Lost , which returns tonight on ABC, isn't for the casual viewer. It requires effort to follow the complex plot twists following a plane crash on a mysterious island. Make that considerable effort. President Obama could very well have been referring to Lost in his inaugural address when he said, "There is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."
Thank goodness for the Web. When my wife and I sit down to watch Lost, it's a joint research project. Tonight, as usual, we'll record the season premiere first, then start it late, so we can not only skip commercial breaks -- too much suspense -- but also stop to consult online fan forums when the time travel and obscure allusions just get too confusing. Listen in as we prepare:
Mrs. Lost: Did you set Tivo?
Mr. Lost: Yep. All set.
Mrs. Lost: You sure? Because you said the same thing about 24 the other day and we missed the premiere. Now I have no idea who Jack Bauer's torturing.
Mr. Lost: That was my subconscious's way of saying, 'You need more room in your brain for Lost.'
Mrs. Lost: But you did your homework, right? You read Alan's blog [What's Alan's Watching ] about the premiere?
Mr. Lost: Of course. Never miss it. But it's been so long since the season finale that I can't remember everything that happened.
Mrs. Lost: C'mon, you remember: The tanker blew up, maybe killing Jin, but maybe not. Desmond and Penny, the love of his life, reunited. Ben and Locke made the island disappear somehow. And we flashed forward to the present where Jack had been rescued but wanted to return to the island and take the other Oceanic Six survivors with him. Oh, and John Locke changed his name to Jeremy Bentham, which happens to be the name of a 19th century philosopher.
Mr. Lost: Right. How could I forget?
Mrs. Lost: Three words for you: Television Without Pity. It's got episode-by-episode recaps , and a fan forum with all sorts of background, interpretation and insider info -- like blown-up screen captures so we can search the background for clues when the episode is over.
Mr. Lost: I'm on it. I'll get a last-season refresher as soon as I finish reading this interview  with Damon and Carlton [Lost producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse]. They talk about the difficulty of keep the time-travel plots straight. Even they get confused.
Mrs. Lost: Maybe they should read this guy's time-loop theory . It's practically a Ph.D. dissertation breaking down how the show works. Or at least how he thinks it works.
Mr. Lost: You realize J.J. Abrams and these sci-fi geeks are taking over Hollywood , don't you? Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe. They're changing how we watch TV.
Mrs. Lost: I can't imagine watching Lost without the Web. I couldn't keep up.
Mr. Lost: I know. And we'd miss out on all the extra stuff. The Oceanic Airlines site . The Dharma Iniative site . Lostpedia . The NCAA-like bracket  on ABC.com where episodes compete head to head.
Mrs. Lost: And the spoilers.
Mr. Lost: You read a spoiler about tonight's episode, didn't you?
Mrs. Lost: Well--
Mr. Lost: Don't!
Mrs. Lost: Maybe I--Mr. Lost: Please!
Mrs. Lost: I did read something.
Mr. Lost: Nananananana! I can't hear you! I can't hear you!
Mrs. Lost: Fine. How much longer? This is excruciating!
Mr. Lost: Not long. A few hours. Enough time to act out an episode or two with these Lost scripts  I found online.
Mrs. Lost: Yes! I call Kate.
Mr. Lost: Ah, yes, Freckles. Torn between the doc and the con man. A woman with many secrets. Nice.
Mrs. Lost: This is our Lost secret. We won't tell anyone we're this crazy about the show. They wouldn't understand.
Mr. Lost: Of course. Who would I tell?