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The producers of “Lost” finally got what they wanted - an end date for their popular mystery drama.


In a highly unusual deal, ABC has renewed the show for 48 episodes to be spread over several years, ending during the 2009-10 season.


“In considering the powerful storytelling of `Lost,’ we felt this was the only way to give it a proper creative conclusion,” ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said in a statement.


The show will air uninterrupted in 16-episode seasons.


It’s a deal that’s got fans both happy and sad.


“Why couldn’t you guys talk ABC out of it?” wrote a fan at ABC.com’s section for questions to producers. “Two full 24-episode seasons would have been better. What’s the purpose of dragging it out to an extra season?”


Word of the deal came months after executive producer Carlton Cuse told reporters: “It’s time for us to find an end point to the show.”


“Lost,” which has suffered some ratings erosion this season, has come under fire for weak story lines and episodes that seemed to lead nowhere. In recent weeks, the content has rebounded, according to some critics.


For the season, “Lost” is averaging 15.1 million viewers, down from 15.4 for all of last season. Nielsen also estimates that 2.1 million people watch the show after its first telecast on DVR or other taping devices, and millions more watch by downloading the show to iPods or watching online.


“We always envisioned `Lost’ as a show with a beginning, middle and end,” Cuse and fellow executive producer Damon Lindelof said in a joint statement, adding that “the audience will now have the security of knowing the show will play out as we’ve intended.”


While the plan gives viewers the satisfaction of knowing “Lost” will be around a bit longer, it also builds in long stretches when it won’t be on the air.


“So what does this mean,” wrote a fan at “Lost” site thefuselage.com. “Well, it means that each season they will have 1.5 times the amount of time to work on these episodes and make sure everything is pitch perfect.


“More time to write the episodes, more time to get the best shots, acting, etc., per episode, and more time to do effects on these episodes.”

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