded even their own standards. But I like it when they're all together, and I think we're headed toward that when you come back after (the hiatus)."

Some have criticized the decision to launch "Lost" in the fall for seven weeks and then give it a four-month rest. (It returns to ABC's schedule next month.) McPherson admits this might have been a mistake and next year looks to go the route Fox does with "24," running all 20-something episodes consecutively with no repeats.

"I even said last fall, ideally the way you would do 'Lost' is 22 straight (episodes), 23 straight, as many as we had done," said McPherson, appearing more relaxed and jovial than during similar sessions in recent years. "I think for us, given where we were in our development, we really needed to (launch it) in the fall. … I think coming into next fall there's a good chance we would run it 22 straight either in the fall or in the spring."

During a later session devoted to "Lost," Cuse hinted that they are feeling a need to establish a precise end-date for the Emmy-winning thriller, if only to satisfy fans and to help the producers plot out the final story arcs of the marooned plane-crash survivors. The success of "Lost" in its 2004 debut led the way for a parade of heavily serialized dramas. Like clockwork, the major networks dived head-first into serial territory this past season — but with few successes. McPherson conceded that ABC had trouble launching two new cliffhanger-driven shows this fall, "The Nine" and "Daybreak," but that doesn't mean he has any regrets.

"The shows were incredibly well-produced," he said. "We loved the shows creatively … It may have just been the timing." The programming guru added that both "Nine" and the poorly-rated freshman drama "Six Degrees" still have a chance to return to the schedule this spring despite being pulled. "Degrees," in fact, is in production to finish out its original 13-episode order.