Is There Life After 'Lost'?

Lost exits stage left, Law and Order fades to black and the networks have announced their new fall shows. Guest host Allison Keyes talks to St. Petersburg Times TV and media critic Eric Deggans about the evolving television line-up.

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ALLISON KEYES, host:

I'm Allison Keyes and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, for seven decades, the Bordentown School in New Jersey was one of the most sought after schools for black children. A new documentary details the rise and fall of Bordentown.

But first, the TV landscape after "Lost," "Law & Order" and other big name shows fade to black. The networks have announced new lineups for the fall season, including the show "Undercovers."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Undercovers")

Mr. BEN SCHWARTZ (Actor): (As Bill Hoyt) Can I say what a thrill it is to be working with you, Mr. Bloom. I mean, you're kind of a legend.

Ms. GUGU MBATHA-RAW (Actor): (As Samantha Bloom) Did you just say my husband's a legend?

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Am I dreaming? Don't pinch if I am.

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: Leo wouldn't turn against the agency.

Mr. BORIS KODJOE (Actor): (As Steven Bloom) You really think you know him that well?

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: Yes.

Mr. KODJOE: How?

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: 'Cause Leo and I used to go out.

Mr. KODJOE: What did she say?

Mr. SCHWARTZ: She said that Leo and her used to go out.

Mr. KODJOE: I know what she said.

(Soundbite of music)

KEYES: That again is NBC's new sexy spy drama "Undercovers." With me to talk about all the drama that is TV, or not so much drama, depending on what you watched, is Eric Deggans. He's the television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times. He joins us today from the studios of the Pointer Institute. Welcome, Eric.

Mr. ERIC DEGGANS (TV and Media Critic, St. Petersburg Times): Thanks for having me.

KEYES: All right, so before we get to fall, we're going to have to talk about "Lost." "Lost," "Lost," "Lost."

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: All the drama all last night.

Mr. DEGGANS: Lost in "Lost."

KEYES: People all over the country glued to their TVs. Let's listen to a clip of the scene where Jack finds his own truth.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Lost")

Mr. MATTHEW FOX (Actor): (As Jack Shephard) Dad?

Mr. JOHN TERRY (Actor): (As Christian Shephard) Hello, Jack.

Mr. FOX: I don't understand. You died.

Mr. TERRY: Yeah. Yes, I did.

Mr. FOX: Then how are you here right now?

Mr. TERRY: How are you here?

Mr. FOX: I died, too.

(Soundbite of music)

KEYES: Just wow. After six seasons, all the puzzles. So, first of all, did it work for you, Eric? Was it all you thought it was going to be?

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Okay, stop, stop, stop, don't cry.

Mr. DEGGANS: I'm already sobbing. Yes.

KEYES: I know, me too.

Mr. DEGGANS: It did work for me. And I know there are a lot of people who found the ending, particularly the last, say, 15 minutes where it really got sentimental to be a bit much. But this was a series that always balanced action and sort of heavy drama with a heavy dose of sentimentalism and romanticism. And I think they tried to pay homage to both sides of that equation in a two-and-a-half-hour finale, and I thought they did a pretty good job.

KEYES: Okay, that dog was in the final, but what happened to his people, Michael and Walt?

Mr. DEGGANS: One of the things that the "Lost" guys do is they leave a lot of things open-ended so that fans can kind of talk about it. My own personal theory is that Michael was a father, Walt was a son - they were the two black characters that were at the heart of the show in its first season.

And Michael died close to the island and we saw during this past season that his spirit was trapped on the island and speaking to one of the other characters. His son, Walt, who was the focus of storylines in the first and second season, we saw, I think in the second or third season that he had left the island and had grown up.

And so my theory is that he's still alive somewhere when we see the rest of the characters come together in what we thought was an alternate universe, but turned out to be some sort of purgatory or limbo where all of these people who are connected to each other got back together before they made a transition into another state of being that was never really explained.

KEYES: All right, speaking of purgatory and limbo, what are we going to watch without "Lost" in the fall? I understand that Blair Underwood has a show that has kind of a similar theme?

Mr. DEGGANS: Yeah, Blair Underwood stars in a new show on NBC called "The Event." And Blair Underwood plays the president of the United States who discovers that there's some sort of nefarious plot going on inside his administration that he wasn't aware of.

At the same time, the hero of the story is kind of an average guy whose, I think, wife or fiancee disappears. And in his attempt to find out what happened to her, he also uncovers this plot in a way that makes him a threat.

And with some of the these shows, NBC shows in particular, we haven't yet seen the pilots. But in very short order they're going to send out review copies of all of these pilots on DVD and the critics will get a chance to take a real close look at them and see what the shows are about.

KEYES: We heard a clip in the lead of this new show "Undercovers." What can you tell us about it?

Mr. DEGGANS: It's created by J.J. Abrams, who also co-created "Lost." It's notable because it's a show that's kind of a spy drama, but it's also centered on a black couple. And it's not focused on black culture or race or at an all-black cast. So this is significant because it's one of NBC's top hopes for the fall. And it just happens to be pretty diverse.

KEYES: And we must, for my little sister, talk about the demise, the finale of "Law and Order." It's being yanked off the air after tonight. What's up with that?

Mr. DEGGANS: It was a show that had been struggling in the ratings in recent years. I think there was always a sense that there was a good chance it would get cancelled. What's notable is that it got cancelled right before it set a TV record. If it had gotten through next season it would have been the longest show to be on consecutive seasons in primetime.

But, unfortunately, NBC couldn't work out the finances to make it advantageous to keep doing the show. So we'll have to say goodbye to it after tonight's episode. We also have to say goodbye to S. Epatha Merkerson's Lieutenant Anita Van Buren.

KEYES: Right.

Mr. DEGGANS: One of the best black police characters on television right now. And her story wraps up tonight in a way that I think also kind of wraps up the show in a nice way.

KEYES: Are we going to see more people of color on network primetime, and I mean black people, Asian people, Latino people?

Mr. DEGGANS: Sure, yeah. Actually, NBC in particular has done a real good job in being diverse in its casting. Jimmy Smits has a new show. Blair Underwood has a show. "Undercovers" has a black cast. There's a show called "Outsourced" that's based in India, where most of the cast is East Indian. I think about half of their shows in the fall - new shows in the fall - feature people of color in starring roles. So this is quite a turnaround for NBC.

KEYES: Eric Deggans is the television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times. I'm sure he will spend most of his day talking about "Lost." But he joined us and thank you so much for the fall information.

Mr. DEGGANS: Thanks for the break.

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