Lost may lose half-season

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As day two of the Writers Guild of America strike marches on, more information about the fate of various television programs is trickling in. The forecast of the effects of the strike is grim no matter how one looks at it, but reality really hits when one of the industry's biggest and most anticipated returning shows gets a dire prognosis.

Diehard fans of ABC's Lost have been clamoring to get information about the show's fourth season, which is scheduled for February, and today they got it. Showrunner Carlton Cuse, who was out joining the writers on the picket line in Burbank, California, told Entertainment Weekly that it doesn't look good if the strike continues.

Cuse says that the first eight episodes of season four are almost complete and ready to air. But if the writers don't get back to work, that's all that may be available for a while.

"There is a cliffhanger at the end of the eighth episode," Cuse said. "It will only be frustrating [for Lost fans] to have to step away from the show and not see the second half of the season."

Lost relies heavily on a serialized approach to television; that is, stand-alone episodes are few and far between as the attraction of the show is its many ongoing twists and turns spread out over a season. In other words, breaks in the action pretty much suck for the viewers, as evidenced by the declining ratings that plagued the show after its midseason hiatus.

ABC and the producers decided to avoid that pitfall this year, and came up with some interesting ways to do so. The parties agreed to shorten the remaining three seasons to 16 episodes apiece, delay the start of the season until February, and run the seasons straight through without interruptions.

Now it appears that could be all for naught.

"The first half of the season, like a good novel, sets all the events of the show in motion and the second half deals with the consequences," explained Cuse. "We're very proud of the first eight but it feels weird to have to stop literally mid-stream."

In a similar boat is Fox's 24, which is even more time-sensitive than Lost. Cherry Jones, who plays the president in the upcoming season of 24, told TVGuide.com that approximately eight episodes of her show will be complete.

Despite the overwhelming odds, she has a more positive outlook for 24. "People have really committed to this show, so I know they're going to give it their best show this season, despite all the adverse events," she said.

While pretty much every scripted show is getting affected in some way because of the strike, programs known for their serialized natures are particularly at risk.

However, at least one drama that relies on the continuous storyline has already planned ahead. The crew of NBC's Heroes shot an alternate ending of the December 3 episode, transforming it into a season finale instead of the last show before its midseason break.

Let's hope they don't have to use it.

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.

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