"Lost" says farewell


Before the "Lost" finale had even been written, producer Damon Lindelof had a safe prediction.

"I don't think it would be 'Lost' if there wasn's (an) active debate ... as to whether or not it was a good ending," he said. Some people will "say it's the worst ending in the history of television."

Some will, but I'm on the positive side. I thought it was a very good ending to an extremely good series. If you haven't seen the show yet, skip the rest (to avoid spoilers) and try www.abc.com; if you have, let me know what you thought.

I'm not a pushover for these series finales. I think both of the ones airing Monday (May 24) are disappointing; "24" has a so-so finish, "Law & Order" has a lame one.

Those shows, however, had little preparation. "Lost," by comparison, knew three years ago that this would be the end; it planned well.

Yes, there are flaws. We never did learn why this island would add mystical qualities. Or why the monster would suddenly be mortal inside Locke's body, apparently unable to summon its killer-smoke persona. Or lots of other small things involving anything from time-travel to lottery numbers.

Ultimately, however, "Lost" found a way to resolve things on the island. It found a way to bring the two realities together: We could savor the no-crash reality, knowing that the crash really had happened somewhere in people's sub-conscious; now they could semi-remember it and be shaped by their island time.

Another show, "Six Feet Under," had a particularly good series finale, dutifully telling what happened to every character. "Lost" found a way to get around that: Some of these people died before Jack; some lived for generations after. But eventually, all would be in the same place, remembering each other exactly as they were on the island.

I'm told that some parts of people's lives -- the war years, the sports years, the courtship years -- grow larger in their memories, as time goes on. For all of these characters, it will be the island time. On a conscious level, they're not even sure it happened; sub-consciously, it has shaped them profoundly.





The end is near; so is the beginning

For TV viewers, this is a great and awful stretch.

The good news includes key shows every night -- the "Lost" finale tonight, the "24" and "Law & Order" finales Monday, the "American Idol" finale Tuesday and Wednesday, plus the season-openers of two of the key summer shows, "The Bachelorette" (Monday) and "So You Think You Can Dance" (Thursday). The bad news is ... well, no more "Lost" and "24." Ever.

There will be separate stories on these in some papers. (Also, check my previous blogs for "Idol" stories, including a peek at the finale.) For now, however, here's an overview I wrote about the big week:


In one overstuffed stretch, our TV's
will be full of endings and beginnings. On May 23-27, that brings:

– The season finales of the two
top-rated series, “Dancing With the Stars” and “American Idol.”

– The season openers of two key
summer shows, “Bachelorette” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

– And the final episodes of two shows
that changed television – “Lost” and “24,” plus one that lasted almost forever, "Law & Order."

That last one didn't have a chance to plan a finale. By comparison, "24" made some adjustments when it decided not to return.
“There is a final moment that is very, very specific to the series
finale,” said producer Howard Gordon. “It (provides) a
punctuation mark.”

And it wraps up an era when producers
tried some new things.

First was Fox's “24” in 2001,
spreading each story over a full season. Then ABC's “Lost” showed
up in 2004, daring to leap between time frames, between continents,
even between realities.

“It proved that you could do
serialized shows that were going to be challenging to the audience,
that people could invest in,” said Stephen McPherson, the ABC
programming chief.

That worked partly because both shows
had rich production values. “Lost” became “a gigantic movie,”
McPherson said; so did “24” … which is, in fact, planning a
movie version next.

And it worked because of scheduling
decisions: “Lost” and “24” skip reruns; they cram all the
episodes together into the second half of the season. And they
promised viewers an ending.

“Lost” was allowed to wrap up with
three seasons, totaling 48 hours. That provided time to plan and
alter. The only thing the producers promise is that it won't be a
safe or simple ending.

“I don't think it would be 'Lost' if
there weren't sort of an ongoing and active debate … as to whether
or not it was a good ending,” said producer Damon Lindelof. “(Some
will) say it's the worst ending in the history of television. And,
hopefully to balance them out, my mom will …”

Meanwhile, “24” has managed to
deliver a big ending at the end of each season. “Any number of
seasons in years past … could have been a really, really cool
series finale,” Gordon said.

Along the way, Jack Bauer (Kiefer
Sutherland) has been battered physically and emotionally.

“You feel the accumulated scars of
his experience and the weight of his actions for eight years,”
Gordon said. “Jack has never been able to sort of snap back.”

This year, the show dangled a love
interest (Renee) in front of him, then killed her. That set him on a
rogue path, against the two women who have been his trusted allies,
Gordon said. It became “Chloe versus Jack versus President Taylor.
We're taking all these characters to places that we've never seen
them before. We knew it constituted a risk.”

Everything about these shows is risky,
of course. There's repetition (Jack dying and being revived, his
family being kidnapped and escaping); there are miracles (conquering
city traffic).

And there are wild stretches of logic.
This year, a felon hid her identity and got a high-security job.

“Even when these moments felt
somewhat preposterous or strained,” Gordon said, “hopefully, they
were always interesting. Even if you wanted to sort of yell at the

Much can seem strained, when heroes
become villains on “24” and Locke becomes a smoke monster on
“Lost.” Still, the shows were big and bold; soon, they'll be

– Sunday (May 23): “Lost” finale,
9-11 p.m., ABC, with recap, 7-9.

– Monday: “24” finale, 8-10 p.m.,
Fox; “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-9 p.m., ABC; “The
Bachelorette” (Ali Fedotowsky) season-opener, 9-11 p.m., ABC; "Law & Order" finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

– Tuesday: “American Idol,: 8-9
p.m., Fox; “Dancing” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC, with recap, 8-9.

– Wednesday: “Idol” finale, 8-10
p.m., Fox.

– Thursday: “So You Think You Can
Dance” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox



"Idol" finale: The North (finally) wins

Usually, I do a profile of the person just ousted from "American Idol." This week, however, the interview with Casey James was a day late. As a result, I've folded his profile into an overview of the finale. Since I put all my "Idol" stories in this blog space, I'll put it here; this is the story I sent to papers:


As “American Idol” heads into its
finale, its global politics have wobbled.

The finish has Crystal Bowersox and Lee
DeWyze performing Tuesday, with one named champion on Wednesday.
“It's going to be a crazy, amazing show,” said Casey James, who
finished third.

He's from Texas, which is where we
expect to find “Idol” winners. Bowersox and DeWyze, both 24, are
from near Toledo and Chicago respectively.

That means the South is missing in the
finale for the first time since – well, ever.

Kelly Clarkson, a Texas waitress, was
the first winner. In the next years, both finalists were from the
South or a border state. It was Ruben Studdard (Alabama) over Clay
Aiken (North Carolina), Fantasia Barrino (North Carolina) over Diana
DeGarmo (Alabama), Carrie Underwood (Oklahoma) over Bo Bice
(Alabama). The winners that followed were Taylor Hicks (Alabama),
Jordin Sparks (Arizona), David Cook (Missouri) and Kris Allen

People have scrambled for an
explanation: Through weather and tradition, the South has more of a
performance culture. It has more pageants, festivals, clubs, porches.

Whatever the reason, Wednesday will
bring the first Northern winner. “Northwestern Ohio has been in a
bit of a slump lately,” Bowersox said on the show. Now it (or
Illinois) will get an emotional boost.

Bowersox has Chicago links, too. She
lived there for a while, singing for tips at train stations. At the
Chicago auditions, she befriended DeWyze.

She was an early starter, doing gigs
when she was 10; she plays harmonica, guitar and piano and has pushed
(unsuccessfully) to do original songs on the show. DeWyze started the
guitar at 16; he cut two independent albums in Chicago, while working
at a paint store in his home town of Mount Prospect.

They thrived on “Idol,” during a
year when ratings dropped. “The show is going to be off about 9
percent this year,” said Fox president Peter Rice, who says it's
still an overwhelming No. 1 in the age group (18-49) advertisers

He also grants that the show will have
more trouble next season, if it can't find the right replacement for
departng judge Simon Cowell. It needs someome “who provides both
music credibility and an incredible entertainment value.”

The choice will come before September,
when auditions begin. They'll include several cities – Nashville
and New Orleans were two of the first announced – that can re-stock
the Southerners.

This year, they came close. Aaron Kelly
(Texas) was fifth, Michael Lynche (Florida) fourth. James, who
finished third, is a towering – just over 6-foot-3 – Texan with a
down-home casualness.
“My marketing skills are obviously poor,”
he said, “or I wouldn't have been doing the same bar gigs for 11

He's not influenced by the big-city
media; in fact, he hasn't had a TV for 20 years. “Lightning struck
my mother's house and knocked out the antenna. I guess it wasn't that
important to us. I didn't see what … other people thought was cool,
so it kind of led me to be my own person.”

James has the same casual approach to
discussing the near-fatal motorcycle accident five years ago. A car
signaled for a right turn, he said, but instead did a U-turn when he
was on the left. “I hit him doing 70, 75 … and broke a lot of
bones and flew a long ways …. No one seemed to think I would make

He did and revived his guitar skills.
He became the top Southerner in a Northern year.

– “American Idol,” Fox

– Tuesday: Final performances, 8-9
p.m.; then viewers vote

– Wednesday: Finale, 8-10 p.m. Guest
performances, return of the final 12, send-off to Simon Cowell. Then
the winner is announced.


Nimoy: A great career wraps up

Tonight is the season-finale for "Fringe" and the forever-finale for Leonard Nimoy's acting career. It's been a great one; here's the story I sent to papers:


Maybe there's a perfect balance here.

Leonard Nimoy started his career with
one science-fiction tale (“Zombies of the Stratosphere”) and
ended it with another (Thursday's “Fringe”). In between, people
seem to remember him for “Star Trek.”

Still, don't assume all such sci-fi
shows are created equal.

That first one? “Three of us came
from Mars, landed on Earth and stole a pick-up truck and a couple of
revolvers and announced we were going to take over Earth,” Nimoy
said. “We were going to … knock it out of its orbit …. It was a
very simplistic, fantastic notion.”

And its production was “very
primitive,” he said. “Fringe” is the opposite: “The
production is far more sophisticated than anything that I was ever
involved with in television …. These scripts are extremely
complicated and very nuanced.”

In short, it's the logical place to
wrap up a career.

Nimoy, now 79, had a couple bit roles
in 1951, but considers “Zombies” – a micro-budget, 1952 serial
– his debut. He was a 20-year-old from Boston, with some
community-theater experience and zero training. “It would have been
helpful to me if somebody had said, 'Leonard, get back to school.'”

Instead, he learned by doing. He was
ready to be Spock when “Star Trek” began in 1966, then to do the
final two “Mission Impossible” seasons. “There was always work
available to me,” he said.

“Trek” provided much of that, via
voice work (cartoons and video games) and movies. He was in the first
six, directed the third and fourth, co-created the stories for the
fourth and sixth.

He did some other directing – “3
Men and a Baby” was a hit in 1987 – but had done no film work
since 2001. “I had decided not to do any more acting and directing,
several years ago. I was called back to work to do the 'Star Trek'
movie, which was very attractive.”

That 2009 film was directed by J.J.
Abrams, who produces “Fringe.” He asked Nimoy to so five episodes
on the show as William Bell, whose experiments in fringe science had
started the problems.

“I was frankly not terribly aware of
what it was all about,” Nimoy said. “I began looking at some
episodes …. I felt that I owed JJ a favor.”

He found Bell to be intriguing. “He's
disarmingly unpredictable. He keeps saying, 'Trust me,' but then
you're not quite sure if you should.”

We'll find out. Last week, Walter and
Olivia went to the alternate world; now they confront Bell.

There are a lot of answers, Nimoy said.
And when the filming ended, his acting career was over.

“When it was done, the entire company
gathered around,” he said. “There was a lot of love exchanged.

“I said to them, 'I've been at this
for 60 years; I have never worked with a better company.' I meant

– “Fringe”

– 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox

– Season finale – and final role of
Leonard Nimoy's career – is May 20




Fall TV line-up: Now it's complete

Now the fall TV picture is complete.

The last to announce was tiny CW. Here's the story I sent to paper this morning; for the other networks, please check my earlier blogs this week:


The fall TV line-ups are in place now,
with the addition of lithe women – cheerleaders and a superspy.

The CW network was the last of the big
five networks to announce its schedule. It:

– Follows “Vampire Diaries” on
Thursdays with a new version of the former movie and cable hit, “La
Femme Nikita.” This time, “Nikita” stars martial-artist Maggie
Q (“Mission Impossible III”) as the spy and assassin, with Shane
West and Lyndsy Fonseca in support.

– Varies its Wednesday plan only
slightly. Last fall, it followed “America's Next Top Model” with
a scripted show about models; this fall, it has “Hellcats,” a
scripted show about college cheerleaders. Ashley Tisdale and Aly
Michalka star.

– Lumps its glitzy youth shows, "90210” and “Gossip Girl,” on Mondays.

– Moves “One Tree Hill” to
Tuesdays, where it will be followed by “Life Unexpected.”

– And puts “Smallville” and
“Supernatural” back together. Originally a Thursday combination,
they'll now be on Fridays; CW says this season, its 10th,
will be the last for “Smallville.”