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‘Lost’, ’24′, ‘Law & Order’ Go Out With A Whimper

Most of the shows the networks introduced at this year’s upfronts, the annual convention to announce their upcoming fall lineups, will probably be quickly canceled before they even get a chance to find an audience. On the opposite end of the spectrum are shows like Lost, 24 and Law & Order, which the networks renew year after year hoping that the profit machine doesn’t end. It’s fitting that each of the three series aired their final episodes this week since they seemed to  have more than exhausted their creative well of inspiration that had lured audiences over the years. In the case of Lost, one of its creators, Damen Lindelof admitted to the Hollywood Reporter in January that the creative team behind it had, at times, found it difficult to keep the mystery at the heart of the show intriguing and suspenseful, which he said, resulted in “shitty episodes.” Most viewers wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.

Even though the finale scored its highest ratings of the season with 13.5 million viewers tuning in to see the conclusion of the long running series, the numbers were far lower than predicted and nowhere the series finales of long running shows such as Seinfeld or Friends, which garnered 22 million viewers in 2004. In that case, NBC was so desperate to hold on to one of its remaining hits that it famously paid each cast member of Friends $7M  per episode to appear in the tenth and final season of the hit show.

NBC will continue to milk Law & Order, since its two spin-offs Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent remain on the schedule. Law and Order was on air the longest, with its first episode airing in the fall of 1990. If other series that had premiered the same season had lasted as long, the prime time schedule would still include the likes of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Northern Exposure. Thankfully their final episodes aired long before they reached the geriatric stage.

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