Is 24 better than Lost?

24Make no mistake: loves Lost. We just love 24 more. It might not seem fair to compare the two shows, as one is a straightforward terrorist action drama and the other is a character-based supernatural drama, but who cares. The bottom line is, one show delivers the goods, and one show strings viewers along interminably and pretends to be “about” something.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the latest season of 24, where major characters are dying off right and left. Lost makes a big deal when one lousy, irritating character is accidentally shot, but 24 has cycled through almost all of the original cast in the space of half a season.

lostLet’s face it–both shows have writers who don’t know where they’re going. On 24, they are constantly writing themselves into corners, then they think of crazy, outlandish ways to get out of it. On Lost, they have all these characters milling around with nothing to do, and then have to find meandering mysteries for them to be involved in. Only 24 resolves these problems in a satisfying manner–someone gets shot or poisoned.

Both shows have dumb blonde women. 24’s is Jack’s daughter, Kim. Any 24 fan can regale you with stories of Kim’s misadventures through the first two seasons. She is at least laughably bad, as when she was caught in an animal trap and attacked by a cougar. Lost had Maggie Grace, who was just a cringingly bad actress.

Both shows have lovable fat guys. Yet even here, 24 utilized its fat guy to maximum effect. Edgar Stiles was killed by terrorists when they released Centox gas at CTU, thereby manipulating loyal viewers into feeling rage and sadness. Lost’s Hurley stole a bucket of ranch dressing.

Both shows have angry psychotic men. Lost’s psycho is Sawyer, who is sometimes scary but is also fun and irascible, jauntily joking as he wears broken glasses to read a book by the seaside. 24’s psycho is Jack Bauer, who is only a psycho if he thinks that you are a terrorist, at which point he must torture you.

Both shows have characters who are recovering drug addicts. Charlie is an ex-pop star who became addicted to heroin because his brother did. Jack Bauer forced himself to use heroin to stop terrorism. Jack Bauer made heroin usage honorable.

There is a deeper “character flaw” at work on Lost: many of them are all over the map. Jack Shepard is tough, then he’s a pansy, then he is noble, then he wants to start an army; Sawyer is a criminal, then he is a hero, then he is a wacko who puts hits out on Sun, hordes the medicine, steals all the guns, and crushes a tree frog; Charlie is a gentle soul who fights his personal demons, then he succumbs to them, then he is a wacko who beats up Sun, then he is lovable again; Kate is a gritty criminal, then she softens, then she likes Sawyer, but then she likes Jack, and so on.

This past episode, “The Whole Truth,” illustrated that point: in a fit of anger, Jin pulled Sun’s garden out of the ground. This was out of character for him, even for angry Jin, but especially since Jin and Sun made up after he was mean through most of season one. He may have been gruff and cold to Sun, but he was never disrespectful and spiteful.

On 24, Jack is only one thing: a terrorist fighting robot. You can count on Jack to kill anyone who stops him from his goal and to yell at various points during the season “We don’t have time for that!” and begin torturing someone.

Ultimately, only one show delivers the goods on a weekly basis: 24. Lost doles out one or two enigmatic tidbits but never reveals anything. Often, the episode wraps up with a montage of the characters going about their business to a syrupy acoustic-guitar melody. 24 episodes wrap up with someone dying, then the sound of beeping, unless it’s an extra poignant death, in which case there is silence.

It’s only fun to be in the dark if you feel like you’re being taken care of. On 24, you know that no matter how implausible and crazy it seems right then, by the end of the season the bad guys will be dead and Jack will have decimated his personal life in the process. On Lost, will we even get to learn what “the countdown” is? Will we learn what that grey smoke-thing is? Where is the polar bear? Will we ever actually know what the mystery of the island is? More importantly, do the show’s writers even know? Lost is the perpetual tease, and it’s becoming too much.

By Colin Mahan

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