The 'Lost' team keeps mum - mostly

Maureen Ryan
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

A number of excellent questions were asked at last week's "Lost" panel at the annual San Diego Comic-Con International, the yearly gathering for lovers of all things geeky at the San Diego Convention Center.

Who's in the coffin seen in the Season 3 finale? Who's on that freighter out there in the ocean, and what do they want from the people on the island? Did anyone aside from Kate and Jack ever get off the island?

And what about Nikki and Paolo - are they really dead?

OK, that last question was a joke. Actually, all the questions were jokes, or things designed to drive "Lost's" most hard-core fans a little batty. Because the questions came from "Lost" executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who arrived on the Comic-Con stage to rapturous applause, but who placed little bells on the table in front of them - the better to shut each other up in case too many secrets started to get spilled.

Not too many secrets did get spilled, and truth be told, isn't that how we want it - most of the time, that is? After all, the Internet that giveth spoilers can also taketh away suspense.

But when it comes to "Lost," we have to know - the show lives to plant questions deep in the gray matter of our brains, questions that go off like time-lapse grenades, so that months after the finale, we're still wondering about Penny and Desmond and Rousseau and why Claire still appears to have access to sunscreen. So we ask, because the "Lost" writers make us. It's their fault! Isn't it?

After all, there's a reason that most of the new network shows for fall are doing Comic-Con presentations, and that the networks are spending big bucks to do presentations on returning shows such as "Lost," "24" and "Heroes." The 130,000 attendees at this year's Comic-Con are as important in building buzz as the 150 professional journalists who gathered just before Comic-Con at the Television Critics Association press tour last week in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The networks all want another "Heroes " - a show that got a great reception at Comic-Con in 2006. And we all know how that worked out.

I will say this for the mainstream press - their questions for people such as Cuse and Lindelof are (usually) a little more probing (as we saw from an interesting TCA session the producers did at a winter press tour in January).

Still, the series of softballs that the super-"Losties" served up made Lindelof nervous.

"The questions are so nice this year," he said.

Eventually one fan asked a crafty query, the open-ended but useful standby of desperate journalists everywhere: "What questions are we not asking that we ought to be?"

An "oooh" that clearly meant, "Well-played, madam!" rolled over the room.

Lindelof and Cuse served up the list of questions noted above - and then said they wouldn't answer any of them.

Fans and critics did notice the tap-dancing - and they complained about it loud and long during Season 3. Hence Cuse and Lindelof's push to get a definite end date to the series, which ABC announced in May. There will be three more seasons of 16 episodes each.

That end date "gave us license to basically execute that" flash-forward idea, Cuse said.

Cuse repeated what both men have said elsewhere - that at the end of the show, there will be some mysteries left. But they'll do their best not to give fans "10 seconds of black tape," Cuse said. "It's going to be 20 seconds of black tape," Lindelof joked. "Twice as mysterious."

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