Warming Glow: Seriously, I am so damn Lost

April 29, 2010

I only need to be told to shut the hell up a couple of times before I get the message. That’s why I learned very quickly that when I come into my room on Tuesday nights, I need to sneak in inaudibly. I can’t even say hello to my roommate, who periodically breaks the silence with an emphatic gasp, an angry yell, or a puzzled expletive. Sometimes, I just leave and do my homework elsewhere. That’s right, I’m being Lost-iled.

I started watching Lost in its first season, at the suggestion of an enthusiastic friend. I, however, lacked the commitment and attention span the show demands of its viewers, and ended my brief affair with Lost before Season 2. But given the show’s premise of a group of people inescapably stranded together, I should be able to see a later episode and still understand it the same way I would a Gilligan’s Island rerun, right?

Wrong. A show which by nature shouldn’t last more than a few weeks and should witness its cast of characters dwindling as situations grow more dire (seriously, why didn’t they just eat the fat guy?) has now survived multiple new characters, hundreds of plot twists, and a confusing ordeal involving numbers that nobody even pretends to understand. Not that anyone watches TV for realism (with the exception of Jersey Shore, of course), but shouldn’t there be at least some plot constraints? The show was billed from the beginning as unrealistic-but-within-the-realm-of-possibility, and if I were a devoted viewer I’d feel cheated, toyed-with, and used. I’ve witnessed it firsthand: my roommate is frequently confused and disconcerted after an episode. I tell her she should make a clean break.  The writers are just making this up as they go along.  They are not doing it because they love her.  It’s an unhealthy relationship.

But before I get too condescending, let me confess: My name is Leigh Finnegan, and I’m addicted to 24. That’s right, I love watching a middle-aged man who doesn’t eat or sleep kick major terrorist ass on a weekly basis. Jack Bauer has been to Chinese prison camp, he’s kicked a heroin habit in under six hours, hell, he’s died and been resuscitated in a single episode—twice!

So although Jack hasn’t found himself transcending time, yet his life has no grounding whatsoever in reality. Every government official is either inept or amoral (usually both), there are abandoned warehouses all over Los Angeles doubling as perfectly-wired terrorist centers, and the chain of insiders is so confusing I still don’t know whether Tony Almeida was good or bad. And frankly, I’m too engrossed to care. The first season got me hooked, and although the quality of the show has declined significally since then, I’m still hopelessly dedicated.

I think that’s why shows like Lost and 24, both in their final seasons, have had the seemingly impossible staying power that they have. They’re too confusing, frustrating, and stupid to be picked up in the middle, but if you’re one of the loyal few who were naïve enough to start out with one of these shows and stick with it, then you’re trapped like that guy Jack Bauer put into a leglock and then bit to death in Season 6. And as much as we may disdain the writers for stringing us along while they go in whatever direction their fickle hearts desire, we addicts are supplying them with a pretty nice paycheck.

The worst part is that my prediction for the end of both shows is the same: Jack Bauer put them all on the island in an attempt to harness its time-travel capabilities. How else could he get from one end of L.A. to the other in under 20 minutes every time?

Lock Leigh in a Chinese prison at lfinnegan@georgetownvoice.com


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