When Lost hit the small screen on Sept. 24, 2004, it was an immediate phenomenon.
Besides proving serialized sci-fi and suspense could work in a network setting, the program generated immediate and continual speculation and Internet discussion with its blurring of present and future scenarios, alternate realities and universes, and characters coming and going, often in shocking and unexpected fashion.
But ABC soon discovered Lost functioned best in smaller doses, rather than airing over an entire year with reruns being interspersed into the schedule.
After suffering major audience losses over two seasons, the network began airing it uninterrupted as a midseason replacement, a move that helped it regain both ratings clout and viewer support. They also opted to end the show in 2010, and its producers promised to provide endings and solutions to the lengthy amount of unresolved questions and weird mysteries that have provided much of its appeal.
And so we come to the final 18 Lost episodes that begin Tuesday (8 p.m., ABC) and the first episode includes the return of a former major character in Boone (Ian Somerhalder), plus the answer to who survived the fifth-season cliffhanger involving the H-Bomb explosion.
Both producers and network have been zealously guarding scripts and trying to minimize storyline leaks, but a few things have surfaced.
Two major characters coming back to the show to conclude plot twists are Michael (Harold Perrineau) and Libby (Cynthia Watros). Michael shot Libby in 2006, then exited the show two years later under thematic circumstances Perrineau found distasteful. He openly voiced his displeasure in various media outlets, even raising racial implications about the death of his character and fact his son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley) was subsequently being raised by his grandmother ("ghetto stereotype" was the ugly term that got tossed around).
But Perrineau was quite conciliatory during an interview in the current issue of TV Guide, telling William Keck, "I was always open to returning because there was stuff I thought was unresolved. I'm hoping we can put Michael to rest in a way we haven't done so far."
Other things to be addressed during this final season will be the status of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), the fate of the Jack/Kate romance (Matthew Fox/Evangeline Lilly) and even the truth about the mysterious Smoke Monster.
ABC has tried to protect the show by slotting it against CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles, the second hour of NBC's Biggest Loser and the CW's Melrose Place remake that's never shown much life in its second incarnation.
Those who've either missed some past episodes or just want to catch up with recent events should check out Lost: Final Chapter, a recap clip show Tuesday at 7 p.m.