Big Question for ‘Lost’: Will Short Season Help or Hurt?

Strike shortens new season from 16 episodes to 8; how will the show be affected?

ByABC News
January 30, 2008, 4:19 PM

Jan. 31, 2008 — -- Giving a ravenous "Lost" fan eight new episodes is kind of like offering a recovering alcoholic starlet a swig of vodka.

The taste is bound to leave both wanting more.

But that's not likely to stop viewers addicted to ABC's hit drama about plane crash survivors stranded (presumably) on an island from savoring the shortened season of "Lost," premiering tonight. The Hollywood writers' strike threw a wrench in production of the original 16-episode season, highly anticipated because producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse promised it would start the show's 48-episode advance to a final climax in 2010.

"I think the audience can expect that we can finish our story," Cuse told in May, adding that the show's certain end date would allow him and Lindelof to "take our remaining mythology" and plan out an ending "with great specificity."

But now, with fewer episodes in the can, can "Lost" fans really expect their questions about the show to be answered? What, if anything, can an eight-episode season of such a complex series accomplish?

"This is the not the season that 'Lost' wanted this year and it won't be the season that viewers wanted," said David Bianculli, who reviews TV on National Public Radio and at "They may still be able to roll out a satisfactory ending to the series. We may still see the 'Lost' series that we were going to see. But if they don't extend the number of episodes into next season, or overall, something's got to give."

It doesn't help that "Lost" has been criticized for spreading new episodes too far apart over seasons, taking too long between seasons (both of which are actually decisions made by the network, not producers) and muddling its narrative arc with outlandish plot twists and turns. (Season three ended with scenes showing survivors off the island and back in normal life, making viewers wonder if previous flash-backs were actually flash-forwards, flash-sideways or something else entirely.)