Last summer when ABC announced they were breaking Lost into two mini-seasons, so to speak, I thought it was a good idea. I still do. It was frustrating last year, never knowing for sure when a new episode would air. In many offices, the typical Thursday morning conversation probably started with, Was there a new Lost last night?
With Losts ratings softening a bitCBSs CSI: Miami beat out Lost in total viewers throughout the February sweeps, and Lost is barely hanging on to its lead in the 18-40 demographicyou have to wonder what impact the mini-seasons experiment had.
I spend my days talking to a lot of TV viewers, many of them Lost fans, and while some of them hated the idea of waiting through a three-month hiatus starting just six weeks after the four-and-a-half month hiatus ended, most seemed to like knowing that, once the show was back, they wouldnt have to guess when new episodes were going to air.
But things change fast. A year ago, missing an episode of any show left fans in a lurch. Today, more and more showsincluding Lostcan be seen on demand online for free, making it almost impossible to miss an episode. Given Lost is still top in its timeslot with a fairly Web-savvy age group, perhaps some ratings erosion is coming from people viewing new episodes online.
But that doesnt explain why CSI: New Yorks ratings are inching up every week while Losts ratings are slipping. In the fourth week of the February sweeps, Lost was down 2 percent in total viewers, and CSI: New York was up 2 percent. For Feb. 28, in total viewers, Lost had a 7.6 rating/13 share compared with CSI: New Yorks 9.2 rating/15 share.
Maybe the show just isnt holding viewers attention as raptly as it once did. I know Ive experienced a lack of anticipation about upcoming episodes nearly all season.
At times, it feels as if two different shows are sharing the same timeslot. Kind of like if Buffy and Angel had alternated on a weekly basissame universe, different locations. Theres Others Island, and the nearly-forgotten Lost Island. I get why some of the storylines need to play out separatelyafter all, it would be hard to incorporate Juliets flashbacks into an episode with Sun, Jin and Hurley. (Then again, this is Lost, where apparently everything is interconnected, and apparently nothings impossible, like a polar bear on a tropical island.)
One episode tries too hard to expand the mysteries of the island, while the next does nothing to advance the plot. While most episodes still hold my complete attention, midway through the whole story-of-Jacks-tattoos episode, I found myself reading a newspaper. An old newspaper.
Even with some ratings erosion, Lost still draws millions of viewers. Despite its perpetual unevenness, Ill keep watching. After all, pacing has been one of the shows biggest challenges since season one, so its not like I havent come to expect it.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine, Rockford Life and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue