Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The X-Files vs. Lost

Over at Entertainment Weekly's website, they have a little blurb today featuring 22 pop-culture throw-downs. While most of these are kind of lame, the first one was a real stumper. So much so, that I basically had to sit and think about it for a while. And I hate thinking while I'm at work.

So, which is better? The X-Files or Lost?

I hate to play the semantics game, but I guess it depends on your definition of "better." Are we talking pure entertainment? Are we basing it on its ability to juggle a huge myth-arc? Or are we focusing solely on pop-culture impact?

Now, let me say that I am a big fan of both shows. Mulder and Scully were my first OTP, and when that new X-Files movie opens this summer, I will be waiting in line (but not overnight, let's not get crazy, people). And Lost has, from the moment its pilot aired, basically blew every pre-conceived notion of how a tv show should work out of the water.

There's no doubt that without The X-Files there would be no Lost. I am therefore choosing to take the question of which show is "better" to mean which show has done the best job of fulfilling its mission, i.e. crafting a television show around a series-long mystery and doling out clues here and there. With X-Files, the mystery was "what is the alien conspiracy?", and with Lost, it's "where are they?"

If this is the question that needs answering, for me the clear winner is Lost. I have always felt that The X-Files was strongest in its stand-alone episodes. While the myth-arc episodes were mind-blowing and dramatic, they were often murky and difficult to understand. Not that Lost is crystal-clear, but if you want to argue about whether the creators "know what they are doing and where things are headed," Lost is the clear winner. Even more so now that J.J. Abrams et al have announced that the series has a clear endpoint and a specific number of episodes left. The X-Files had no such target, Chris Carter was just dragging the story along until FOX decided whether to cancel it.

So, for this definition of the question, I vote Lost. For eye-candy, I would probably go with X-Files since David Duchovny is THE MAN (also, remember I hate Sawyer), and in terms of pop-culture impact I would probably also go with X-Files. It ushered in the explosion of fandom on the internet, and was one of the first true television science fiction commercial successes, and like I said, without it, there would be no Lost.

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