It's somehow fitting that "Lost" (9 p.m. today, KTNV-TV, Channel 13) and "24" (8 p.m. Monday, KVVU-TV, Channel 5) are leaving the air for good within 24 hours of each other. After all, they're both edge-of-your-seat thrill rides focusing on headstrong guys named Jack who don't play well with others.
It's also somewhat cruel. Two of this century's most acclaimed and groundbreaking dramas snuffed out in succession? That's going to be harder to take than some of Jack Bauer's interrogation techniques.
"Lost" and "24" were not easy shows to love. Dense and convoluted, they required the kind of devotion previously afforded only troublesome cars and beautiful women.
Most series welcome viewers with open arms, no matter how infrequently they stop by. But "Lost" and "24" demanded a relationship. One ill-timed bathroom break during "Lost" and you could be left out in the cold forever. Heck, I haven't missed so much as a second of the island-set drama over the course of six seasons, and it's still a struggle to keep up with all the flashbacks, flash-forwards and flash-sidewayses.
But it's not just the end of these two great series. It's also the end of an era.
"24" wasn't the first series to tell a single story over the course of an entire season, but it was the most successful. As such, it helped spawn an epidemic of stunt storytelling that included Fox's "Prison Break," "Vanished" and "Reunion," NBC's "Kidnapped" and ABC's "Push, Nevada."
"Lost" had its share of clones as well, as ABC tried in vain to duplicate its success with the likes of "Invasion," "Daybreak," "The Nine," "Life on Mars" and "FlashForward."
Proving just how perfect the two dramas were in their execution, only "Prison Break" survived its freshman season. Now, come Tuesday morning -- in this age of DVRs, Hulu, iTunes and on-demand -- there won't be a single series that feels like it has to be seen the same night it airs.
But first, viewers have to face the often messy process of saying goodbye.
For its part, "24" never played by the rules. The ticking-clock drama served as the model for both eschewing reruns and releasing a DVD boxed set after every season. So why should its final episodes be any different?
Monday's two-hour farewell, surprisingly provided by Fox, is nail-bitingly tense. It just doesn't feel like the end of the road for TV's most tortured -- figuratively and literally -- hero. That's largely because, as has been widely reported, Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer is headed to the big screen.
It's as fitting a finale, though, as you could hope for given the circumstances. Just don't expect sunshine and rainbows.
"One thing we tried that didn't work was happily-ever-after for Jack," executive producer Howard Gordon recently told reporters. "This show is a tragedy, and to give Jack a happy ending just didn't feel authentic."
Upcoming movies or not, when "24" ticks off its final seconds, it feels like losing a friend. A friend who likely would shoot you in the knee just to learn your lunch plans, but a friend nonetheless.
The departure of "Lost," though, will be a lot harder to take. Unlike "24," you'll never see these characters again after tonight -- unless that fan campaign for a detective series featuring the alternate universe versions of Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Miles (Ken Leung) gathers steam.
"Lost" has more riding on its finale than any series in memory. All anyone's wanted to know since it debuted was how it would end, and I can't envision a scenario that could live up to six years' worth of anticipation.
Now, fans are finally a few hours away from learning whether "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse are a couple of dreamers who've spent the past half-decade guarding one of the world's great secrets or snake-oil selling charlatans who'll be hounded to the ends of the Earth.
For his part, Lindelof hasn't been helping those fans sleep any easier leading up to tonight's staggering 5½-hour farewell. (A two-hour retrospective airs at 7 p.m., the 2½-hour finale at 9 p.m., then Jimmy Kimmel talks to the cast at 12:05 a.m.)
"We're trying to end 'Lost' in a way that feels 'Lost'-ian and fair and will generate a tremendous amount of theorizing," Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter. "We're going to be as definitive as we can be and say this is our ending, but there's no way to end the show where the fans aren't going to say, 'What did they mean by this?' Which is why we're not going to explain it."
If only there were some way of sending Jack Bauer after them.
I have a feeling he'd be able to get them to talk.
Christopher Lawrence's Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com.