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TV finales guide: Plan your viewing now

Confused by supersized episodes, different time slots, and scheduling conflicts during TV’s finale season? Use our guide to make sure you get ”Lost”

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Lost: Mario Perez

‘Tis the season for season finales. Between now and May 25, the broadcast networks will try to pack so many special guest stars, explosive cliffhangers, and tearful farewells into your favorite series that you’ll forgive them for all the reruns they’ll air from June through August.

Of course, the networks have to make it a little difficult for you. Different time slots (yeah, Survivor wraps on a Sunday, as in past years), scheduling conflicts (thanks, ABC and Fox, for pitting the Lost and American Idol finales against each another), and expanded episodes (surprise — According to Jim is getting bloated) may give you fits as you program your TiVo or VCR. We hope this guide will help.

Friday, May 13

Star Trek Enterprise travels six years into the future for the signing of the Federation charter. It’s doubtful the two-hour road to galactic peace will be smooth, but fans should get enough resolution for the series to permanently sign off after four years. (UPN, 8-10 p.m.)

Sunday, May 15

The Simpsons gets a full 60 minutes and two episodes to end its season. Liam Neeson and Jason Bateman provide guest voices. (Fox, 8-9 p.m.)

Following series tradition, Survivor leaps from Thursday to Sunday for the Palau conclusion (two hours) and postshow interviews (one hour). Chances are they’ll also include the sappy, time-stretching tributes to the island and to fallen competitors. (CBS, 8-11 p.m.)

Monday, May 16

It’ll take three long hours for The Bachelor‘s Charlie O’Connell to choose either Sarah B. or Krisily as his future bride, but how long will it take for the happy couple to visit Splitsville? (ABC, 8-11 p.m.)

Don’t expect a Very Special Episode, just a typical 30 minutes of wacky Barone dysfunction, when Everybody Loves Raymond wraps its ninth (and final) season. (CBS, 9-9:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, May 17

ABC tries to squeeze a few extra laughs from its Tuesday-night sitcom block, with supersized versions of My Wife and Kids (8-8:40 p.m.), George Lopez (8:40-9:19 p.m.), and According to Jim (9:19-10 p.m.).

Wednesday, May 18

That ’70s Show‘s producers can’t say if Ashton Kutcher will be back again next year. But we do know that Topher Grace will be saying a permanent goodbye to the Disco Era and hello to his film career. In the one-hour season finale, Eric Forman (Grace) heads to Africa — leaving Mila Kunis and Wilmer Valderrama to keep the sitcom on life support. (Fox, 8-9 p.m.)

Naima’s been almost invincible in the ”CoverGirl of the Week” fan polls, but that Brittany sure takes a fierce photo. Only one of them (or maybe Kahlen or Keenyah) will become America’s Next Top Model — and land a photo shoot with ”renowned fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon.” (UPN, 8-9 p.m.)

Thursday, May 19

Thursdays are never easy for TV lovers, but this one will be particularly tough, as CSI‘s two-hour Quentin Tarantino-directed episode (CBS, 8-10 p.m.) overlaps with The O.C.‘s sudsy conclusion (Fox, 8-9 p.m.) and The Apprentice‘s climactic hiring (NBC, 9-10 p.m.).

Yet another character makes a life-changing decision to leave the ER: This time it’s Noah Wyle’s Dr. Carter. (NBC, 9:59-11 p.m.)

Sunday, May 22

Desperate Housewives raises questions that hit home for a large segment of the viewing public: What’s the deal with Dana? What does that hellion Andrew have in store for Bree? And why aren’t there any African-Americans on this show? Oh wait, there’s Alfre Woodard answering at least one burning issue. (ABC, 9-10:02 p.m., ABC)

Wednesday, May 25

It could shape up as a battle of good versus evil, and you won’t get an answer till the show’s final minutes. We’re talking about either the Jack-Locke confrontation on Lost (ABC, 8-10 p.m.) or the likely Bo-Carrie showdown on American Idol (Fox, 8-10 p.m.), or maybe both. In any case, you’ll have to record one of ’em.

Now that you’ve gotten used to its Wednesdays-at-9 time slot, ABC pulls a fast one and airs Alias‘ season ender an hour later. (ABC, 10-11 p.m.)