Less Lost Is More

How TV's most entertaining mystery gained new life--by planning its own demise

Mario Perez / ABC

On May 29, Lost's cast, including Fox, center, seeks to top last year's finale.

The producers of Lost have found the secret to resuscitating a great TV show: make less of it. Last year, in the middle of a third season that was criticized by fans as slow and aimless, they proposed to end the hit show after three more seasons of 16 episodes each, six or so fewer than a typical TV-drama season. ABC, stunningly, agreed, though it had the contractual right to frog-march the lucrative property ahead for as many seasons as it liked.

Plotting its own demise was Lost's best innovation yet. Some big-network hits, like Mary Tyler Moore and Seinfeld, have...

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