Matt Roush: Wouldn't we all like to know. The genius of 24 is that it can reinvent itself every season, building on past adventures while essentially starting from scratch with a new crisis. As I watch Prison Break, especially in the credit sequence, I find myself pining for the first season when everyone was still behind bars, plotting. This race to the treasure, with ridiculous detours like Sucre trying to break up his true love's Vegas wedding, isn't really cutting it for me, and makes me wonder about the long-term potential of many of these now ubiquitous serialized thrillers. And just look at the impatience of so many Lost fans, who somehow wish the show was a different sort of show, one that would burn through more story and focus less on character and backstory (the very elements that make Lost a one-of-a-kind masterpiece). The real issue here is that these shows with their high concepts are all very inviting, at least at the start, and many of them look like they'd make a terrific movie or, even better, a miniseries. So much more exciting than just another procedural. (And, by the way, to digress for a moment, could last week's season-opener of CSI: Miami have been any more cartoonish?) The challenge for the producers and writers of these serials is to spin the story in a way that continues to keep us engaged without exasperating us (sorry, Vanished is already failing that test), while also figuring out how to sustain the premise for the long haul of a long, multiyear run. I'm not sure if many or any of these new shows can pull that off. But I'm willing to watch them try.
My note: I like the serialization of Lost and PB and don't get impatient or annoyed with either. The details of the show sometimes drives me nuts, but not because the show is playing out the way it is.
Question: Not so much a question as a comment after reading Monday's bits on Prison Break. For me, it's not that the show has become more ludicrous, but that it's lost its heart. Season 1 built up a relationship between Michael and his cellmate Fernando (aka Sucre), and then suddenly he says that everybody's on their own? I could buy it with the other inmates, but not with Fernando. Michael's selfless acts to free his brother begin to lose meaning when Michael begins to act selfish. Meanwhile, Lincoln simply needs more of a personality. His brooding made sense last season while on death row, but I expected him to show more range now that he's out. I'll probably keep watching (there's not much competition besides CBS' comedies, which I can tape), but my eyes are wandering.— Josh
Matt Roush: Interesting point. It does seem like prison has toughened up Michael quite a bit, and the brothers' ruthlessness to get to the buried treasure and keep it to themselves isn't exactly a noble calling. It's not that I mind that even the hero of the piece isn't that likable anymore. I just wish someone or something interested me. As the show has scattered geographically, it has definitely lost something for me. As in: a rooting interest. I'm pretty much watching now out of habit (and the only reason I'm still watching Vanished at all is to make fun of its rank clichés, which get moldier by the week). I've got to say: Until 24 returns in January, Monday is one of the weakest nights of the week (with the exception of Studio 60 and the occasional chuckle from a CBS comedy).