Just a quick note amidst finals-o-rama around here to point to the news that ABC has set the terms for the remainder of Lost. ABC, Bad Robot, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and whomever else also has an iron in the fire (J.J. Abrams, presumably) worked out a tidy deal to produce 48 more episodes, spread out over three seasons of sixteen installments.
As indicated by my March post on the problems of television seriality (and its much, much-delayed and yet-to-appear follow-up), I think this is a good move on ABC’s part. It frees the creators from both filling up too many episodes and not knowing if they’ll be coming back, fostering instead a nice, easier-to-plot (and produce) breakdown of three sixteen-part chunks. As Jason argues, we should, in theory, get a much better show as a result. I’m assuming they intend this to run in the winter/spring, a la 24, which allows for maximum build-up, and maximum narrative intensity during the run.
That said, I don’t think this move will change everything overnight. Lost is a very particular case; had it only ever commanded modest numbers, it would never have received such consideration. The 22-ish episode-per-season machine is so well established across the board (e.g., all sorts of production expenditures are amortized according to this formula) that it will continue to be the norm, at least on the broadcast networks, for at least a few more years. Beyond the norm, however, this deal will certainly draw scrutiny, and lead others (producers, studios, and networks) to perhaps put such an arrangement on the table. Indeed, I would imagine the producers of Heroes and Jericho are already scrutinizing the deal.