November 19th, 2009
Well, there’s finally a date. On Groundhog Day, 2010, Lost returns for its sixth and final season with a two-hour finale on a new night (Tuesdays) and at a new time (9pm Eastern), and…well, it doesn’t really matter.
See, I’m as excited as everyone else is about Lost’s final season, and since my Tuesday viewing schedule is more open than Wednesday I’m pleased to have the show making the move to the night. However, this season isn’t about ratings, or timeslots, or really anything: Lost is getting a final season that is for the fans, not to prove anything to Nielsen or anyone else, and the result is that this move says less about Lost and more about the remainder of ABC’s lineup.
As such, while this is certainly exciting news (only 75 days away!), I want to take some time to discuss what this means for some of ABC’s other shows that will be affected (or won’t be affected) by this change.
For newcomer V, it effectively means that the show is going to be moving to 10pm behind Lost when it returns to the air in March (since I started this piece, Variety confirms this is likely ABC’s intention). While this hasn’t been confirmed by ABC, the family-friendly nature of Dancing with the Stars would make moving the results show to 10pm to be illogical, so that will be taking V’s current 8pm slot (although, Better Off Ted and Scrubs are in that timeslot once V finishes, and will likely remain through mid-February) and thus forcing V to move later into the evening.
While another night is always possible, it’s unlikely: ABC thinks that V could be its next Lost (just as it thinks FlashForward could be its next Lost), and the back-to-back science fiction potential is something they’re probably going to jump on. When I raised this point on Twitter, however, both Jace Lacob and Alan Sepinwall quickly pointed out that this goes against ABC’s experience for the past five years: people don’t want to watch another show like Lost after they watch Lost, as evidenced by the failure of Invasion, Alias, and a whole host of other shows who learned the hard way that Lost is not, in fact, a strong lead-in for other genre programming.
And yet, I don’t think ABC is going to start paying attention to this evidence, as even if V doesn’t prosper in the storyline there really isn’t a better slot available to them. Lost will provide one of the biggest demographic lead-ins on the network, and the show’s only competition in the timeslot is the older female skewing The Good Wife (we’re not counting Jay Leno as competition). While the shows aren’t going to become extremely compatible all of a sudden, as Lost has never meshed that well with other shows (as Alan points out, fans are too busy deconstructing Lost to bother with another series – I know I’ll be writing my Lost review and watching V later, for example), it’s the safest spot to put the show after it will have been off the air for over three months by the time it returns.
The one problem, however, is that it creates substantial expectations: right now, V is self-starting at 8pm, which makes expectations low enough that even two weeks of substantial dropoff have seen it remain a “hit” by any logical standard. When it comes back, it’s going to have a substantial lead-in, and less competition, and while airing at 10pm creates slightly lower expectations it’s still going to mean that the bar will be set higher for the series. It places a lot of pressure on the new creative team at V to pull something together to appeal to this influx of potential viewers, and that might actually work against it in the end. However, ABC is crossing its fingers that it will all work out, and they can be talking about V’s sixth season in the future.
This is also, relatively speaking, a coup for Modern Family and Cougar Town, as ABC is unwilling to move their comedy block around in order to put Lost back into its old stomping grounds on Wednesdays. While some could argue that there was room at 10pm, considering Eastwick is done and that Ugly Betty could easily be banished back to Fridays should it fail to see an uptick in viewers from its move to Wednesdays, ABC is both confident in their Wednesday lineup and looking to use Lost’s last season to drum up at least a bit of support for their current crop of shows that, unlike Lost, will be around in the future.
- The premiere date came with confirmation about which characters would be regulars this year, which contains few surprises – full list is at the Variety article, in case you’re paranoid about spoilers.