We "Lost" fans were thrilled at the beginning of this season when Jack's plan to detonate a nuke split the story in two: In one timeline, all of the islanders were reunited, but still marooned, in more or less present day. In an alternate reality, Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed and the characters were following slightly different (but oddly interconnected) off-island arcs. Twice the story! Twice the answers!

Twice the foolish naivete.

In actuality, the split storyline just makes us twice as frustrated. Week after week of multiplying and unanswered questions is starting to shake our faith that the story will be brought to a coherent and satisfying conclusion. But though the alternate reality conceit might not be working for "Lost," I wondered how the device might play out to some of my other favorite shows, and I asked some newsroom friends to join in the fun.

‘American Idol'

Ryan Seacrest, looking at himself in a monitor backstage while contestant Lilly Scott runs Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" through her patented Quirk-a-tron 5000, spills his Vitaminwater Zero on a control board. This sets off a chain reaction that sends the entire panel back in time to the end of last season, when there was still a chance to retain Paula Abdul and choose talented contestants, dawg. Crystal Bowersox is not chosen as a contestant, but she's so good that she wins anyway.

— Dale Roe

‘24'

The following takes place in an alternate time line.

Forget the Russians, the thinly veiled Middle Eastern nations, the nuclear bombs and terrorist attacks. In this version of "24," the enemy is a zombie plague, and some of the best characters of past seasons are back in action. The brain-wasting disease started in Washington, D.C., (and because Congress was in session, it was several weeks before anyone noticed the outbreak of drooling, moaning and vicious attacks). President Martha Logan and first gentleman Charles Logan have fled to the safe zone of New York. But Martha is starting to act strangely, and her loyal top Secret Service agent, Aaron Pierce, fears she might have been infected. A mysterious and possibly unbalanced doctor, Sherry Palmer, claims to have unlocked the secrets to the plague, but she refuses to speak to anyone but the president herself. Pierce calls on Jack Bauer and his trusty sidekick, Tony Almeida, to get Palmer from D.C. to New York. The trio trek through the wilds of New Jersey (where the zombies all have spray tans), and because there's no point in wasting time on zombie interrogation, Jack and Tony can concentrate on what they do best: high-speed chases, hand-to-hand combat and a lot of furious dialogue through gritted teeth. But Cabinet members Bill Buchanan and Chloe O'Brian are determined not to let the doctor get anywhere near the president — and their motive for doing so is unclear.

Oh, and Jack isn't a grandfather because the cougar got Kim back in Season 2.

— Emily Quigley

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm'

In Larry David's alternate life, he never meets Jerry Seinfeld and never becomes a billionaire as the co-creator of "Seinfeld." Instead, after toiling miserably as a writer on several sitcoms starring Jim Belushi, Larry is cast in the first season of "Survivor." Larry's constant complaining and ridiculous scheming with fellow contestant Jeff Greene make him a star, especially after his no-holds-barred nude-off in the season finale against Richard Hatch.

On the spin-off reality show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry copes, badly, with his new fame, which strains his already screamy, difficult marriage to Susie Essman. The two divorce after a disastrous dinner party. Larry reconnects with a new love interest he met on the island, a fresh-faced, but very opinionated young woman named Elisabeth Filarski (in this time line, she does not go on to marry an NFL player to become Elisabeth Hasselbeck). Things predictably go awry when Larry and Elisabeth run into Sarah Palin at a GOP fundraising event in the Season 7 finale.

— Omar L. Gallaga

‘Fringe'

Been there, done that, got a duplicate T-shirt. In the alternate "Fringe" universe, there is no alternate universe.

— Dale Roe

‘Big Love'

In the alternate time line, Bill Henrickson's nosy neighbors decide to out the family as polygamists back in Season 2. Bill is forced to return to Juniper Creek; only Nicki and her kids go with him. Margene starts an illegal bird importation business that proves mildly successful. She and Bill lose touch, she converts to Catholicism and marries a nice man who sells insurance. Bill and Barb's kids Sarah and Ben end up living with their aunt and uncle, going to BYU and turning out fine.

Barb returns to teaching and writes a best-seller about her husband's experimentation with polygamy. Later, she decides to run for Utah Senate on an anti-polygamy platform. Bill rises within the Juniper Creek ranks, his popularity eventually driving Roman Grant from office. In the third season climax, Bill kills Roman, declaring himself the prophet of Juniper Creek.

Season 4 brings the now-influential Barb and Bill into direct conflict, as she wants to see Juniper Creek dismantled. The finale of Season 4 finds Barb persuading the Utah attorney general to raid Juniper Creek. In the chaos of the raid, fires are started, leaving the fate of Bill, Nicki and the compound in doubt.

— Joe Gross

‘Mad Men'

In the alternate timeline, the Cuban missile crisis results in the atomic destruction of New York. Sterling Cooper is destroyed along with the rest of Manhattan. The U.S. government falls. The sole survivor is Joan because Joan can survive anything, and her red outfits go well with her new Soviet overlords.

— Joe Gross