‘V’ Countdown Clock Sparks ‘Lost’ Backlash

An attempt to get “Lost” viewers to stick around for “V” prompts mass online outrage

ABC’s decision to blanket Tuesday night’s "Lost" with a virtually omnipresent "V" countdown clock has provoked a massive online backlash — including a slam from series co-creator Damon Lindelof.

"Yes, people, I saw it too," a clearly perturbed Lindelof wrote during the West Coast broadcast of his show. ":34 minutes until I cry myself to sleep."

"It" was a bright red "V" logo and a countdown clock that remained fixed in the lower right-hand corner of ABC’s air through virtually all of Tuesday’s "Lost." Even during super-dramatic moments. Even when subtitles appeared (yes, the clock obscured one word of said subtitle during one scene).

Another "Lost" writer sounded equally peeved.

"Really? The V couldn’t have at least been translucent?!?" tweeted Adam Horowitz.

The intent of ABC’s stunt was clear: It desperately was hoping die-hard "Lost" fans would stay tuned for "V," which has been off the air for four long months. With "FlashForward" a real long shot for renewal, "V" is ABC’s last best hope to salvage a drama hit from the fall season.

But while viewers — particularly those who watch lots of cable originals — have come to expect a certain amount of on-air clutter, the "V" stunt may have been a bridge too far for some fans.

Bill Simmons, a regular contributor to the website for ABC sibling ESPN.com, couldn’t contain his rage.

"To the ABC exec who decided to put the V countdown clock on the bottom of the Lost screen… I hate you. Passionately," Simmons wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

A personality from a rival conglomerate was equally upset.

"Whoever made the decision to put up the ‘V’ countdown clock during ‘Lost’ should be fired, or kicked in the nuts repeatedly until he quits," tweeted Andy Levy, a contributor to Fox New Channel’s "Redeye."

Aaron Bleyaert, the former "Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien" blogger, argued the stunt backfired.

"Hey ABC, here is a great way to make sure I never, ever, EVER watch the show ‘V’: put a giant fucking bright red ‘V’ bug over all of ‘LOST,’" he wrote.

And, no shocker, professional TV critics were aghast.

"Well-done, ABC. Really freaking well-done," the Newark Star-Ledger’s Alan Sepinwall wrote on his "What’s Alan Watching" blog, adding that he was "really, really, really pissed off" by the move.

Some folks decided it was best to simply mock ABC.

"If ABC had any real marketing savvy, they would have had a countdown clock while ‘V’ was on, showing how long until the next episode of ‘V,’" tweeted @KenTremendous, widely believed to be the online handle of "Parks & Recreation" co-creator Mike Schur.

"So what’s the deeper meaning of the V clock?" asked the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal. "Is there a flash-sideways in which alt-ABC does something not idiotic?"

Our favorite ABC dis came from Ben Lohhman, a communications student in New Jersey.

"I didn’t even watch ‘Lost,’ but I hate the ‘V’ countdown timer," he sighed.

It’ll be interesting to see how ABC responds to the online uproar Wednesday. (A rep for the network couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday, in part because ABC reps have, you know, lives and don’t sit around all night waiting to respond to critics and reporter and bloggers.)

Our take: ABC screwed the pooch big-time here. We all accept that networks need to crank up the hype, what with a zillion viewing options, DVRs and everything else making it hard out there for a pimp/network executive.

But this isn’t just some TV show. It’s "Lost." The closest thing broadcast TV has to a religious experience.

Nobody’s going to stay tuned for "V" just because you hammer it into their brains while they’re trying to enjoy "Lost."

If the ratings for "V" are good Wednesday — and we suspect they might be — it won’t be because of the countdown clock, but because of all of the other amazing promos ABC has been airing for "V" the past six weeks.

All that said, the world will get over this, particularly if ABC humbles itself a little and simply apologizes for its overeager promotion. Just don’t let it happen again, OK?