Edward Wyatt ("Creators of ‘Lost’ Say the GPS Unit Is Plugged In", NYT 1/28/2010) quotes Damon Lindelof, an executive producer of Lost, exploring the use of they as an indefinite singular pronoun in free variation with he:
“There’s an inherent process when you’re ending something to sort of be thinking about the beginning,” Mr. Lindelof said. “One of the things that I think we are trying to do — all of us, the actors and the writers as well, in the sixth season — is to show the audience the before,” as well as the after.
Therefore episodes in the final season will continue to provide plenty of back story. That way viewers “have some sense of, ‘Oh, this is what he used to be and who they are now,’ ” Mr. Lindelof added. “So you really get a sense of how far that person’s come.”
The show's other executive producer, Carlton Cuse, offers a nice Hollywood expression for explanatory detail:
“Obviously not every question’s going to be answered,” Mr. Cuse said. “We felt if we tried to just answer questions, it would be very pedantic. Apart from that, we also really embrace this notion that there’s a fundamental sort of sense of mystery that we all have in our lives, and certainly that is a huge part of the lives of these characters.”
“To sort of demystify that by trying to literally explain everything down to the last little sort of midi-chlorian of it all would be a mistake in our view,” he added.
For those of you who insist on literally explaining singular they down to the last little sort of midi-chlorian of it all — and you know who you are – previous LL posts on the subject can sort of be found here and here.
[Update — Ben Sprung sent in this related observation:
I was reminded of something I jotted down over the weekend. During the women's final of the Australian Open, the chair umpire said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the line judge called it out, and then corrected themselves. We will replay the point."
I thought it was interesting because rather than an attempt at gender neutrality (the line judge is clearly either male or female), it was an attempt to create a certain distance, or, perhaps, a *generalized* neutrality. As in, let's not consider the line judge on a personal level because we wish to hold the view that line judges are completely impartial beings, for the moment.
Using themselves with a singular and definite antecedent is certainly striking, whatever the explanation.]