Steven Johnson says that television makes you smarter:
During its 44 minutes — a real-time hour, minus 16 minutes for commercials — the episode connects the lives of 21 distinct characters, each with a clearly defined ”story arc,” as the Hollywood jargon has it: a defined personality with motivations and obstacles and specific relationships with other characters. Nine primary narrative threads wind their way through those 44 minutes, each drawing extensively upon events and information revealed in earlier episodes. Draw a map of all those intersecting plots and personalities, and you get structure that — where formal complexity is concerned — more closely resembles ”Middlemarch” than a hit TV drama of years past like ”Bonanza.”
The important distinction is that Mary Anne Evans didn’t have anyone as obnoxious as Kiefer Sutherland in mind when penning her tale. Nor did she throw in absurd subplots involving explosions, torture and the obligatory Kiefer scowl. If Jack Bauer is a “personality,” then Best of the Best 2 is last century’s answer to Thackeray’s The History of Henry Esmond.