For six years and 121 episodes, it has foxed and flummoxed its millions of fans with baffling storylines of polar bears, smoke monsters, time travel, alternate realities and a mysterious band of "others". From next Sunday, however, the internet will be a little quieter, conversation at watercoolers everywhere a little stilted.
Lost, the high-concept drama about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a tropical island, will finally come to an end. It remains to be seen whether next week's two-and-a-half-hour season finale – it will be broadcast in the UK later this month – will wrap up all of Lost's myriad tangled plotlines. What is likely is that many of the stars of the show will step off the island and into the big time.
Matthew Fox, who plays the troubled but competent Dr Jack Shephard, is already the male face of L'Oréal. He is expected to follow George Clooney, who used the launch pad of the successful television show ER to become a Hollywood heart-throb.
Evangeline Lilly is another tipped for bigger things. Her role as Kate Austen has already earned her a central role in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker.
Lost is just one of several groundbreaking US dramas that reach their final credits this month, bringing to an end the era of high-concept, high-production, expensive shows that defined the last decade. Heroes, about a group of ordinary people who discover they have superhuman powers, was axed last week. It drew huge audiences in its first season in 2006, but they have dropped off considerably over its four seasons.
Also bowing out after eight years is 24. Its final episode will be broadcast in the US a week tomorrow. The show about spy Jack Bauer racing against time to stop terrorists was broadcast in real time, creating intense drama which had an enormous impact on global television. It also revived the career of Kiefer Sutherland.
Peter Bazalgette, the British media expert and former creative director of Endemol, said that the shows had proved so successful because they captured "modern sensibilities".
"Not since the 1980s has US drama so dominated the world in terms of ready-made shows," he said. "Their creation was a response to European dominance of formats such as X Factor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and the US networks spent a lot of money investing in these high-concept shows. Desperate Housewives and the CSI shows are part of this, so I wouldn't say it's the end of an era. What I would say is that three of the five or six exceptional American drama series have now fallen by the wayside and it's not clear what's going to replace them, because investment has fallen by between a half and a third."
Casualties: Other favourite series that face the chop
Twenty-four episodes, each an hour long, documenting in real time a day in the life of Jack Bauer, who must race against the clock to prevent a terrorist plot. The show revived the flagging career of the former brat-packer Kiefer Sutherland, as well as helping to re-establish American drama at the forefront of global television. It chimed with the post 9/11 sensibility when it first aired in November 2001. The final episode will be broadcast in the US on 24 May.
Another high-concept drama that drew massive audiences and critical acclaim when it made its debut in 2006. The heroes are group of ordinary people who discover they have superhuman powers. It was axed last week after four seasons.Reuse content