On Lost, the countdown has begun to a season-ending brawl between the castaways and the Others. Behind the scenes, a different countdown has begun too but this clock won't reach zero until 2010. On May 7, ABC and executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse announced an end date to the serialized saga. Lost will run for three more seasons, each with 16 episodes (instead of the usual 22). The decision comes after months of complicated negotiations: The network wanted enough episodes to produce three more seasons of the show for both ABC and overseas markets, and the producers were worried about spreading their remaining mythology too thin. Says Lindelof, ''To keep Lost creative and energized, we needed an end point.''
There's also the hope that the assurance of an ending will satisfy fans alienated by the show's sometimes frustrating ambiguity. ''I think there was some uneasiness that Lost wasn't going to end well,'' says Cuse. The producers say the fourth season which is expected to launch in February 2008 and may air in an earlier time slot promises major changes, with the upcoming May 23 season finale setting the stage. Look for death, renewed rescue hope, and a development that might alter the show's flashback-heavy structure. Teases Lindelof: ''It will make you realize that the house [that is Lost] actually has a lot more rooms than you thought.'' And by 2010, you'll finally get to see the entire blueprint.