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Has ABC ‘Lost’ It?

February 20, 2007

BAD DECISIONS TURN A TV CHAMP INTO A TV CHUMP

Leave it to the ‘Disney Network’ to take a good thing and ruin it for everybody.  Remember those halcyon sweeps periods of past in which Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ‘ruled the roost’ and saved the network for pinheads from hitting rock bottom?  It only took a few short months of Regis Philbin repeatedly asking, “Is that your final answer?” to drive the once-popular game show straight into TV land’s dumpster.  Fortunately, even as Regis faltered in the ratings, ABC proved that it was more than just an outlet for silly sitcoms and unfunny home videos.  They learned that less was more, but for a program like Lost, less may mean less. 

For the past two years, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Dancing With The Stars have comprised the strong foundation of ABC’s schedule, reestablishing impressive ratings for the network and wiping away memories of the embarrassing choices it made with Millionaire.  Somewhere along the decision making process, a genius at ABC had the bright idea of allowing Lost to go off the air for thirteen weeks without the benefit of airing any reruns.  They were banking on a new show (the forgettable Day Break) to fill the void, but it failed right out of the box and was removed after only two weeks. They were left with the choice of only airing reruns of other shows until Lost’s return.

Then Fox began airing ratings-juggernaut American Idol and ABC moved Lost to 10PM in order to avoid head to head competition when it came back.  That was another huge mistake.  The winner of 2005’s Emmy for best dramatic series (once drawing over 20 million viewers) saw its audience shrink down dramatically to 14.5 million viewers for its Feb. 7 return and 12.8 million the following week.  Maybe the nerds that tune in each week happened to find (or afford) a date for Valentine’s Day and simply missed an episode.  It’s not likely.

Having never watched a single episode of the series, I cannot comment on any specific details of the storyline that may be driving viewers away.  I do know that a show like Lost is the type of program that people do not tune out unless something is going very wrong and turning them off.  It could be ridiculous plot-lines, new and annoying characters, or a lack of satisfying payoffs as the story has steadily moved forward.  Whatever the producers are doing, they should immediately stop and return to what made the show a hit when it started. 

Before its audience knows it, Lost will disappear from TV and they will be forced to find something else on television to satisfy their viewing needs (it looks like many already have.)  Judging by what I have seen come and go from network program schedules in the past three years,  jilted fans are going to have quite a challenge ahead of themselves when they search for a new show to worship. 

It’s going to make getting off that stinking island seem like a cakewalk.

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