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Lost cause

Television | Devoted fans are growing restless with ABC's hit mystery show

Issue: "Is Romney rolling?," May 19, 2007

Millions of viewers are hooked on Lost (ABC, Wednesday 10 p.m. ET), but already there are signs that ABC's hit show about plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island could end in disappointment for faithful viewers.

When season three concludes on May 23 with a two-hour finale, Lost will have completed its 69th episode. According to ABC and co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof, Lost fans will get just three more shorter, uninterrupted seasons before the show's writers attempt to close the book.

But there's a problem: Can so-called "Losties"-faithful and devoted fans-wait that long? The fans who populate countless Lost websites, message boards, and podcasts have begun to show frustration.

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Consider, they say, a partial list of unresolved puzzles (some from the first season): the polar bears, the purpose of the button, the mysterious sightings of loved ones, the assertion by various bit players that the entire program was just a hallucination of one castaway (Hurley) or that the island is a form of afterlife. One has to hope the show's writers don't resort to the same deus ex machina that Dallas used in bringing Bobby back from the dead by declaring an entire season a "dream sequence."

Some are even questioning whether the show has shifted from mystery theater to weird science: Are producers keeping track of viewers from their own hatch just to see how far they can yank them around?

Lindelof seems aware of the growing fan wariness: "There was unease that they were making an investment in a show that is complicated, without any sense of where it is going to lead them," he said, acknowledging lower ratings in this third season. "Fans have been saying, 'Are you making it up as you go along?'" That's a legitimate question.

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