If only getting the 2007-2008 television season up and running again were as easy as rebooting a laptop. Here, in their own words, TV's top writers from Lost, Saturday Night Live, Two and a Half Men, and more tell EW about the jitters, group hugs, and story-line amnesia they experienced during their first week back at work.
Exec producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof focus on the positives: faster pacing, questions answered and Nestor Carbonell!
CARLTON CUSE: We were faced with the daunting challenge of taking eight hours of story and having to compress it [into five]. We knew we were going to be off for another eight months; we didn't want the audience to leave the season feeling unfulfilled.
DAMON LINDELOF: Carlton arrived five minutes before I did. As usual, I said, ''Hello, doctor!'' And he said, ''Hello, doctor!'' We hugged, sat down, ate breakfast, and began to discuss the modus operandi for the day.
CUSE: There were literally cobwebs on the couches of the writers' room.
LINDELOF: The storyboards were empty. We wiped them clean for fear of people finding them during the strike.
CUSE: While we were gone, Disney had used our writers' room to shoot scenes for Eli Stone, so our boards were hanging at slightly different heights; the cast photos weren't where they were supposed to be. It was kind of a metaphor for coming back slightly realigned, requiring adjustment.
LINDELOF: We had sent the writing staff copies of all eight episodes we produced before the strike to review. On our first day back, we talked a lot about them. ''Let's try to be the audience. They will have had one month to digest the first seven episodes. What will they want us to focus on when we come back?''
CUSE: One of our first concerns was cast availability. We have one actor we very much need who is doing a play and another actor doing an HBO series. But we also have some opportunities. Nestor Carbonell, who played Richard Alpert last season, was on Cane. But now we'll be able to use him. Another unforeseen advantage is that we'll be able to respond to confusion the audience might have about the season so far.
LINDELOF: Like Naomi's bracelet in the Sayid episode. I got some e-mails from some people who wondered if there was a connection between Naomi's bracelet and the bracelet worn by the woman Sayid killed in his flash-forward. There is no connective tissue. But some people interpreted that as ''Is there something more there?'' We might need to address that. Perhaps the biggest complication is character geography. We've always known how the season was going to end. To get there, we need to have the characters in various places on the Island itself, and it can take an entire episode to travel from A to B. So we have to get people moving sooner.
CUSE: We're definitely energized. We got a chance to recharge our creative batteries during the strike. We're sort of like Rosie Ruiz dropping into the marathon at mile 21 we're just going to run the final five miles of this baby at a 10K pace.
LINDELOF: It's like stuffing eight kids into a Prius. We probably should have an SUV, but it's going to be a really fun ride, so let's buckle up and party. One of the kids might end up flying through the windshield, but hey: That's Lost. As told to Jeff Jensen