Three years, three seasons. Forty-eight episodes, 16 episodes per season. That's how much life Lost has left. We asked executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse about the groundbreaking decision to announce an end date for their cult pop smash, as well as what to expect from the final three episodes of the season and beyond.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, burning question: There are 48 episodes left and there were 48 survivors of Oceanic 815. Surely that's not mere coincidence?
DAMON LINDELOF: It's certainly a number that we are drawn to. But when you look at it more carefully, there were 48 survivors from the fuselage section of the plane but that was before they found out there were 23 survivors in the tail section. But we don't want people to think we based that number on its ultimate mythological value.
By the time Lost is over in 2010, how many total episodes will we be talking about?
LINDELOF: There will be 117 total episodes, as they aired, when all is said and done unless ABC decides to group them in some weird way.
Another crazy theory I heard is that the three seasons, 16 episodes per season structure is a clue unto itself a reference to John 3:16 in the Bible: ''For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.'' You know, more references to fathers, sons, the nature of time, etc.
CARLTON CUSE: Actually, we didn't get it from the Bible. We got the whole idea on how to end our show just by watching that guy who holds the John 3:16 signs up in the end zone during football games.
I knew it had to be something crazy like that. Seriously now: Why is ending the show a good thing for Lost fans?
CUSE: I think it's a good thing because now, people who are invested in Lost know that there is an end point. You now know exactly how much story there is left. I think there was some uneasiness over the possibility that Lost wasn't going to end well, and the biggest contributing component of that anxiety was not knowing when the show was going to end. Now, I hope the audience will know where this road trip is leading. We hope that announcing this will be really reassuring to our fans who keep wondering, ''When are we going to get answers? When will the show pay off?''
LINDELOF: Even the most cynical of fans who go, ''Do these guys know where they're going?'' they'll get to find out too! And very important is this: They'll get to find out as we go along. One thing I think we have to get out there is this: You won't have to wait until 2010 to get all the answers you really care about. Some of these answers are going to be coming a lot sooner than you think. The reality is, we're not going to make you wait until the last episode to give you everything. Hopefully, by announcing this, fans will be signing on for all 48 episodes, and stay until the bitter end. Of course, it's our job to produce compelling episodes that will keep you watching until the last season. In fact, one thing we discussed amongst ourselves while deliberating the pros and cons of the 3 [seasons]/16 [episodes] proposal is that we can't have two seasons of filler and expect people to hang around. We have to start giving answers now, so the show becomes more of an answer-based show as we work toward this end point.
CUSE: You now know exactly where you stand in the story. We've done 72 hours and we have 48 hours to go.
LINDELOF: We're 60 percent done.
CUSE: We're over the top of the mountain and heading down the backside. And we believe that our most exciting storytelling is yet to come.
NEXT PAGE: ''Were you prepared to walk away if you couldn't get an end date for the series from ABC?''