The Amazing Race Season 16 Premieres on Valentine’s Day

Meet the 11 competitors vying for the $1 million prize:


Brent and Caite, Dating Models


Carol and Brandy, Dating


Dana and Adrian, High School Sweethearts/Married


Jet and Cord, Brothers/Cowboys


Jody and Shannon, Grandmother/Granddaughter


Joe and Heidi, Married


Dan and Jordan, Brothers


Jordan and Jeff, Newly Dating


Louie and Michael, ­Detectives


Monique and Shawne, Moms/Attorneys


Steve and Allison, Father/Daughter

Let’s talk ‘Supernatural’: ‘Swap Meat’

Let's talk about last night's episode of "Supernatural," "Swap Meat," below!

"Swap Meat," you're a crafty little thing, aren't you?

I am betting a lot of other "Supernatural" fans were having the reaction I was during the first third or so of the episode. "Really, not even a token mention of the Apocalypse? Really, just a straight-up body-swap story?"

Yes, I was just thinking it would be another standard freak-of-the-week story, and one that strongly — possibly too strongly — echoed stories we've seen on "Supernatural" before.

But a couple of things elevated "Swap Meat." First of all, there was the twist about the bounty on Dean's head. That made things more interesting — and that also tied the episode in to the ongoing Apocalypse story. I mean, we all know why El Diablo wants Dean's meatsuit. And it's no surprise that every demon on Earth is looking to get a promotion and/or a reward by bringing aforementioned meatsuit to the boss.

Having said that, is it me, or are the Devil's minions the most inefficient crew of all time? I mean, they're so terrible at their jobs that they could be running NBC. I get it, I get it — the show can't afford to show the Winchesters battling armies of demons every week.

But more and more, it's looking like the Apocalypse is something that has drawn attention to "Supernatural's" limitations. It's a good show, don't get me wrong. And it's not that I don't think we will get or have gotten some good episodes out of the current story line. But the majority of Season 5 episodes don't touch on the Apocalypse story line, which lessens its overall impact. (I've come up with an acronym for the problem some of us are having with this season. I've come to think of it as Apocalypse On Hiatus — AOH. Some episodes try to be very AOH, and that can be a problem.)

I still believe that Season 4's slow reveal of the angels and their purpose etc was the show's high-water mark. In Season 4 the links between the main story and the standalone episodes felt more organic and intergrated. Season 5 has struggled more to have a coherent sense of purpose and tension. But "Swap Meat," as standalone episodes go, got the job done and it was a cut above some of the less successful Season 5 outings.

What elevated this episode was not just the bounty-on-Dean twist but the terrific performance of Sarah Drew. She's a fabulous actress and I almost wish she'd remained possessed so that we could see her again. And if you've never watched "Everwood," she was wonderful on that show. She also had a small role on "Mad Men" and has guested on a number of other shows. In "Swap Meat" she played the nervous teen and the cruel demon with equal assurance. It was a pleasure to watch. As I said, I'd love it if the show found a way to use her again.

As for Gary, he reminded me a bit of a superior character, Andy Gallagher from "Simon Said" (for me, "Swap Meat" also had echos of "After School Special" and one or two other episodes). And we got a few reminders that Gary's situation — of being forced onto a particular path that he wanted to rebel from — is not dissimilar from the Winchesters'.

I'm in a bit of a rush today, so I don't have more extensive thoughts (but as always, I look forward to hearing yours!). But I'll say this: I ended up liking "Swap Meat." I'm willing to bet that the writers deliberately played with our expectations. The episode started out as a fairly standard, if not deliberately mundane, story — as Dean said, a "D-list" ghost story with some body-swap comedy layered on top.

But then "Swap Meat" took a well-constructed turn and became more interesting (although it's sure lucky for those teens that the guy Gary drew just happened to arrive in their town).

I think, overall, it was a solid effort. The episode didn't beat us over the head with anything — there were some moments when Dean seemed to like hanging out with Gary-as-Sam more than he liked hanging out with Sam-as-Sam, but all the brother stuff transpired in an amusing, believable way (well, as believable as things get in a body-swap story line).

If I have one major quibble, it's that a major complication — that Gary's friend Trevor was murdered by the demon — well, that was just totally forgotten. "Hey Gary, go hit on Nora. Never you mind about Trevor being dead!" Oh, these kids and their demon-summoning hijinks! Such scamps.

But hey, there were some funny moments in the episode too. Humor is so often what also elevates "Supernatural." I loved the "Star Wars" references. And people calling Sam "Sasquatch"? Never not funny.

One final note: I know we have a no-spoiler policy around here, so let's all observe that. But if you want to see a promo for next week's episode, here it is. I'm digging what I saw there! I'll also probably post more clips from next week's "Supernatural" episode in the video player on my site later Friday night.

Below are the rules for commenting on this site. New readers, please read them. Veterans can skip this part.

If you can't follow the common-sense guidelines that follow, I'll ban you from commenting on this site without warning.

  • On this site, we observe the Lurkers Rule: The environment here
    should be so accepting, so calm and so non-screechy that most timid
    lurker should feel it's safe to comment. I won't let angry, vicious,
    annoying or repetitive people hijack the comment areas.
  • Be nice. To further quote from Alan Sepinwall's Rules for Commenting:
    "This is an opinion blog, and a place where people can and should argue
    passionately for their point of view. But there's a difference between
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    other people, or don't comment."
  • Absolutely no Samgirl-Deangirl fangirl nonsense. It's possible to
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Conan ‘destructive’ to ‘Tonight Show’ and media ‘unfair,’ Leno tells Oprah

Jay Leno on Oprah The battle of Team Jay versus Team Conan has been raging for weeks, and it's doubtful that anyone will switch sides after Jay Leno's Thursday appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

As Winfrey pointed out during an hourlong interview on the set of Leno's prime-time show, Leno is now seen as "the bad guy" in the affair of "The Tonight Show."

Earlier this month, Conan O'Brien walked away from the late-night institution when NBC executives announced that they wanted Leno to once again follow the local news and that they wanted to move O'Brien's "Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. ET.

None of that came to pass, because Leno, as he said, "got his old job back" (he returns to "The Tonight Show" March 1).

But according to Leno, he got his job back only after NBC canceled his prime-time program and after Conan told NBC — and the world — that he wouldn't agree to "The Tonight Show" being moved. (Read a transcript of Leno's remarks on Winfrey's show.)

"Conan said he thought it would be destructive to the franchise," Winfrey said.

"Well, if you look at where the [O'Brien 'Tonight Show'] ratings were, it was already destructive to the franchise," Leno replied.  

He also said the media had been "unfair" to him.

"I mean, I think it's funny that they have a picture of me and Roman Polanski. Somehow these are quite similar," Leno said. "You have a TV show, he had sex with a 13-year old girl with Quaaludes. Yeah, that's about equal."

Despite the flashes of bitterness, it was clear that Leno wanted the world to know that, contrary to popular opinion, he did have hurt feelings about the whole matter, feelings that stretched back to 2004. That's when NBC first came up with a succession plan that would have put O'Brien behind the "Tonight Show" desk and Leno into retirement in 2009.

"It broke my heart. It really did. I was devastated," Leno said. "This was the job that I had always wanted and this was the only job that ever mattered in show business, to me…. It was just like, why?"

Since that point, NBC had handled the whole situation terribly, especially recently, Leno told Oprah.

"Anything they did would have been better than this," Leno said. "If they had come in and shot everybody. It would have been 'Oh, people were murdered,' but at least it would have been a two-day story. NBC could not have handled it worse."

Winfrey repeatedly asked why he didn't just retire or at least call O'Brien to consult him about the plan NBC had proposed. It never seemed like the right time to call O'Brien, Leno said. And though he was sure throughout that he was "doing the right thing," he also admitted to some "agonizing" doubts.

"How can you do the right thing and just have it go so wrong? 'Maybe I'm not doing the right thing,' I would think," Leno said. "Maybe I'm doing something wrong. This many people are angry and upset over a television show. …My show got canceled. They weren't happy with the other guy's show. They said, 'We want you to go back,' and I said, 'OK.' And this seemed to make a lot of people really upset. And I go, 'Well, who wouldn't take that job though? Who wouldn't do that?'"

But by ending up back at "The Tonight Show," wasn't he "taking away Conan's dream?" Winfrey asked.

"No," Leno replied. "Because, again, this is an affiliate decision. Affiliates felt that the ratings were low. This was the first time in the 60-year history of 'The Tonight Show' that 'The Tonight Show' would have lost money. And that's what it comes down to. It's really just a matter of dollars and cents."

It's worth pointing out that Josef Adalian of The Wrap has written a story that calls into question that assertion from Leno and from NBC head Jeff Gaspin — the assertion that "The Tonight Show" was in danger of losing money.

"Unless NBC is being tricky and counting start-up costs for O'Brien —
such as the $50 million studio and office complex it built for 'Tonight' — it's hard to see how the show could so quickly go from
profit to deficit in less than one year," Adalian wrote.

Update: Aaron Barnhart, the TV critic for the Kansas City Star and a late-night expert, has written a brilliant deconstruction of what Leno said — and didn't say — in the Oprah interview here. I highly recommend it.

Leno did say he felt bad for O'Brien, but he largely portrayed himself, as he has for weeks, as a passive player the drama. In his mind, he's a guy whose has been "fired twice" and went back to the "Tonight Show" mainly to keep his staff employed.

To retire would be an "ego decision," he said. That would be "the selfish thing to do. You walk out and say to the 170 other people who work here, 'Listen, I don't want to get my reputation ruined, I don't want anyone talking bad about me. I've got enough money, I'm going to leave. You people can all fend for yourselves.' … As long as I'm working, they're working. That seems to make sense to me. Is it a little selfish in that I still like being on TV? Oh sure."

Winfrey, a media mogul who has weathered her own share of controversies, said she was surprised by a joke that Leno made about the infidelities of David Letterman, who has been hammering Leno for weeks ("I thought that was beneath you, actually," Winfrey said). But she also said she was taken aback at the anti-Leno sentiment.

"I could understand people thinking that you were selfish if you owned the show and controlled the show," Winfrey said. "It's a little surprising to me that people think you stole the show when in fact it wasn't your show to steal. It's owned by NBC."

"I never expected this to happen. People think you're behind the scenes, pulling strings," he added. "There's no strings to pull. I have a show that's been canceled. So why would I have any power to go, 'Oh, I want ['The Tonight Show']?

The portrait Leno painted of the passive man on the sidelines doesn't square with his reputation of being relentlessly ambitious and driven. This is the man who, according to the book "The Late Shift," hid in a closet in the '90s to hear NBC executives discussing his fate.

To hear Leno describe it, everything that occurred during the last month or two was the handiwork of the affiliates and hamfisted NBC executives. Leno did allow that he told a "white lie on the air" in 2004.

"I said, 'I'm going to retire.'" It was just maybe easier that way."

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Jay Leno tells his side of the story on Oprah

Lenonew
Screen shot of Oprah Winfrey's interview with Jay Leno.

Jay Leno appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" this morning to tell his side of the story in the recent late-night war. (UPDATE: Aaron Barnhart, the TV critic for the Kansas City
Star and a late-night expert, has written a brilliant deconstruction of
what Leno said — and didn't say — in the Oprah interview here. I highly recommend it.)

Leno's been castigated for appearing unfeeling, disingenuous and even manipulative throughout the brouhaha. The biggest mistake he made during the last month was to portray himself as a victim in the whole affair, but he used much of the same language Thursday (he spoke of being "fired" twice). On Winfrey's show he did admit to telling a "white lie" in 2004, when the transition was first announced. 

When asked by Winfrey what his reaction was when NBC executives came to him in 2004 and asked him to step aside in five years so that Conan O'Brien could take over "The Tonight Show," he was "devastated," he said. 

"It broke my heart. It really did I was devastated," Leno said. "This was the job that I had always wanted and this was the only job that ever mattered in show business — to me. It's the job every comic aspires to. It was just like, why?"

What follows is a transcript of much of what Leno said on Winfrey's show. A shorter summary of the hourlong Leno interview is here.

"I'm not a person who carries my emotions on my sleeve," he added. "But you know something, I'm happy with what I had. ['The Tonight Show'] was a tremendous success up to that point."

What had he planned to do when the five years was up, Winfrey asked?

"Well, I did tell a white lie on the air," Leno said. "I said, 'I'm going to retire.'" It was just maybe easier that way." He added that he "assumed" in 2004 he'd get another job on a different network. But to go to another network would have been "a lot of work," he said.

Did he feel disrespected by NBC executives, Oprah asked.

"Oh yeah. I most certainly did," he answered.

As for his 10 p.m. show, which was not a success, Leno said, "Well, I chose to do it. So I take full responsibility."

Is there a part of you that hates to say goodbye to television, Oprah asked.

"I did it because it's an interesting challenge," he replied.

Were he and Conan friends?

"Yes," Leno said. "We talked many times" after those transition talks in 2004.

As for competing in the prime-time arena, it was difficult, Leno said, especially given that other networks banned their actors from going on Leno's new show.

"It's a lot more competitive. If I'm in late night, I know I'm competing with Dave [Letterman] every night. … We could book against [other late-night shows]. To book [guests] against the 'CSI' evil twin episode, that's going to be very hard to do."

"Why do you think the show failed?" Oprah asked.

"I think the show failed because it was basically a late-night talk show at 10 o'clock. You're competing with dramas that are $3 to $6 million an episode," Leno said. 

Was his prime-time show given enough time?

"I was given enough time. It didn't work," Leno said. "It's a TV show that got canceled. I am actually surprised that this got this much attention."

"America has taken sides," Oprah said. "And a lot of people are not on your side. And they're not on your side because they think that you have been selfish in this. Do you see in any way how you've been selfish? They think that you took the job away from Conan."

Leno: "It all comes down to numbers in show business. This is almost the perfect storm of bad things happening. You have two hit shows — 'Tonight Show' No. 1 and Conan No. 1. You move them both to another situation. And what are the odds that both would do extremely poorly? If Conan's numbers had been a little bit higher, it wouldn't even be an issue. But in show business, there's always somebody waiting in the wings. Being me."

"I never expected this to happen. People think you're behind the scenes, pulling strings," he added. "There's no strings to pull. I have a show that's been canceled. So why would I have any power to go, 'Oh, I want that.'"

NBC came to him and talked about the ratings for Conan and Leno both being down. He said he asked to be let out of the contract for his prime-time show — "maybe a day" after his prime-time show got canceled. He said he was told by NBC that he was still a "valuable asset."

"You fired me twice. How valuable can I be?" was his response, he said.

"OK, stop right there. Why didn't you then just say, 'You fired me twice, I'm out of here, guys?' Because that seems like the ultimate in disrespect to me," Oprah said.

"My show was not winning its time period. That's a perfectly valid reason to go, 'Pack your bags," Leno said. 

NBC executives assured him that they were "75 percent sure" Conan would go for the revised plan, which would have had Leno doing a 30-minute show at 11:30 p.m. ET.

Oprah asked Leno if he thought about thinking about the half-hour show and consulting Conan before agreeing to the new plan.

"It wasn't my place to call Conan," Leno said. "They made this offer to me. And I said, 'Do you think Conan will go for this?' And they said, 'We'll ask him tomorrow.' 'OK, let me know what happens.' And then thing you know, I guess Conan had his article in the paper and that was that."

Oprah: "Conan said he thought it would be destructive to the franchise, and…"

Leno: "Well, if you look at where the [Conan 'Tonight Show'] ratings were [long pause], it was already destructive to the franchise." 

He talked about when Jimmy Kimmel came on his show and delivered a cutting commentary on the mess Leno was in.

"Yeah, I got sucker punched," Leno said. "It's my show, I could have edited it. But I said, 'No, no, put it out there.' I walked into it."

Oprah: "Did you know he was going that far?"

Leno: "No, I didn't. But when you get sucker punched, you just get right back up again. You don't whine or complain — 'Oh, I'm going to take that out, he said something bad about me.' That's all right."

Oprah asked if he'd talked to Conan, or if he'd wanted to "pick up the phone."

They hadn't talked, Leno said. He had wanted to call but "it didn't seem appropriate."

Oprah: "Why?"

Leno: "I don't know. I think, let things cool down and maybe we'll talk."

Oprah: "Were any of the things that he said about you hurtful?"

Leno: "No, they were jokes. And that's OK."

Oprah: "So jokes don't hurt you?"

Leno: "It's what we do, you know. It's like being a fighter and say, 'When you got punched in the head, did it hurt?' Well, yeah, but you're a fighter. That's what you do."

Oprah: "So when you, in the privacy of your own thoughts, your own home, you go home with Mavis at the end of the day — you didn't say, 'You know, I thought that was kind of rotten. I thought that went a little too far.'"

Leno: "Well, you know the odd thing is, it's all your conscience. If you think you played a role in it somehow, then you get a guilty conscience and you feel bad. But nowhere in my wildest dreams did I think they'd ask me to go back. It just didn't seem logical."

By going back to "The Tonight Show," did he ever think that he was "taking away Conan's dream?"

Leno: "No. Because, again, this is an affiliate decision. Affiliates felt that the ratings were low. This was the first time in the 60-year history of 'The Tonight Show' that 'The Tonight Show' would have lost money. And that's what it comes down to. It's really just a matter of dollars and cents. If the numbers had been there, they wouldn't have asked me. And they only asked me after Conan turned down moving ['The Tonight Show'] back half an hour."

Oprah: "No part of you thought, 'Enough already. I've done it.'"

Leno: "You know, if you're a gunfighter, you like to die in the street."

He compared his wish to hang on to the 'Tonight Show' to Oprah's long run as host of her own syndicated run (she's said she'll end that run next year). Leno said neither of them was "going anywhere."

Oprah: "I'm asking you this question as somebody who has made the decision that for this show, 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' as it is — done with that. Twenty-five years. Done with that."

Leno: "We'll see."

Oprah: "You don't believe that?"

Leno: "I believe you believe it." 

Oprah said it had been challenging to come to grips with who she is "without a television show." "This is the real question here … Who are you without a television show?" she asked.

Leno: "I am a standup comedian who happens to have a television show. This is the thing people have asked me for years, and I always tell them, I live on the money I make as a standup comedian" and he saves the rest.

How will he rebuild the "Tonight Show" audience?

Leno: "You find out what the elements are that worked on the show and you try to bring those elements to it. It's really the idea of servicing the audience. The reason I work a lot on the road is, you tell a joke — if a joke works in Boston and Oklahoma City and Des Moines Iowa and L.A., it'll work on TV."

It's a matter of finding "that fine balance" between gentle zingers and more pointed humor, he said.

Oprah: "Talking about fine balance, do you think your fellow comedians lost that balance and maybe you did too, because David Letterman called you, I think, the 'big jawed' Leno [who] should just walk away, and you hit back by talking about his infidelity?"

Leno: "Well, I did a joke about that, yes."

Oprah: "Even the audience went, 'Ooooh!'"

Leno: "But it was a good joke. Did you laugh when you heard it?"

Oprah: "No, I did not. I did not laugh. You know what, I thought that was beneath you, actually."

Leno: "But how many jokes like that have I done? I did one joke in the middle of the week and I never did another one. I had a cheap shot thrown at me, I threw one cheap shot back and I moved on."

Oprah: "So you thought one cheap shot deserves another?"

Leno: "Yeah, it's OK."

Oprah: "Do you feel you're being unfairly portrayed by the media?"

Leno: "Yeah, I think so. But I think you have to look for a bad guy. I mean, I think it's funny that they have a picture of me and Roman Polanski. Somehow these are quite similar. You have a TV show, he had sex with a 13-year old girl with Quaaludes. Yeah, that's about equal."

Leno had been seen as the good guy, but now he's seen as the bad guy, Oprah said. Did he think that was unfair?

Leno: "Yeah, I think it's a little unfair. And I'm going to work hard to rehabilitate that image."

So what comes next?

Leno: "I hope Conan gets a job somewhere else. I hope he gets on at Fox or somewhere. And we all compete together. And it raises the level of interest. And you know what happens, the best one wins. Maybe I'll get my butt kicked, maybe we'll win."

Oprah: "Did your gut ever tell you that the right thing to do would have been to say no to NBC's offer to go back?"

Leno: "No."

A bit later, Oprah asked if NBC could have handled the situation better.

Leno: "Anything they did would have been better than this.,,, If they had come in and shot everybody. It would have been 'Oh, people were murdered,' but at least it would have been a two-day story. NBC could not have handled it worse. From 2004 onward, this whole thing was a huge mess."

He thought his prime-time show might get cut down to two or three days a week, but he asserted again that it never occurred to him that he'd be asked to host "The Tonight Show" once more.

Leno on Conan's last show: "Great show. Good performer and good comic and a good guy. There's no animosity there."

Oprah: "Do you feel it's going to be humbling to go back?"

Leno: "Yeah, I think we have our work cut out for us. There's a lot of damage control that has to be done. The only way you can fix these things is to try and do good shows, not be bitter. Not be angry or upset about whatever."

Was he embarrassed by what happened?

Leno: "Yeah, it's hugely embarrassing. Not that I'm glad my parents are gone, I don't mean it that way, but I'm like, the last one left, so I don't have to explain to the relatives how all this works."

As for how he felt or how his "heartbreak" showed itself in his life, Leno said, "I always thought, 'You're doing the right thing.' I always felt I was doing the right thing. How can you do the right thing and just have it go so wrong? Maybe I'm not doing the right thing, I would think. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. This many people are angry and upset over a television show. I mean, I had a show. My show got canceled. They weren't happy with the other guy's show. They said, 'We want you to go back,' and I said, 'OK.' And this seemed to make a lot of people really upset. And I go, 'Well, who wouldn't take that job though? Who wouldn't do that?' It was really agonizing. I would spend a lot of time just thinking about it, going, 'I think I'm a good guy. Am I a good guy? Maybe I'm one of these guys who thinks I see everything with rose-colored glasses and the world is falling around you.' Yeah, it was a real agonizing time."

Oprah: "Did you ever ask yourself, Well, am I being selfish?"

Leno: "Sure, yeah, you ask yourself that every day.

Oprah: "And your answer was…is?"

Leno: "I don't think so. I mean, I like the job, I like all that goes with it. I fight for the people who work here. I fight to keep the jobs here. OK, is that selfish? Maybe it is, because it's self-aggrandizing, maybe because it's pumping me up."

Oprah asked if celebrities would still come on his show.

Leno: "I think they will. I don't know why they would refuse. Based on what?"

Leno said that the controversy had helped him understand what other public figures go through when they're in the news. He asked if the situation had affected Oprah's perception of him.

Oprah: "One of the reasons I wanted to do the interview is because I'm really surprised that so many people are against you. Because I think that people don't understand how television works. I could understand people thinking that you were selfish if you owned the show and controlled the show. It's a little surprising to me that people think you stole the show when in fact it wasn't your show to steal. It's owned by NBC."

Oprah: "Is there a part of you that feels that you should have just retired?"

Leno: "To me, being retired seemed like the selfish thing to do. You walk out and say to the 170 other people who work here, 'Listen, I don't want to get my reputation ruined, I don't want anyone talking bad about me. I've got enough money, I'm going to leave. You people can all fend for yourself.' … As long as I'm working, they're working. That seems to make sense to me. Is it a little selfish in that I still like being on TV? Oh sure. But the minute you can't do your job, they tap you on the shoulder and tell you to leave."

Oprah: "Did you feel bad for Conan at any point?"

Leno: "I did. I felt really bad for Conan. I think it's unfair but TV is not fair. I thought it was unfair for me."

Oprah: "You felt bad for Conan, but you don't think you were the reason" for the situation?

Leno: "No, I wasn't the reason. The reason was the ratings."

Oprah: "Do you have regrets?"

Leno: "Oh yeah, I do have regrets. I have regrets that it wasn't handled better. I'm just not sure what I could have done differently."

Oprah: "Lots of people say you could have walked away."

Leno: "But by walking away, that is an ego decision. That is me going, 'Goodbye everybody, I'm fed up with this. You all fend for yourselves. Good luck finding jobs. I'm out of here.' That's the ego decision."

Why not just retire and do as Conan did and get his staff healthy severance package, Oprah asked?

Leno: "Could have done that, but I didn't. They offered me my old job back."

What's the bigger lesson in all this, Oprah asked.

Leno: "The key is not to be bitter and I think Conan said it best when he said, 'Don't be cynical.'"

He'd love to have Conan on his show some time, Leno added.

NOTE: Please do not reprint the entirety of this post on your site. Excerpting and linking is fine. Thanks.

Related:

Our favorite Conan O'Brien on NBC moments

Celebs take sides: Team Conan vs. Team Jay

Conan O'Brien's classy farewell to "The Tonight Show"

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Talking ‘Lost’ with Lindelof and Cuse, Part 3, and asking fans for an island assist

Lostsupper3
What's below is a feature on the final season of
"Lost," which begins Tuesday. The story contains excerpts from an interview with executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. If
you want to read the full transcript of that interview (which contains
no spoilers), Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here and Part 3 is below (after the feature). If you don't want to read the whole thing, a bullet-point list of factoids from the interview is
here

Before we get to the rest of this post, can the fans of ABC's island drama help some people in great need on a Caribbean island? I recently launched Watch Us Care, a charity effort to aid the people of Haiti. Part of the endeavor is an eBay auction: You can bid on TV-related DVDs and other memorabilia here. When those items are gone, I'll auction more cool stuff over the next couple of weeks.

Lostbeerstation Polarbeer "Lost" fans can also give directly to the Haitian aid group Partners in Health via this page. Starting at 7 a.m. Central Time Thursday, which is the time stamp on this post, we'll have a new giveaway for donors. The first 100 "Lost" fans who donate $25 or more via the Watch Us Care page will get the cool Dharma "Beer Station" pin pictured at left; it was created by Ian Leino. And the first five people who donate $50 or more will get both the pin and this very cool "Polar Beer" shirt created by Leino, a graphic designer and "Lost" fan (the shirt's design is pictured at right and below). Fashionable people everywhere are wearing Polar Beer shirts! (Many thanks to Leino, who kindly donated the "Lost" pins and shirts to this cause.)

UPDATE Jan. 28, 2 p.m. CT: The "Polar Beer" shirts that were part of this fundraiser are gone (they're still of course for sale at Leino's site). Thank you, "Lost" fans, for the donations we've received so far! We still have plenty of the Dharma Beer Station pins for those who still want to donate.

Polarbeershirt On Day 1 of the Watch Us Care campaign, "Chuck" fans generously donated almost $1,700 to Partners in Health. My co-conspirators and I are raising the overall goal on the PIH page to $3,500. It's an ambitious goal, but if the Oceanic 6 could get off that island, I'm hoping that with your help, we can crack that number (it was tempting to set the goal at $4815162342, but I'm not that ambitious and I'm too superstitious to invoke The Numbers).

If the fans reading this could spread the word about this charity endeavor in whatever "Lost" forums or sites they frequent, that would be fantastic.

Two final "Lost"-related notes: Expect the video player on the right side of this page to fill up with interview clips from the show's cast and writers; I'll be loading those in during the next few days. Also, the group photo above is the third iteration of the "Lost" "Last Supper" photos. The other two versions are here

OK, on with the show! Thanks for your patience.

Nobody has to explain the importance of endings to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, executive producers of "Lost" (8 p.m. Central Tuesday, ABC).

Fans of the show have been speculating for years not only about what will happen in the final season, which begins Tuesday, but about the last frame of the series finale, which will air in May.

"We keep getting asked about the final image and we’re like, 'Yeah, sure, we know what it is,'" Lindelof said. "But people are acting like the final image of the show is revelatory in some way, as opposed to maybe [what's revelatory] is what happens in the first hour of the finale." ?

Sawyercage During an hourlong December interview on the Disney-ABC lot in Burbank, Cuse and Lindelof displayed the self-deprecating wit and improvisational banter that fans have come to know in countless interviews, podcasts, DVD commentaries and convention appearances. If the whole Hollywood thing doesn't work out (and that's highly unlikely), they could easily become the hosts of a pop-culture-obsessed radio show. They're both skilled improvisors and they share a palpable affection for each other, but they disagree just enough to keep things interesting.

Perhaps they have such a strong bond with "Lost" obsessives because Cuse and Lindelof themselves are pop-culture junkies. During the interview, the endings of "The Sopranos" and "Battlestar Galactica" were analyzed and there were mentions of everything from Harry Potter to Don Johnson to "FlashForward" and "Twin Peaks."

Not to mention Ewoks.

That particular digression was vintage Cuselof (or Darlton, if you prefer that nickname for the pair), and is worth reading in its entirety in the transcript below. In any case, their discussion of whether singing Ewoks — the final image of the old-school "Star Wars" trilogy — helped or harmed that franchise was highly entertaining but it also had a serious point.

Whether or not you think the Ewoks were a good thing for the "Star Wars" franchise — and not surprisingly, Cuse and Lindelof's positions on the matter are too complicated to sum up here — one thing is clear: 1983, the year the furry little creatures made their debut in "Return of the Jedi," is a galaxy far, far away.

"I think the worst thing that’s happened in the blogosphere in general is that there’s this sense of needing to insulate yourself from being excited about something by saying, 'I’m very skeptical about this,'" Lindelof said. "With 'Avatar,' for basically four months, [the conventional wisdom] has been, 'I don’t think it’s going to be any good.'"

"Back when I was a kid, before 'Empire Strikes Back' or 'Return of the Jedi' came out, when all you saw was the trailer and you didn’t have the Internet, it was basically like, 'I just want this movie to be the greatest movie ever!'" he continued. "And what’s the matter with saying, 'I want Season 6 of "Lost" to be the greatest season ever?' But people won’t say it because it’s easier for them to approach it as, 'It’s going to let me down.'"

Depending on whether the show's countless online chroniclers and analyzers like Season 6, which Lindelof said will employ a "new narrative device," "we’ll be riding either a wave of goodwill into the finale — or bad will."

The catch is, when Tuesday rolls around, they'll already be writing the 15th episode of the 18-hour season.

As Cuse put it, "There will be no time for course correction."

Managing fans' expectation for the final season of "Lost" is a tricky endeavor. Certainly the network as well as the show's creative team want "Lost" to go out with respectable ratings (overall, the show's audience has declined about 30 percent from Season 1's average of 15.7 million viewers per week). But they also cautioned that not every episode will contain massive twists and surprises and not all questions are going to be answered to all fans' satisfaction.  

"We feel that the story lines that ultimately will be the most satisfying are the character stories," Cuse said. "We are very well aware that for people who are really focused on the mythology, it’s hard to provide probably completely sufficient answers for those groups of people. So there will be there’ll probably be different levels of satisfaction based on what it is that interested you about the show in the first place."

Though it's probably a good idea to temper expectations of the final season, the truth is, "Lost" already helped raise TV viewers' expectations of what is possible on the small screen (and it's that kind of grandiose statement that was cleverly skewered by a recent Onion video: "Final Season of 'Lost' Promises to Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever").

Sure, "Lost" hasn't been perfect. But since it debuted in 2004 has been that increasingly rare entity: A mainstream hit that enraptures the public, the media and various genre communities. In this niche-ified culture, "Lost" has been broadly popular despite not being like anything else. Actually, it was popular because it wasn't like anything else (certainly its many imitators haven't captured what made it special).  

Katejeans And now that the end is near, its creative gurus don't want to do what the "Star Wars" prequel films did — deflate the magic of the story by explaining too much.   

"We are very committed to this notion of not stripping the show of its essential mystery," Cuse said. "Mystery exists in life and we kind of always go back to the midi-chlorians example [in the 'Star Wars' prequels]. Your understanding the Force was not aided by knowing that there were little particles swimming around in the bloodstreams of Jedi. So we’re trying to find the right blend of answering questions, but also leaving the things that should be mysterious mysterious."

It was actually no surprise that "Star Wars" and "Avatar" and Harry Potter came up as much as they did during the interview with Lindelof and Cuse. As Onion AV Club critic Noel Murray eloquently argued in a recent piece about "Lost," the central appeal of the show may not be the smoke monster or the mythology or even the characters, as entertaining as all of those things are. "Lost" is a show that is fascinated with the art of storytelling itself.  

"It's a genre-hopping story that pays direct homage to nearly every text that’s ever influenced its creators," Murray wrote. "It’s one long story, made up of a bunch of little stories. It’s a story about how backstories encroach and affect the main narrative, whether it be via time-travel or flashbacks (which are a kind of time travel). And, finally, it’s a story about the repetition of stories, and about which elements can be altered and which can’t."

I would go a step further and say that the show, by this point, has become the character I care about most. Hurley and Sawyer and Kate are on journeys, but so is "Lost." And starting Tuesday, this plucky, unusual show begins the final stage of its dramatic quest. It's a scary, exciting, pulse-quickening moment.

Lindelof is a fan of the Harry Potter books, and in some ways, the show that he and Cuse constructed is the television version of the bespectacled, resourceful Potter. Despite all the obstacles and danger he faced, Harry Potter was the Boy Who Lived. Over the past five seasons, "Lost" has narrowly avoided death, endured dire trials and unleashed exhilarating triumphs. It is the Show That Survived.

If "Lost" goes out with flair and the requisite number of shockers, if it keeps its sense of humor intact while putting lumps in our throats, it will have defeated Darth Vader. If the show goes out as entertainingly as it came in, it will have vanquished Voldemort.

Not unlike the Ewoks, it will have triumphed over some very long odds. And that'll be reason to celebrate.

Below is the transcript of Part 3 of my interview with Lindelof and Cuse. 

NOTICE (PLEASE READ THIS): Do
not reproduce this entire story and interview on your Web site. Feel free to
excerpt it on your site and link back here (and if you do that, thank
you!). But if you reproduce the entire thing, I'll have to send you a
DMCA legal notice and that's no fun and it becomes a huge drag for all
of us. So just excerpt and link, please. Thanks!

Ryan: Just sort of circling back to when we were talking about the “Battlestar” phenomena and what went down when that show ended. When as show people have really invested in ends, I think people are dealing with this sense of loss. So their immediate reaction to the finale, and certainly this was true of me, is colored by the fact that it’s over. There's that period of mourning, some of which may be expressed as anger on the part of some fans.

Cuse: It’s true. You could break up with somebody in a relationship and even in the aftermath of the breakup you can scream and yell at each other and you know, toss your belongings out the window. But maybe a year or two later, if you run into that person on the street, what you’ll remember is …

Ryan: You’ll think, "Oh, there were some good times."

Cuse: You’ll remember the good times of that relationship and you won’t remember the fact that you threw their belongings out the window. 

Lindelof: The story that I love to tell is basically, there’s a very, very fine line between television history and a complete and total debacle/cautionary tale. When J.J. and I were first pitching this version of “Lost,” the thing that sort of kept coming back towards us [from the network] was, "It can’t be like 'Twin Peaks.' Just don’t 'Twin Peaks' us." They were using it as a verb — "Don’t 'Twin Peaks' us."

Jinwaves It was like, "What do you mean by that?" And it was like, "Just don’t lead up to an inevitable, unsatisfying conclusion and then you’ll lose all your viewership." You need to drag people along. But you need to answer your mystery satisfyingly and every time you answer a mystery, there needs to be just enough [new] mysteries in its wake to make them feel satisfied.

The thing is, “Twin Peaks” was cancelled 15 years ago. They only made 30 episodes, and the fact that people still know what it is, and it is a cautionary tale, puts it in the pantheon of … you know, it’s an icon. 

Cuse: No one’s remembering “Sister Kate.”

Lindelof: Right, except for you.

Cuse: You can’t even remember “Sister Kate.”

Ryan: No sir.

Lindelof: But essentially, the question becomes — in 15 years, are people going to say, “Oh, am I gonna get 'Losted' again?” You know? What is the verb form of "Lost’s" legacy going to be?

I feel really bad for all these shows that have come along since “Lost” was on the air, from "Invasion" to "Heroes," to "FlashForward" to "The Nine." Anything that is serialized and drawn out, people just put the “Lost” tag on it because it feels like its that kind of thing, even though the paradigm for those shows might be wildly different. And every one of those showrunners has to respond to [those comparisons]. Tim Kring went out of his way in the first season of “Heroes” to say, “We’re not going to be like 'Lost' at all, we’re going to answer everything very, very quickly, we’re going to move at a much faster pace. Our show is not about the questions.” And blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, why should these shows be compared to “Lost” at all? 

Ryan: People want it. People want that experience again. They do. I mean, they want to be swept away and taken over by something that they just don’t completely understand. They want to have that completely unique experience — but in the same way.

Lindelof: But hopefully there’s the revisionist’s history won’t be, "I’ve wasted six years of my life on this show," it’ll be, "I really loved the experience of it, and the experience transcends the actual finale."

Ryan: Well, I felt like whatever I thought about the “Battlestar” finale, it was…

Lindelof: I know what you thought about the “Battlestar” finale.

Ryan: There were a couple of things on the first viewing I didn’t necessarily love, and then I interviewed Ron Moore and it took a few days for it all to sink in. I was so glad I saw it four days before it was on the air because it was like, having to write your thoughts on a finale an hour after it airs, that’s just impossible. I wanted to process it. So I got to watch it a second time when it was on the air and I'd lived with it for a few days and really, overall, there were a lot of parts I loved and I was OK with the couple things I didn't love.

Cuse: And again, your feelings now are probably different now than they were a half an hour after.

Ryan: Yeah. But even right away, I said to myself, "You know what I'm going go remember a year from now? [Two scenes late in the finale involving Adama and Roslin. I'm redacting the specifics for those who haven't seen 'Battlestar.']" And that turned out to be absolutely true.

I did not like [the very last scene.] But to judge the entire series by that is ridiculous. Overall, I thought, this is a show that I have a lot of affection for, so I’m not going to judge those years of enjoyment differently due to one three-minute scene. People’s intensity sometimes frightened me. It's like, aren’t we only this wound up because we care? Isn't caring a good thing? Why are people so personally offended by this or that? 

Cuse: You know, the association is – it’s like sports games, I mean people are very passionate about it and we recognize that people have a proprietary sense about “Lost” that actually transcends our stewardship and we recognize and appreciate the fact that people [have a sense of ownership.]

We’ve had the experience where we provide answers and go – "No, that’s not everything that there is to be said about that." And we kind of embrace that. At a certain point we’d go, "OK, at the end of the show, everyone will be completely entitled to their opinions about whether it was satisfactory, whether their own question got answered or didn’t get answered." There’s a debate that goes on between episodes of shows and there will be a debate that goes on after “Lost” is over and we accept that.

Lindelof: I think the worst thing that’s happened in the blogosphere in general is that there’s this sense of needing to insulate yourself from being excited about something by saying, “I’m very skeptical about this.” With "Avatar," for basically four months, [the online conventional wisdom] has been, "I don’t think it’s going to be any good, it doesn’t look good, it’s going to suck." Back when I was a kid, before “Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi” came out, when all you saw was the trailer and you didn’t have the Internet, it was basically like, “I just want this movie to be the greatest movie ever!”

And what’s the matter with saying I want Season 6 of “Lost” to be the greatest season ever? But people won’t say it because it’s easier for them to approach it as, "It’s going to let me down, it’s going to disappoint me, it’s going to prove that they were making it up as they went along, they’re not going to answer the questions that I really care about." So if we do those things, they’ll be like, “Oh, I’m pleasantly surprised.”

But if we don’t do those things, then they’ll be like, "It’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along." It’s like, "Is that what you were saying all along? Because then you’re a moron for watching the show for five seasons." You know? Why would you ever let us set you up for such a grand disappointment?

But I do feel like that’s a very pervasive sort of feeling. That feeling existed before the “Battlestar” finale. And guess what? Those people got to say, “I was right.”

Ryan: I think that for some people that’s the important thing — to be "right" rather than to just get into it.

Lindelof: But if they had watched the finale through the prism of, "I want to love this ending, I think it’s going to be awesome and this show has been a big part of my life…."

It’s kind of the way that I look at the Ewoks when I saw “Return of the Jedi.” Only now do I go, "That’s not — Is that good?" But when I saw it, I wanted to love it so much that my entire viewing experience was colored by my enthusiasm for it. That’s why our kids love the prequels — they don’t understand the difference between being excited for something and what its actual quality is.

Cuse: I was like, “What? The Ewoks were singing?” But then in hindsight now and re-watching, I accept that that’s a part of it. I have total acceptance for the Ewoks singing.

Lindelof: I love the Ewoks, don’t get me wrong on this.

Cuse: You don't. You’re doing some revisionism there.

Lindelof: There have been a lot of Ewok debates and Hurley has actually got on record on the show as saying that he was anti-Ewok.

Cuse: That’s right. Exactly.

Ewok1 Lindelof: So, it’s hard for you and I here to now to defend the Ewoks [given that] the show has actually…

Cuse: We’re not Hurley though. Hurley is an independent guy.

Lindelof: Aren’t we though?

Cuse: Are you saying Norman Lear is racist because he wrote Archie Bunker?

Lindelof: I think what I’m saying is that Hurley is a fictional character and you and I are real people ….

Cuse: Is that true?

Ryan: That’s not true at all.

Lindelof: If we really cared about the Ewoks, Miles would have said, “Hey, leave the Ewoks alone!"

Cuse: "Stop that. Leave the Ewoks alone." That’s true.

Lindelof: We didn’t really offer the David Kelley argument.

Cuse: The alternate explanation.

Lindelof: Yeah, we just offered one, and Hurley is the audience’s proxy.

Cuse: Maybe Mo can straighten this out and say that, yes, we do care about the Ewoks.

Ryan: So you're pro-Ewok? I just want to be accurate here.

Lindelof: I’ve wouldn't say we're pro-Ewok or anti-Ewok. We’re moderates.

Cuse: You’re a moderate.

Ryan: Are you neutral? Are you neutral on the Ewoks?

Lindelof: No, not entirely. Depends.

Ryan: All righty then. I asked fans for questions, and I think I've touched on some of the subjects they brought up, but I wanted to get to a couple more before we wrap this up. Would you ever write a book about the making of the show? You have said you’re not going to do any sort of postmortems…

Cuse: No, I don’t think so. Again, I think, for us, that would be in that category of mysteries that are better left unanswered. For us to provide – I think there’s this kind of horrifying image that one fan would say to another fan, “No, your theories and what you care about is wrong because right here, Damon and Carlton wrote in this book that I’m right.” That just feels inappropriate to us, and so, we don’t want to be in the business of interpreting or explaining the show in a way that provides a definitive explanation.

Lindelof: And the making of question is just another way of couching, "Were you making it up as you went along? We want you to prove by making a behind the scenes [book] that you guys always had a plan." They want you to provide the evidence.

Ryan: The question — "Were you making it up as you go along?" — drives me absolutely up a wall. If you weren't making it up as you went along, to some extent, then how do we get Desmond and Penny? How do we get Ben Linus as a major character?

Lindelof: But I understand why people need to ask it. We had a writer, David Fury, on the show in the first season and he didn't come back for the second season. He gave an interview to Rolling Stone basically saying, “Yeah, we made it up as we went along.”

Lostclaireporch And the fact of the matter is we would never controvert David’s statements, but in the first season of the show, we literally went from a February meeting to producing the pilot and dove right in. So, we didn’t have time to talk about the implications [of where every story element was going]. If a polar bear came running out of the jungle, we could have a conversation and say, “There were these people here on the island that were doing experiments on polar bears and their facility is on another island that we probably won’t get to this season, but this hatch is part of the these people," but we weren’t calling them the Dharma Imitative yet.

He’s absolutely right. But by the time we got to the second and third season, to say that we weren’t… that we could come in in the morning and break story without having an incredibly intense sense of what the answers to these mysteries were — who Jacob was, how many Others there were, how long Ben had been there, why they lived in New Otherton, what the temple they were referring to was, or why Alpert is immortal. To say that we didn’t know any of that is just insanity. How would we even be able to look at ourselves in the mirror?

Cuse: And yet the normal process of making any creative endeavor is, you have somewhat of a plan and then you find it as you go along. So it’s not a clear-cut situation. It’s not like we come in and just sort of type up our notes from mini-camp [for the show's writers] from the previous year. There’s an immense process of discovery, particular on a character level. But the answer to that question is no. You will not be seeing a behind the scenes or a "making of" [document of some kind that says,] "Here’s the definitive explanation for the show."

Lindelof: We do stuff for the DVDs, including commentaries, and we’re always willing to talk about how we generated certain ideas and stories and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, if [the question is] just a version of, "We really want to know how much of a plan there was versus how little of a plan there was," no one’s going to take our word for it anyway, so why bother?

Ryan: I won't ask the "what's next" question again, but I will ask if you want to keep working together.

Lindelof: Carlton and I actually haven’t spoken to each other in over six months. This is the first time.

Cuse: You know, we have an incredibly rewarding creative partnership and for me, our collaboration is probably the thing that is most enjoyable about the entire process. I think that having spent more time with each other over the last six years than with anybody else, including our wives and children, I think it’s reasonable that we’re going to take a break. You kind of need the chance to … we have certain areas of convergence of interests and we have other areas of divergence and I think it’ll be healthy for us to explore stuff independent of each other. But I think it would be great if we come back together and find something else to do.

Lindelof: I feel like the greatest sentiment I can express about working with Carlton is that, it’s very rare in life that someone who was your mentor and becomes your partner. Usually the ego’s involved or the sensibility of, "If I was someone’s employee, they will never, ever treat me as anything other than an employee and I can never look at them as anything but a boss." Carlton remained my professional mentor over the three years between "Nash" and “Lost” starting up, then it became this partnership and I just feel like it’s something that I’ve never taken for granted.

My hope is that – he and I are very good at partnering in general and it’s like, I wonder who he and I are going to partner with next, in addition to potentially partnering with each other again, or starting to create [a situation where we are] collaborating, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a 65-hour work week. I think we would appreciate it a lot more if we could do a nice eight-episode TNT series.

Cuse: Right.

Ryan: A mini-series.

Lindelof: Sure.

Ryan: If you have time, there’s another question from a fan. What do you enjoy more, plotting out the big arcs, or writing individual scenes and scripts together?

Cuse: I bet we could probably answer this question and we’ll each say one or the other. Because there is something enormously satisfying about just sitting at breakfast in the morning and basically concocting the large schemes of what we’re going to be doing in the show. Even we were walking over here today, we were talking about a series of events that are going to fall between Episodes 12 and 14. We were talking about how the series of events was going to waterfall during the course of those [episodes]. And it’s incredibly exciting to just talk about the big picture of that and anticipating, "Oh, this is going to really be cool for the audience to watch how this is going to go down."

Lindelof: The answer, I think, is that the best moment is when those things [i.e. the big picture and individual scenes] interlock, because each one of them brings their own frustrations. But we were working on an episode this season and there was a scene that was confounding us after the script had been written and we were sitting in Carlton’s office and we basically said, "The reason why this scene is so hard to write is because we’re actually trying to hold back this character saying what they really should be saying, and we’re in Season 6, they don’t need to hold back anymore. Just because we’re earlier in the season doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t say it."

So, we said, "What if they said this thing that we’ve been sitting on for three years?" And then we’re like, "Oh my God, we finally get to say it. We’ve known it, we’ve talked about it, we’ve inferred it, but now like someone in the position of authority is actually saying these words, giving this explanation." However the audience eventually – they might see that scene and basically go, “That’s it?” But for us, it was like this enormously exciting thing. The next morning we were still buzzing about it.

Cuse: Yeah. Or, last night, we were finishing up the script for Episode 11. On our last pass, we sit down side-by-side on the couch and we go through  it and we do pencil notes on scenes together. There’s that wonderful sense of completion when we go act by act and we’re doing the final sets of revisions on each scene and it’s the final polish. There’s something really rewarding when you actually get it done and we’re both at that place where, yeah, this is exactly what we want and we get that moment of confluence, which is great.

Lindelof: Then we looked at each other and said, this is the last – you know every episode is character-centric, this is the last [fill in the blank] episode that we’re gonna write for “Lost,” ever.

Cuse: Exactly. 

Ryan: You’re writing the finale, am I right?

Cuse: Yeah.

Ryan: Just you two? Not anyone else?

Lindelof: Well, we’re not sure whether or not it’s going to be like “Exodus: Part 1” and “Exodus: Part 2” where basically the penultimate episode [of the season] is actually Part 1 of the finale. So, technically speaking, the final two hours of the show will be scripted entirely by Carlton and I and the penultimate episode will be written by other writers.

Ryan: And it will be a three-hour finale though, airing over two weeks?

Lindelof: I’m sure the network will sell it as a six-part finale if they can.

Cuse: There’s a 2-hour series finale, but we always consider the penultimate episode as a way, sort of the ramp-up to it. In our story brains, the 16th hour is sort of the first part of the finale and then 17 and 18 is when we bring it home.

Ryan: Is Jack Bender directing the finale? 

Cuse: He’s definitely directing it. He’s been such a humungous part of the show and he’s our third partner in Hawaii. You know there wouldn’t be anybody else to do it besides him.

Lostdharmasandwichljpg Mo here: If you read this far — and you read Part 1 and Part 2 also — first of all, thank you!

Secondly, get yourself a sandwich! You deserve it.

Sponsored Link: Amazon's Lost Store

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‘Lost’ Season 6: What you need to know (the short version)

My long interview with “Lost” executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse is here, here and here, but maybe you don’t want that level of detail. What are the basics you need to know about what’s coming up for “Lost” and its creative team? Here’s your spoiler-free “Lost” cheat sheet:

Will much time have passed for the characters since the end of Season 5? No. “Season 6 is going to pick up exactly where Season 5 ended,” executive producer Carlton Cuse said.

Lostalpert What new thing are they doing this season? Cuse and Lindelof would only say that they’re using a “new narrative device” in Season 6. “We are constantly pushing to never make the audience feel like they know what an episode of ‘Lost’ is,” Lindelof said.

Who’s writing the two-hour series finale, which will air in May? Lindelof and Cuse.

Who’s directing it? Executive producer Jack Bender, who has directed many important episodes of “Lost.”

Will they be giving interviews about the series finale right after it airs? No. “We are going to go off the grid after the show is over to avoid the actual issue of having to interpret the ending. We’ve always felt that one of the compelling elements of ‘Lost’ is its intentional ambiguity. The fact is, it’s open for interpretation and discussion and we feel like we would be doing a disservice to the fans and the viewers to say, ‘No, you must only look at this in one way,'” Cuse said.

What should fans not expect this season? “I think the expectation that, because it’s the final season, that every single hour is going to have a major revelations and major plot moves is completely unrealistic,” Lindelof said.

What can we expect?
Characters from previous seasons will reappear, and here’s the only other revelation Cuse and Lindelof shared: There is a scene of “a character singing” this season.

Why haven’t they released any video clips (aside from one brief snippet of footage) to promote Season 6? “The whole mystery of what happened when the screen went to white [at the end of Season 5] — what did that mean? If we start putting out big trailers, then the mystery will be ruined,” Cuse said. ?

Do they want to be associated with any future “Lost” projects? No. ABC has made noises about spinning off elements of the franchise, but don’t expect Lindelof and Cuse to be on board. “The one promise that we are making is that what we’re not going to do is leave the show hanging so we can pick up the ball and run with it two years from now in some other television project or movie. I think that we owe ourselves and the story and the audience a sense of finality,” Lindelof said.

Will they keep working together? “Our collaboration is probably the thing that is most enjoyable about the entire process,” Cuse said. Still, “I think that having spent more time with each other over the last six years than with anybody else, including our wives and children, I think it’s reasonable that we’re going to take a break.”

Have they lined up new projects?
Lindelof is working on the next “Star Trek” movie, but other than that, no. “Ideas sort of percolate around in the back of your brain, but I know personally I would feel guilty [to begin serious consideration of the next project]. It would be like cheating on ‘Lost’ to be spending mental time trying to work out the problems of those ideas,” Cuse said.

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Allison Janney to Star Opposite Matthew Perry in Sunshine Pilot

Allison Janney | Photo Credits: John Shearer/WireImage.com

Four-time Emmy-winner Allison Janney is returning to television to star in the ABC pilot Mr. Sunshine, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Longtime West Wing star Janney will…


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