Lost: The Halftime Report

It seems like only yesterday that Lost returned from a four-month hiatus, and now, after six episodes, it's going away for close to three more frakking months! Calling this a "halftime report" isn't strictly accurate, since there are 16 episodes to go this season (which will run from the beginning of February sweeps through late May), but who ever heard of a 1/3-time update? The scheduling move—designed to combat low ratings for reruns—makes this as good a time as any to take stock of the cult favorite, which has begun to lose a distressing amount of ground in the Nielsens to the pedestrian CBS gorefest Criminal Minds.

If the first six season-three episodes of Lost seem to have zipped by awfully fast, a large part of that is because so little has happened this year. There's been tons of Jack being used as a pawn in the power struggle between Ben and Juliet of "the others" (all of which would have been deadly dull if Michael Emerson and Elizabeth Mitchell didn't kick so much ass), lots of Kate and Sawyer exchanging longing glances while held in a prison that seems to have resulted from an unholy alliance between Rube Goldberg and B.F. Skinner, plenty of gruesomely wooden exposition from new characters who've been awkwardly shoehorned into the show...and very little forward momentum.

A lot of smart fans and critics love to dogpile on Lost's flashbacks, though I've never been too bothered by them. But this year, the retro-stories concerning Jack, Kate, Eko and supercouple Sun and Jin have all been rehashes of stuff from years past (at least Sawyer and Locke's episodes were solid, and the latter provided a strong reminder of how egregiously Terry O'Quinn has been screwed by Emmy voters). Eko's death, moving though it may have been in context, added insult to injury.

Airing Lost without reruns from February through May makes sense—when Fox started airing 24 from January to May, it finally developed the momentum to become a blockbuster hit and win a well-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series (CBS just announced a similar schedule for Jericho, which will enter hibernation after its November 29 episode). But for Lost, high ratings and prestigious awards are a been-there-done-that phenomenon. This series shouldn't have to resort to fancy footwork to avoid losing ground, not when it's got such a great roster of characters (the best of whom—including Sayeed, Hurley and Charlie--have been majorly short-shrifted thus far this season) and a history of strong storytelling. I'm definitely coming back in February—not just because it's my job, but because I'm still so this show's bitch, if only thanks to Terry O'Quinn and Jorge Garcia—but at this point I'd hardly be surprised if a lot of viewers just packed up and moved on (and if they need a replacement obsession, Veronica Mars could sure use some new viewers...).