Mar 6, 2007

Genre Producers Distance Themselves From 'Lost'

'Jericho' and 'Heroes' writers promise actual answers

It wasn't so long ago that every network wanted its own "Lost" and every new show wanted to mimic ABC's hit drama. Those days are in the past. For a variety of reasons, ratings for "Lost"

are at an all-time low.

Rightly or wrongly, there's a perception in the industry that Damon Lindelof and company have squandered both audience good faith and narrative momentum on three seasons of complicated mythology with nary a satisfying answer in sight. With "Lost" in danger of becoming another cautionary tale and networks canceling serialized dramas with impunity, the race is on to establish a new paradigm, to be the show that actually supplies answers, that stands out as the anti-"Lost."

Speaking to still enthusiastic crowds at the weekend's San Francisco WonderCon, producers on freshman genre efforts "Jericho" and "Heroes" made repeated promises about resolutions and closure and giving audiences what they want. Nobody mentioned the "L"-show, but how can you not think of Jack, Sawyer, Kate and company when reading the following quotes? "One thing we knew from the beginning is we didn't want to frustrate the audience by not paying off mysteries, by not answering questions, because we know."

Those words were offered by "Jericho" executive producer Stephen Chbosky, whose colleague Carol Barbee was able to give a specific timetable for certain reveals including whatever happened to those pesky missiles that were launched into the sky many episodes ago. "You find out certain things in 18... You also hear a little something in 15, which is the one after this. We haven't forgotten them. They're out there." Barbee also promised that viewers are on the verge of discovering who exactly began the nuclear conflict that left our Kansas-based heroes in prairie isolation. "I think you'll be surprised by who did it," Barbee said. We didn't want to do the same-old, same-old... It's a many-faceted group that is involved.

Jeph Loeb, a veteran comic writer and co-executive producer on NBC's "Heroes" and former supervising producer on "Lost," said that the show's early pick-up and unusual pod structure has actually provided an incentive to reach the end of certain things. "It was very important to us, unlike a lot of serialized shows -- and I think some of that has to do with the people who came on the show from places like 'Lost' and 'Alias' -- that we want our audience to know that when Tim [Kring] started out by staying this was chapter one or volume one, that is exactly what it is," Loeb emphasized. "When we get to the end of the season, almost all the questions that were asked at the beginning of the season will be answered, so that when you start back next season, some of the cast may have changed, certain problems that were encountered in the first season will have been resolved and there'll be new sets of problems and a new plot and a new driving element that's gonna take you into this new set of stories so you don't feel like you're constantly trying to catch up with the show." Loeb, whose superhero drama finishes its latest pod of original episodes on Monday (March 5), continued, "You'll get a resolution. You'll find out things that are gonna happen. Any question that you might ask that came out of the first three or four episodes in terms of every single one of those characters, we're doing our best to answer every single one of those by the time you get to the end of the season. And yet, of course we're going to leave you some cliffhangers so you do come back to us next year."


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