24 and Lost – Time Well Spent?
|REVIEWS - TV|
315 hours of TV viewing comes to an end with just two series finales...do we want those hours back?
(N.B. Spoilers for UK readers!)
So the clock has reached zero on two of the most influential TV programmes of our time; Lost and 24. In total, fans of the former have clocked up 121 hours of viewing time, compared to a mammoth 192 hours for the Bauer bunch (not forgetting the 2-hour Redemption special, making it 194 hours!) If you’ve followed both then you’ve put in nearly two weeks non-stop straight viewing – enough to make even Bauer a little sleepy. But looking back, has it been worth the time?
Though undoubtedly both shows have had their peaks and troughs (Season 5 and 6 for 24 respectively; The Pilot, Ab Aterno and that bloody ridiculous paralysing spider episode for Lost) there’s no doubt that millions of viewers around the globe tuned in religiously each week, eager for answers but enjoying the thrill of the ride as much as anything else. At its peak 24 attracted 17 million viewers, Lost striding ahead on 23.5million; but were those viewers rewarded?
The general consensus amongst fans would be an overriding “YES”, for despite the moans around Lost’s inevitably confounding conclusion, both shows have been happy to provide viewers with a rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills (blood mostly in Jack Bauer’s case) in order to sustain their continued allegiance. While it appears that 24’s finale was the more satisfying (especially as it leaves the door open for more Bauer action in the form of a movie franchise) it should be no surprise to die-hard fans that Joel Silver et al should wrap things up in a more complete fashion, something they’ve been doing before for 7 well-plotted seasons. The fact that Lost dangled threads before its viewers' eyes, tantalising them in with all kinds of cryptic sweeteners before, in true Lost fashion, leaving them hanging, shouldn’t be unexpected; it’s the basis of the whole show.
"Aside from plot, both shows gave the viewer the chance to experience Hollywood-style effects and grandeur in the comfort of our own homes for free (well, before Sky charged us for the experience)"
Formed from absurdly neat ideas, both shows have managed to develop credible plot lines to keep us entertained. Lost weaved back story, future story and side story (which we know now to be a fantasy purgatory) seamlessly, focusing on one character at a time yet managing to bring each story to a resolution as part of the wider whole. 24 kept its labyrinthine plots well paced and scripted, managing to leave us on a cliff-hanger each week, often resolving plotlines quickly (something Lost never managed) while bringing everything together in that final hour and yet maintaining a story over a whole 8 seasons. Can we even imagine now what might have been if Terri hadn’t been killed in that first series, as the alternate ending from Season 1 revealed?
Aside from plot, both shows gave the viewer the chance to experience Hollywood-style effects and grandeur in the comfort of our own homes for free (well, before Sky charged us for the experience). Lost’s pilot episode is still the most expensive in TV history, while 24 provided more thrills in each episode than many films manage in their whole costly running time. The fact that a movie is in the pipeline should be no surprise – the whole show has retained that quality from episode one.
"The fact that Lost's title came to mean more about each character’s spiritual and human journey rather than their physical predicament speaks volumes about how viewers and therefore writers responded to the show’s success"
But what really grabbed viewers each week, which certainly became apparent as each series developed, were the characters. In Jack Bauer television had a rugged no-nonsense action hero not only to rival Bond and Bourne but actually make them appear tame by comparison while Jack number 2 (Shepherd) became the poster boy for a new generation of adoring female – and male - viewers. As Bauer’s predicament became unbearably worse each season (losing family and colleagues left, right and centre) we became emotionally attached much as we did to the band of survivors led by hero Jack Shepherd in Lost. The fact that the show’s title came to mean more about each character’s spiritual and human journey rather than their physical predicament speaks volumes about how viewers and therefore writers responded to the show’s success.
Which makes endings hard to deal with. The minor furore over Lost’s “obvious” ending, in which viewers were left to interpret events on the island as real but without fully explaining them, followed the best traditions of the show. Knowing all the answers takes away the mystique and without that the show disappears into the archives of TV history like the small white dot of an old set’s screen. While 24 fans got to see their hero live to fight another day, the fact that Lost gave their viewers a sense of complete closure in such a delightfully pleasing way should be applauded not lambasted.
It’s always hard letting go, especially of something we’ve all invested so much of our time, emotion and reason on. But in the end we should be thankful for the time we had with these characters and hope that thanks to their contribution future writers and commissioners realise that it’s about making a meaningful connection through the screen that ultimately makes a great one on it.
The UK premiere of 24’s finale airs on Sky 1 on Sunday 6th June. If you’ve missed Lost’s then it’s bound to be heavily repeated over the next few weeks.
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