Folding Jacks: Saying Good-Bye To LOST and 24

I’m no TV historian, but I can’t imagine there have been back-to-back nights like a week ago where two iconic TV shows came to a close like LOST and 24 did.

Within a span of 24 hours, two programs that combined for 313 hours of original content (13 days!) went into that celluloid good night, leaving some fans sad, some angry and others simply wondering what they’re going to do now.

Just like that, we don’t have Jack Shephard and Jack Bauer to kick around anymore.

Jack gets FOUND

I thought the finale was great, but leave it to the creators of LOST to split people down the middle, even turning those who didn’t even watch against the show. Call it the pack mentality, but for those who feel like they somehow got screwed over or “wasted their lives” because they didn’t get every single answer they were looking for, I’d say to take a deep breath and watch it again.

Finales of great shows are always up against an impossible standard: to satisfy everyone who came along for the ride. Unfortunately, this nearly never happens as everyone is looking for something different. With LOST, the expectation level for the close out got ratcheted up 100%.

A show this in-depth and this detailed could have never come to an end that would satisfy all the fans unless it was six hours long and even then, something like explaining that wacky Lighthouse would have been missed. And why did that statue only have four toes? I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’m not going to make you slog through more LOST finale conjecture and opinion as there’s enough on the interwebs to last a lifetime, but I will say this. The show’s character-driven story is really what I liked and is probably why I’m on Team I Like It when it came to the final 2.5 hours. Did it take some effort to understand? Of course. Was it a bit heady? Yes.

But another great line I heard was this, “To expect to be able to explain everything with a show like this an hour after it concluded was probably pretty unrealistic.”  It’s going to take time and another rewatch of everything to bring things full circle. God forbid the creators leave some threads up to imagination and interpretation…how dare they!

Regardless, I’m really going to miss Dr. Jack Shephard.

Out of all the characters on the show, I found myself gravitating most toward Shephard, the good doctor who finally found his redemption with the closing of an eye and our pal Vincent The Wonder Dog right next to him.

The thing I liked about him was that he was always trying to do right even if it came with pitfalls and mistakes along the way. To succeed, you need to fail and Jack definitely did a lot of both.

As the series evolved, Jack’s battles with Sawyer and Locke for alpha male of The Island were polarizing for some viewers who became drawn to Locke’s own spiritual evolution and those who preferred the bad guy persona of Sawyer. Jack became an easy guy to disregard and get annoyed with. Not for me. I always thought Jack was the man.

Maybe it was the on-again, off-again dance with eternal soulmate Kate, his search for introspection, his desire to lead and save people or maybe that cool-looking unexplained collage of tattoos on his left arm, but Jack and I? We connected, man. If he was real, I think he would be cool to hang out with, even in his giant beard, Scentless Apprentice-listening post-Island days. That was one of the great things about the show. With the ensemble that LOST put together, everyone had their favorites (except Sun and Jin…no one liked them).

But now, Jack’s long strange trip has concluded. He battled Smoke Monsters, his father’s memories, Others and most of the time, himself. The epic 120+ hour thrill ride that was LOST may be complete, but we met a lot of memorable friends along the way. I can’t think of a show ever being this good again or mean this much to so many.

Just don’t tell me that the finale completely invalidated the experience of watching the show.

The Clock Runs Out

Then, there was the 24 finale best described as “two-hour trailer for the 24 movie.” Spoiler alert: Jack is still alive and well, still running, still searching and still kicking ass after completing his eighth tour of duty in 24-hour format.

When 24 first started, it was a novel concept in looking at a full day’s worth of action spread out over the course of an entire season. Kiefer Sutherland’s playing of Bauer – a military-trained and honed bad ass that was a little bit Vic Mackie, a little bit Chuck Norris and a little bit Clint Eastwood – was spot on, the kind of guy you want to root for and watch because it’s just the American thing to do. Protect, serve, ask for nothing in return and then come back to do it again.

But as the series rolled on (especially starting with Season 5), the show really started to fall off. That once-fresh 24-hour format became stale. The things we used to overlook (no 5 o’clock shadow, no one eating or even with heavy bags under their eyes) became too much when combined with the following:

  • Jack always got the shaft: Seriously, how many times can a guy save the country before they stop questioning his every move? I think once would be enough for me, but after the fourth time, it became tougher to swallow.
  • Another CTU mole: Just me or would a simple background check have filtered out the annual CTU mole? I mean, once was good. But every season featured either a double-agent in CTU or the US government. It got to be an old and predictable gimmick, not an interesting turn.
  • Too many familiar characters killed off: I think the worm turned for me when Curtis Manning – one of Jack’s fellow CTU agents and friends – was killed by Bauer in Season 6. The next season, it was former CTU head Bill Buchanan. President David Palmer – played so awesomely by Dennis Haysbert – was assassinated at the beginning of season 5. Even Jack’s BFF Tony Almeida turned against him and got the bullet.With every character killed off, the show lost a bit of its soul and as a result, the human balance of Bauer.When it became a storyline in the final season that Renee Walker and Bauer were going to be a romantic item, I thought I saw the end of the show coming: the two riding off happily into the sunset after another successful day saving the world. A Russian sniper’s bullet changed that. The show really had an amazing cast of characters but more of them should had been around to see the end, not Freddie Prinze Jr.

The finale was good, but not great – fueled by the trap door that a movie deal had already been signed. Jack wasn’t going to die a fantastic hero-worthy death or allowed to be happy. No, he simply was born to run and until the 24 movie hits theaters, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

While every TV season brings new shows that attract viewers and create buzzworthy talking points for millions, it’s going to be hard to top what LOST and 24 have been able to do for the better part of the past decade.

But like a photo album that brings back memories, that’s what DVD sets are for.

Josh Nason is a freelance journalist who has penned pieces for FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo (Australia) Magazine, Manchester Magazine and more. While he loves to write about mixed martial arts, blogging about music and observations on life are passions as well. Follow him at Twitter.

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My Musical Bucket List: Five To See Before I Die

So someone says, “Hey…you’re going to die in a year.”  Isn’t the next logical thought, “Who should I see in concert?”

On Tuesday, four of us were in an interesting conversation about music that stemmed from my outing Monday night to see Pearl Jam in Boston. The sensational and musically-inclined Brett had mentioned that he had never seen PJ before which started a discussion on what bands we’d like to see before we died, otherwise known as ‘The Bucket List” chat.

I’m not sure when the whole Bucket List phenomenon started (I’m guessing when the movie came out, but my Spidey-sense is telling  me otherwise), but the concept has given plenty of people the chance to do what seems to be inherently human: a) making lists, b) thinking about doing fun stuff that they probably will never do and c) thinking about dying.

I sat back when Brett brought up the idea of the live music Bucket List and was fascinated at this subject I never had considered. Who would make my list? I love hitting up live shows, but with most of the music I listen to, I’ve seen nearly everyone that dominates my iTunes and even those who are nowhere near it. When shows come up, I try to find someone to go and make a night of it. Luckily, I have a lot of friends who do the same thing.

I thought a lot about the question and figured my first post here in nearly eight months couldn’t have been about a better subject. For public consumption, here are my five Bucket List bands I’d like to see before I die.

(A side note? We played this game initially with ANY band ever, even if they were broken up or non-existent. For the purposes of reality, all these bands exist now…or at least are thinking about existing. That will make more sense as you read on.)

Smashing Pumpkins

This one rocketed up to the top of the  list without question. Billy Corgan’s masterpiece quartet of the 90’s was a such a huge influence on me growing up that I’m stunned and somewhat frustrated that I’ve never seen them live before.

Part of the reason was my locale growing up: the thriving metropolis of the Oxford Hills, a part of Maine  known for mountains, country music and my dad’s killer curve horseshoe throw. Rock shows never came close to us,  save for Portland which was about an hour away. My first live show was in my freshman year of college, so up until 1996, I simply had never been to a concert. The Pumpkins’ heyday was from 1992-1997 so I was already behind.

Of course, the original Pumpkins would be my first choice but I don’t see that reunion happening ever. I’d gladly go see them now, but I almost feel like it would have an asterisk next to it. This isn’t the group that created Gish, Siamese Dream and what could have been the greatest album of all time if they just didn’t make a damn double disc in Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. It’s now a slightly above-average alternative band who is giving away almost 50 new tracks for free this year.

But that doesn’t stop  my desire to see Corgan and crew rock out live. It’ll happen someday, even if it will be a far cry from the starting roster that helped dominate the 90’s alternative scene.

Guns ‘n’ Roses

I’m not ashamed to admit that I still love G’n’R despite what you might think of Axl W. Rose. I told you that Chinese Democracy deserved your respect and haven’t backed off that statement yet. Take that one to heart.

Like the Pumpkins above, this isn’t the classic Axl and Slash duo that brought us unforgettable albums and created anthems for late nights in bars across the world (Sweet Child O’Mine, anyone? Yeah, you know you’ve been that guy or girl swaying at 2 am after too many Amstel Lights) and in arenas across the world (my hockey job ruined my previous love of Welcome To The Jungle. I somewhat recoil and twitch Humpty Dance-style whenever I hear the first few chords.)

But you know what? I don’t care. As long as Axl is belting it out, isn’t that what matters? Actually, now that I think of it, fulfilling a full slate of tour dates should actually matter more, then Axl, then finding my old acid wash jeans and bandanna collection.

Rage Against The Machine

If you talk to any New England Rage fan that was alive in 2000, they probably will tell you they had tickets to the infamous 2000 tour stop in Foxboro with the Beastie Boys; the same one that got canceled after the Beasties’ Mike D got hurt in A FREAKING BICYCLE ACCIDENT which caused the tour to be canceled. By the time he was better, Rage had broken up. Thanks, Mike. Thanks a lot.

Now that it’s been more than a decade later, Rage has begun playing some dates again and it’s looking like a full-on reunion is very, very possible. They are playing a slew of European dates this year and hopefully, that will lead to them returning to U.S. soil in true touring band fashion.

There’s no doubt that as a 32-year-old, the 90’s were my formative years in music. With their brand of hard rock, RATM was a fusion of everything I liked at the time: aggression, a message, unique style and dreadlocks. I first saw ‘Freedom’ on MTV on Christmas morning in 1994 and never stopped being enthralled. Now that RATM is nearing the point of being an official band again, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable.

Hopefully this time, their opening act can stay off the two-wheeler.

The Who

At last count, I have just one Who song in my iTunes (The Seeker, inspired by my classic rendition/tribute on Rock Band) and even as I write this, I don’t know how that is possible. While I loved The Doors and admired the Stones and Zeppelin growing up, I really began to delve into Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry’s band over the past five years. The more I listen to, the more I like. Where are all my songs then?

If there was a group I’d be willing to spend big money to go see, it would be The Who. I was awestruck at their Super Bowl halftime show this year and thought the entire layout was just awesome. Their body of work will hold up against anyone’s and that style of rock has influenced many of my faves today, including Pearl Jam who routinely cover Reign O’er Me (including Monday night).

There have been rumblings about a tour this year which would be a must-see and likely hella pricey but sometimes you gotta pay for the quality, baby. Right after this, I’m going to go download a ton of their stuff so I can begin preparation in earnest. I can’t wait.

Blink-182

This was by far the hardest choice because I’ve seen all of my other favorites. From PJ to Incubus to Tool to Taproot to Deftones to Green Day to Linkin Park to Coldplay to Kid Rock to Eminem and dozens of others, I’ve experienced live shows for nearly everyone I care about.  Others like The Doors, Nirvana or Johnny Cash just aren’t happening for obvious reasons. Scanning through my music collection tonight, the one that really stood out was Blink-182.

Mostly thanks to Green Day, I really got into the pop punk sound and latched onto Blink-182, a trio out of California that sang 3-minute songs about a variety of immature subjects that were fairly radio friendly. Listening to these guys wasn’t exactly a night at the opera in terms of sophistication, but c’mon now: aren’t we all allowed to like who we like, regardless of what others might think when the windows are rolled down? (Except for Yanni or Matchbox 20….I can’t get with that.)

But just as Blink-182 evolved and put out an incredibly awesome and musically advanced self-titled album in 2003, bassist/vocalist Tom DeLonge left the group and formed Angels And Airwaves. leaving guitarist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker to form +44.  After Barker got in a near-fatal plane accident in September 2008, all three began talking about the future and decided to reform. Who knows what this version will bring, but if it’s anything like what I heard on that last album, I can’t wait to check them out live.

So that’s my top five of bands I’d like to see before I jump six feet under. I know you want to tell me who’re you’re dying to see, pun fully intended.

Josh Nason is a freelance journalist who has penned pieces for FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo (Australia) Magazine, Manchester Magazine and more. While he loves to write about mixed martial arts, blogging about music and observations on life are passions as well. Follow him at Twitter.