24. 9 tonight, Channel 29. Two-hour finale scheduled for 8 p.m. May 24.
LOST. 9 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 6. Two-and-a-half hour finale scheduled for 9 p.m. May 23.
TWO OF TELEVISION'S most iconic Jacks - Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) and Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) - hit the road this month as ABC's "Lost" and Fox's "24" draw to a close.
And while at first glance the angst-ridden surgeon and the stoic action figure seem to have little more in common than a nickname, a closer examination reveals two guys who, if anything, might be too much alike.
Over the years, they've both:
* Been obsessed with saving people.
"24" 's Jack saves the world, of course, one very long day at a time, though in the very first season - in "24" parlance, "Day 1" - he was mostly focused on preventing the assassination of presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) while simultaneously trying to rescue his own wife and daughter from kidnappers. Since then, he's rescued the rest of us from an assortment of nuclear and biological weapons.
The same drive to cure the sick and make the lame walk that made "Lost" 's Jack a good surgeon (if a bit of a dull boy) kicked in after the crash of Oceanic 815, when he quickly emerged as a leader among the flight's survivors. He's been fighting to keep most of them alive ever since, though admittedly with a quickly diminishing rate of success.
* Had a flexible relationship with time and space.
"24" is supposedly ruled by a cruel clock that counts down each hour, while "Lost" turned out to involve not just air travel but time travel, which is how Jack Shephard at one point found himself back in the late 1970s.
But Jack Bauer must have access to some special technology, too, since there's no other way to explain his ability to get from one end to the other of Los Angeles (or Washington, D.C., or New York) in the time it seems to take him.
* Had bad dads.
We met Jack Bauer's now-deceased father, Phillip (James Cromwell) in "Day 6," when we learned that he and Jack's brother, Graem (Paul McCrane), had been involved in a couple of the very terrorist conspiracies that Jack was trying to thwart.
Jack Shephard's father, an alcoholic surgeon named Christian (John Terry), was dead before the plane crashed in the "Lost" pilot, but that hasn't cut too deeply into his screen time, thanks to the tendency of "Lost" writers to employ dead characters any way they please.
Though Christian had been tough on his son and gave him a sister he never knew he had, he looks like father of the decade next to Phillip Bauer, who, among other things, killed Jack's brother and threatened to kill his own grandson.
_ Been addicts.
Jack Shephard became both a drunk and a pill-popper after his return from the island and grew a beard (perhaps so the already confused fans of "Lost" would be able to figure out what time he was in).
Jack Bauer started out "Day 3" as a heroin addict, having become hooked while working undercover to bring down a Mexican drug lord. Still, his big beard moment doesn't come until "Day 6."
* Been incarcerated.
For "Lost" 's Jack, who probably didn't spend much time inside after being arrested for assaulting his father at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, imprisonment came at the hands of "The Others," who stuck him in a cell beneath one of the Dharma stations and then tried to persuade him to operate on their leader, who had a spinal tumor.
On "24," it was in a Chinese prison that Jack finally got to grow that big beard.
* Had less than perfect marriages.
Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope), who considered her husband a workaholic, had left him for a while. Both had been involved with other people before the beginning of "Day 1," which found them living together again and tentatively reconciled.
Jack Shephard's wife, Sarah (Julie Bowen), also thought that her husband worked too hard, and became involved with someone else. She ultimately divorced him.
* Been generally unlucky in love.
Off the island, Jack Shephard's problems with women may stem, as his wife, a former patient, once suggested, from his tendency to fall for people who needed fixing. On the island, it's probably been more about his tendency to be attracted to the same women as fellow castaway James "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway).
Of the two, so far only Jack Bauer has demonstrated the ability to get a woman killed simply by falling into bed with her, as he did a few episodes ago with doomed agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching).
And who can forget what happened to poor Teri in the final hour of "Day 1"? Perhaps only Jack's former girlfriend Audrey (Kim Raver), who survived torture and a near-fatal wound during her relationship with Jack - only to come down with amnesia in "Day 6" and lose all memory of him.
* Survived things - plane crashes, nuclear bombs - that most people wouldn't.
Special effects aside, Shephard so far comes out ahead of Bauer on this one: An early draft of the "Lost" pilot reportedly killed off the character halfway through.
Which doesn't mean that the "24" hero might not become the last Jack standing.
There are already plans for a "24" movie, while the producers of "Lost" have titled its 2 1/2-hour finale "The End." *
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