Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jack vs. Jack (Or, "Lost" vs. "24")

inspired by PotW's comparison of Back to the Future vs. Bill and Ted's

Look there are many good shows out there ("Weeds," "Veronica Mars," "Daily Show") but none are quiet as addicting as "Lost" and "24." Both are serial dramas for the post 9/11 age. Indeed, I would rather watch one episode of these Emmy-award winning dramas than one Best Picture-Oscar-winning film from this decade (A Beautiful Mind? Are bimbos naming movies nowadays?). But after vacillating for too long I have decided to make this point by point list that answers once and for all: which show is better?

Better Hero

Dr. Jack Shepard, "Lost"
: Yes, Jack is the hero of the show. When everyone is in trouble they look to Jack. Jack will most likely get his fellow prisoners off the Alcatraz they are currently stuck in. Plus thus far Jack has kicked the most Other ass.

Look, I am the last person who wants to bash Jack. I am a Jater, not a Skater. But one of the necessary requirements of a modern hero is that he's an anti-hero. If we know anything about Dr. Jack Shepard, we know that he's a crybaby goodie two shoes. You wonder why Kate ends up with Sawyer, Jack? Because you're too busy having those godawful flashbacks about Doctor Daddy Jack. My advice: stick yourself in the prison x-ray machine and give yourself some radioactive super powers. I'm still rooting for you doc, but why does it take you so long to punch two people? Woody Harrelson's more of a badass than you.

Jack Bauer, "24":

Better than all of the mutants on "Heroes" combined. Unlike most TV protagonists, Jack Bauer reminds us of such heroes from the Golden Age of Marvel as Spider Man and The Hulk. Much like our favorite webslinger and green giant, Bauer has hidden from the cops and the feds as well as from the terrorists.

But the most immediate reason why Bauer is better than Shepard is the way he says "dammit." Sutherland's apoplectic, guttural "dammit" is especially awe-inspiring when compared to Fox's mousy, spoiled brat "dammit." It sounds like Fox is saying "dammit" because he has to take time out from "Lost" to film a homoerotic pigskin flick with Matthew "It Ain't a Thing But a Chicken Wing, M'man" McConaughey.

Winner: Jack Bauer, "24"

Better Theme Song

"Lost": Both shows have very avant-garde theme songs. This one has a discordant, hollow noise.

"24": Those who don't watch the DVDs think the theme song of "24" is that beeping clock. Beep-beep-beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.

Winner: "24." "Lost" gives us enough mysteries; they could at least tell us what the hell that noise is when the title pops up after the cold open.

Better Character Development

"Lost": This is one of the reasons I love the show. Sometimes the character involvement is so great I find myself asking dumb questions like "What does Locke eat when he's stoned: Count Chocula or Franken Berry?"

"24": All I know about Jack Bauer is he kicks ass; even heroin's ass.

Winner: "Lost"

Better Depiction of Arabs

"Lost": Let me give full disclosure: I am an Arab-American. In a time when my people are stereotyped as cabbies or terrorists, it feels great watching Sayid tap that white ass.

"24": So far "24" has the lead in this point-by-point comparison but a black eye for the show's history will always be the hysterical beginning to season five, with the shady Arab-American family. The laugh-out-loud funniest part is when Behrooz nonchalantly drags his white girlfriend's corpse to the basement. Rumor has it, they were originally gonna kill his girlfriend off by making her choke on Behrooz's stinky, long pubic hairs while he eats a falafel at a gas station.


Better Comic Relief

Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, "Lost": Both shows have very subtle comic performances. Indeed, the only reason I would even hesitate to say that Hurley is better than Chloe is because he does say "dude" a few too many times.

Chloe O'Brian, "24": Chloe is the cranky, visibly irritated worker drone in all of us. This is an even better quality when she rolls her eyes at an order from Karen Hayes. Plus actress Mary Lynn Rajskub was previously on "Mr. Show."

Winner: Chloe, "24"

Better Junkie

Charlie Pace, "Lost": We could have gotten answers from one of the Others through interrogation, but that shrill wastrel Charlie had to shoot Ethan. Thanks to Charlie, a nation had to wait until season two for the few cryptic answers we got from another member of the Others, Ben. If that's not enough, he pokes his annoying Monaghanose into every mission that has nothing to do with him. Locke and Eko are saints for not smashing a coconut on his head. If I were in charge, I would have Charlie walk in front of me at all times in case there's a booby trap ahead.

No Charlie, we really made a bet - leader of the pack gets the smack.

Jack Bauer, "24":
Bullets can't do it. Bombs can't do it. Palmer's death can't do it. Only the brown horse can make Jack Bauer bawl like a Justin Timberlake fan. This, my friends, is the face of addiction. This is acting. (starts at 0:40)

Jack Bauer, "24" by a landslide. A vicious, soul-crushing landslide.

Better Twists

"Lost": Shows like "Heroes" brag that questions are answered in the next episode. Good, but the writers also have smaller questions to answer like "Did the Vegas stripper shoot the black guy?" True, "Lost" is notorious for stringing viewers along, but when the twists do come (the superpowers from the implosion, a regular suburb on "the island") nobody sees it coming. Except Desmond.

"24": Yes the beginning of season five was ridiculously politically incorrect, but on the flip side, political correctness prevents the show from having all non-white villains, meaning every season they try to make you believe the enemy is abroad when it's really within. Cool, but predictable. They should just come out and say who's the mole in CTU and the White House. If you see a shady or flaky white guy in the White House or CTU, you best believe that he's one of the baddies and the A-rab works for him, not the other way around.

Did you really not know he's the bad guy?

Winner: "Lost"

More Relevant to the Times

"Lost": Both "24" and "Lost" are post-9/11 parables. "Lost" has a plane crash that forces the survivors to unite. Just like "Star Trek" is a relic of the Kennedyian progressivism and the push for racial equality that the '60's will always be remembered for, the multicultural cast and the cooperative nature of "Lost" is analogous to how Americans came together after the attacks. The Sayid-Shannon kiss is the new Kirk-Uhuru kiss.

We All Everybody

"Lost" will also be remembered as the show with the more nuanced take on torture. Sayid insists on torturing the Others to get answers, thus taking the question of detainee torture outside of the PC academic ghetto it's usually stuck in and bringing it right into the prime-time living room. Watching all those prisoners get tortured by the Others makes Jack's mutiny in the last episode that much sweeter.


"24" is about terrorism, thus it's a very relevant show. The President is a perfidious traitor (season 5), a military-industrial complex wants us to go to war under false pretenses (season 2).

"24" should be the clear winner, but some very false notes prove to be major hindrances. First of all, unlike "Lost," "24" sometimes seems like a mouthpiece for Rupert Murdoch. Which isn't a bad thing per se, but in season four, detainee torture is dealt with for ten minutes in one episode. Basically, the message was "Waah, you want a lawyer to protect civil rights? Boo-fucking-hoo. This is Fox, bitch!" If this episode had a title (as opposed to the time of day) it would be called "Veto This, John McCain!"

Besides its simplistic perspective on torture, "24" also has season three, or as I call it, "Reefer Madness Season." Yes, Mexican drug lords are terrorists capable of unleashing the TortillaCordilla virus. Remember that when you puff that demon weed, kiddies!

Winner: "Lost"

Better Sex Appeal

"Lost": Kate's dimples and smile remind me of my girlfriend's. Plus Sun is the hottest Asian female since Zhang Ziyi.

Look, Kate's on top of Sun.

"24:" "24" would have won this one hands down (in my pants. Ow!). Elisha Cuthbert's caterpillar eyebrows alone are hotter than all the women on "Lost" combined. But Ms. Cuthbert was too good for "24" and had bigger projects on the horizon like House of Wax.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, without Kim Bauer and Edgar Stiles, "24" has no sex appeal.

Winner: "Lost"

Overall Winner (not by much):

"24" needs better plot twists and more sex appeal to beat "Lost." All "Lost" needs to do is kill off Charlie. In February.


sammyray said...

I have never watched either show, since I do not have a television. However, I think you're right about both shows being post 9/11 parables. As such, I think "Lost" wins because it is a lyrical recasting of 9/11, whereas "24" is too literal. "Lost" seems poetic and well thought out. "24" has the grabbier concept, but "Lost" interests the artist in me.

Mo! said...

Yeah lost is less literal. Good point. Way more artistic.