TV Thoughts

April 10, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

A month or two ago, I wrote something about how I regularly watch four television shows: "24," "NYPD Blue," "Lost," and "Battlestar Galactica." Two of those are no longer running new episodes. "NYPD Blue" has shuffled off the squad room in the sky with a nicely low-key finale. And "Battlestar Galactica" has suspended operations until July with a cliffhanger that had me scouring TV spoiler pages trying to learn whether Edward James Olmos is signed for next season.

"24" and "Lost" remain. I still think "24" is as enjoyable a show as ever. It continues to surprise with daring plot twists. SPOILERS FOLLOW! Shooting down the President's plane wasn't a big shock (it was adequately foreshadowed), but, especially in today's climate, it's a ballsy move, and will be doubly so if the President turns out to be dead. Most TV series do not take risks like this. They play it safe looking for a happy ending. But "24" has a history of grim conclusions. Season #1 ended with Jack holding his dead wife. Season #2 concluded with the President collapsing after being poisoned. And Season #3 wrapped up with Tony on his way to prison. One of the complaints most offered about "24" is that it isn't realistic. This is true, but I don't expect it to be. It's usually well-written (amnesia and cougars excepted), is better paced than any show I have seen on American TV not named "Twin Peaks," and never loses my attention. For me, it's the only example of "appointment TV" available today.

Which brings me to "Lost." The title is an apt descriptor of where the show's producers are located. They don't seem to know what to do with the program, and it's evident they're making things up as they go along. The weekly backstories are becoming lame and they interrupt the present story's flow. Continuity is inconsistent and character interaction has become schizophrenic. Each week, I lose a little more patience with the program. I don't necessarily want answers - more than likely, they're going to be disappointing - but I want an inkling that the producers are following a clear path. If I believe they know where the show is going and that there will eventually be a payoff, I'll stay with the castaways. Otherwise, I'll end up bailing next season.

Tomorrow, I'll rebut the irate reader who claims I got it all wrong about the Star Wars line-standers.