I have decided that henceforth, when there are two shows to blog about on the same night, I will write a recap in the style of the old New Yorker film reviews: that is, attempt to link two very different shows in one piece, using a lot of B.S. about their respective themes, which I will make up.
Since the dawn of television, serial dramas have used the deaths of main characters to bolster ratings, generate discussion, and attract attention. This has become so common and familiar a practice that TV writers seem to believe that they have to kill off at least one protagonist a season, like a sacrifice to the Nielsen gods. Competitive reality television has adopted the same process, but to an even greater degree: each week, someone is ritualistically sent home, their exile from the competition a stand-in for death.
Last night was the finale of Cycle 8 of America's Next Top Model, and the penultimate episode of Lost's third season. Both episodes made promises to their audiences, and one was kept and one broken. Each ANTM guarantees a loss, often made predictable through clunky editing. On Lost, the spectre of Charlie's death has been growing with each week, as Desmond repeatedly sees flashes promising a grisly end for the former hobbit. Desmond saves him each time, but has said himself that eventually Charlie has to die, that he won't be able to prevent it.
Last night was a Charlie flashback, and that alone could be hazardous to one's health. When Desmond told Charlie that he envisioned him flipping a switch, then drowning, which somehow enabled the rescue of Claire and Aaron, it became clear that after much promise, Charlie would leave Craphole Island for good. However, a series of random flashbacks highligting Charlie's "greatest hits" - the best moments of his life - and some poignant moments with Claire and Hurley led to Charlie swimming down to the Looking Glass Station to discover the station was not flooded. "I'm alive!" he shouted, and summoned several attractive women with guns. Fin. Huh.
I will extrapolate that perhaps Charlie's death was not as simple as a flip and drown, and Desmond did not want to tell him the gruesome extent of it, because that would prevent Charlie from following through with his final heroic moment. But if the Lost writers really want to prolong Charlie's demise for another episode - and by now he HAS to die, according to Chekhov's rule - there better be a damn good reason for it.
Meanwhile, ANTM's finale featured two deaths, as two models were sent home for being - well, what exactly? Renee and Natasha are clearly not inferior to Jaslene, who, like Kate on Lost, seems capable of making only one facial expression. (And, not to be catty, but she looks like a performer at Lucky Cheng's.) I find comfort in the fact that the ANTM winner, like the sole survivor of a plane crash, is treated with suspicion by the real world. Typically, the runners-up find much greater modeling success once they've left TV Land. Hopefully, Dominic Monaghan, who plays Charlie, will do the same. While I've never liked his character, he is one of the stronger actors on the show. Maybe he can branch out from his magical creature / magical island oeuvre.