Monday, February 14, 2005

After all, patience is a virtue

I'm posting this in full since the column at this link will change. My comments follow.

By Matt Roush on TV Guide Online:
I'll admit my eyes rolled when 24's Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) pretended to rob a convenience store at the end of this season's third hour. This ridiculous twist served two purposes: keeping a terrorist from escaping and giving the show yet another cliff-hanger.

Thankfully, that situation was resolved during the next hour, and 24 and Jack moved on to another preposterous, electrifying crisis.

Shows like 24 and ABC's Wednesday-night one-two punch of dynamic thrills, Lost and Alias, bring a jolt of creative and reckless energy to a medium so often locked into predictable formula. They're a blast to watch and to talk about.

And yet, much of the mail and e-mail I get from fans brings new meaning to the word "spoiler" — not as in plot spoiler, but as in spoilsport.

"Look, I don't want to be critical," a 24 buff named Steven writes about another mole (Aisha Tyler) infiltrating CTU, "[but] don't you think it pushes the credibility boundary just a little?" I suppose it does. And I simply don't care. With these wild rides, I prefer not sweating details or fretting over plot holes that could swallow a freeway.

Fans are miffed that Alias ignores continuity from previous, less-watched seasons. What happened to the Covenant, to the Rambaldi prophecies? (Good riddance.) And how many times can Lost make us think someone has died, just to resurrect them? I've even heard the "jump the shark" phrase applied to this brand-new show.

There may be sharks in the water on Lost, but we're years away from any of these shows taking a leap past entertaining implausibility to a point of no return.
I couldn't agree more. I've just about given up reading the threads dedicated to these shows on Home Theater Forum because all the "fans" do is bitch and moan about every little thing.

Some of it stems from a lack of understanding about commercial television or an unwillingness to accept that reality. I don't know where to begin when people complain about the cliffhanger elements at the end of each episode of 24. Griping about how unbelievable it is that all these things happen to one person and in one day doesn't make much sense either. You buy into the show or you don't. While the real world parallels can add to the drama--and make it politically touchy at times--in the end it's an escapist serial, not a realistic look at the domestic war on terror. The BBC's excellent series MI-5--or SPOOKS, as it's known in the UK--stays closer to what one might expect to be the true activities and lives of spies, but even it must contain a healthy dose of fiction.

Some ALIAS fans are ticked that the first three seasons' mythology has been mostly ignored in the self-contained episodes composing season four so far. Blame is laid on the network's desire to gain new viewers. ABC has been very patient with the series but wanted to put it in front of more eyeballs. Gee, imagine that. The passionate but small fanbase that ALIAS built seems put off that the series has been rejiggered to make it less intimidating for new viewers. The increasingly complicated mythology--not the show's primary appeal to me--made it difficult for newcomers to jump into the show without being totally lost. This season welcomes newbies, has succeeded in drawing the show's highest ratings, and remains at a creative peak (a point on which the detractors would disagree). So what exactly is the problem?

The complaints that I don't understand at all focus on the mysteries of LOST, namely, that there are mysteries. Some viewers apparently can't stand the fact that everything hasn't been explained. The series is only fifteen episodes old. Have we become so spoiled by the immediacy of modern life that we can't wait? (I'm not talking about the three week waiting period between episodes. THAT'S cruel.)

Granted, when it comes to internet message boards, snark is easier and more fun to write, but after awhile it gets tiresome to read. These three shows are among the best narrative programs currently on television. Nitpicking them to death doesn't seem that enjoyable to me.

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