MOST SUITABLE TITLE EVER: Ten years ago, when I bought the first new television I’d ever owned after almost twenty years of not watching any TV at all, I found myself sucked into the rush of episodic shows and long-running storylines when I was overcome with a brief but intense addiction to Coronation Street.

I hadn’t a clue who the characters were, but there was something compelling about their banal but vivid lives that had me watching every day for a month, at which point the addiction suddenly left me. It took a bit longer to shake my fascination with syndicated episodes of Designing Women, but that’s a topic for a different day.

A pair of stories on the return of Lost this week underlined how the show’s wild tangle of plotlines has become taxing for all but the most dedicated of viewers. A story on revealing that season five will see the series go into “answer mode” underlined this problem while featuring teasers like “viewers will see more of Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), who is a series regular this year, though his character apparently perished last year when the freighter exploded. The producers wouldn't say how and under what circumstances viewers will see Jin.”

A New York Times story echoed the confusion experienced by anyone new to the show, or at the disadvantage of missing a few episodes: “What ever happened to the four-toed statue? Why do some inhabitants of the island never seem to age? What is the Smoke Monster?”

The Times piece profiles Gregg Nations, the script supervisor and co-producer tasked with the job of “untangling the seemingly impenetrable mass of plotlines that have become addictive to some viewers of the show and alienating to others.” At this point I’m glad to know that someone is doing this job, though it’s probably too late for someone, like myself, who tuned out halfway through season one.

Shows as labyrinthine as Lost guarantee that they’ll have fewer, not more, viewers than the number that tuned in at the start, and the three million that have been shed since the first season proves this. It’s the ratings equivalent of a Shaker colony, committed but unable to reproduce, and it’s hard to see how network TV will encourage it as audiences and ad dollars continue to dwindle.

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