LOST‘s ratings have the been the center of conversation ever since its February 7th return ‘Not in Portland’  failed to deliver the kind of LOST ratings ABC had come to rely on.  The following week brought even grimmer news for LOST execs.  Speculation world wide was that LOST was finally on its way out.  Everything seemed to hinge on the return of fan favorite Jack and the promise of solved mysteries.  So how did LOST perform?  Is it back in form, or further down the drain?

LOST ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ from a marketing perspective carried the cry of desperation for LOST, ‘answers’.   The ABC marketing machine laced every promo with the promise of answers, answers, answers.  Skeptical fans started to place bets on whether LOST would deliver, even after Executive Producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof informed fans through their weekly podcast that the ‘Three Answers’ thing was indeed a bit of marketing hyperbole.

But, it really doesn’t matter if ABC marketing promises answers.   The show once had a regular audience of over 20 million viewers.  Those people were already sold on the show.  If anything is going to keep them away it is going to be ABC marketing’s snake oil pitches.  For those people, it is a waiting game for the mysterious quantity that nobody can put a finger on.  Was it the time slot?  Was it the more relaxed, less story intensive episodes of personal discovery?  Has LOST‘s foray into the Dharma underground and the strange dealings of the others become just too dark for them?  While marketing must do what it must do, it is the show-runners job to answer that question.  Was the attrition the result of the show simply outgrowing its audience intellectually?  Or, as Matthew Fox has stated himself, was the drop off of LOST fans simply the shedding of fair weather fans who were never suited to the underlying story anyways and just wanted to tune in week after week to glimpse at the beautiful cast.

The good news is, LOST got a lift this week.  A million viewers threw themselves back into the frey, and LOST continued to grab a healthy share of the time-slot’s 18-49 demo.   The unfortunate note here, is that this is only half of the viewers that dropped between Not in Portland and Flashes Before Your Eyes, a drop ABC attributed to Valentines festivities.  Now, it is true that yesterday was Ash Wednesday, so that should give ABC’s spinsters a little something to work with when they reflect on the ratings later today.

Is this bad news?  No.   When is an increase, particularly after a drop off, ever bad news.  If anything, it is testament that ABC’s marketing efforts paid off, even if they may have been a little disingenuous.  Next week comes an episode that recalls the more carefree respite pieces that have been so thoroughly lacking this season, and really made the first season so enjoyable.  Will Hurley’s antics in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead” bring more LOST viewers back to the show?  Visit me next week to find out.

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