It’s March Madness, and to most people, that means it’s time focus on sports. For us nerds in the pop culture world, it means it’s time to focus on television. Yes, television. Around the Internet, there are a slew of bracket tournaments taking place and in lieu of being heavily invested, there is one contest that have been following more closely than any of the others.
Vulture is currently hosting a Drama Derby, wherein 25 TV dramas are being pitted against each other to compete for the title of “Greatest TV Drama Of The Past 25 Years” (the results being determined by different TV critics.) A recent bracket involved a duel between The X-Files (television show of my formative years and absolute love of my life) and The West Wing. I read the article and saw the points as they were presented, but being one of the few people in the world who never really watched The West Wing, I felt like I couldn’t truly offer a true opinion, nor agree/disagree with it being the ultimate winner.
Yesterday’s bracket put LOST against AMC’s Mad Men. About 3 months ago, I feel like I wouldn’t have been qualified to talk about this argument either, as I refrained from watching Mad Men for a number of years. My love and torch-carrying obsession for LOST is no secret, as I watched for all six years, have since done two re-watches, and can talk about certain characters in more depth than most people consider normal. My love of Mad Men is much more recent, as I marathoned the entire series in less than six weeks and fell head over heels in love in a very short amount of time.
Dave Holmes concluded the winner of this particular bracket to be Mad Men and while I see how and why his decision was formulated, I don’t necessarily agree – and not because I think either one is a “better” show (I will refrain from referencing the fit that I admittedly threw when Mad Men beat out LOST for its last Emmy.) Fan rant aside, my point is that I think it is absolutely impossible to compare the two except in certain cases. Especially when one show hasn’t even finished it’s run. Who’s to say Mad Men‘s finale won’t make people bitch for days like LOST‘s did?
Both shows changed the television landscape in terms of groundbreaking stories that resonated with viewers on an obsessive and emotional level. Both shows started out as something that no one (not even the creators) thought would last past a few episodes. Both relied on their environment heavily to carry them (LOST = The Island/Hawaii, Mad Men = era of the 60’s/New York.) Both were formative in shaping how viewers looked at and fell in love with a television series. Both provided us with strong female women in a world mostly made of men, lost souls who found redemption through growth and change, and intriguingly flawed male protagonists with daddy and identity issues.
But the similarities end there. LOST and Mad Men are two extremely different shows, with different formulas of storytelling and it is simply (in my opinion) impossible to compare them accurately without letting personal opinion take over. I love both, but who would win out in my ultimate battle? LOST, primarily because of my relationship with the show and my excessive love for certain characters. No show is perfect, and random storytelling issues aside, LOST was a show that for me, went further than being about a plane crash. It was about the people I fell in love with for over six years, whose stories I invested myself in. I find Mad Men to be more about its plot, and that is not to say that I don’t have a deep-seated love for any of the show’s characters. I think the world of Joan Holloway and Don Draper, I also think “The Suitcase” is one of the most stunning hours of television ever produced. I know a large part of that came from the talent of Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm. But when all is said and done, LOST was always about something greater than plot. I identified with the characters more so than I did with time travel or polar bears, but when I watched Mad Men, I found myself identifying more with the concepts of the time period and the situations. Does Mad Men deserve the awards it wins? Absolutely. Because it is that good of a show, it’s of a quality most cable and even network dramas strive for and often fall below the line in succeeding at. But to me, LOST takes precedence. Why? Because, well, that’s my opinion.
I am the first person to admit I get riled up over seeing my favorite show/characters get beat down in any contest, even if it’s just a silly poll, and I think many people take these contests too seriously. I try not to let myself get overly involved, but one of the reasons I enjoy Vulture’s bracket is because as a dedicated television viewer whose taste spans an entire spectrum of shows, I like reading intelligent, well-thought out arguments by those who have a more informed point of view – even if the results don’t end up in my favor.