If you ask me (and even if you don't), I think we put entirely too much emphasis on the last five minutes of TV series. Spoiled by classic shock endings on shows like St. Elsewhere and Newhart, we've come to expect epic twists and out-of-the-blue revelations every time.

Well, TV series are not O. Henry stories. There's nothing wrong with making a less ambitious final statement, one that doesn't try to shoot the moon.

That's why I preferred the finale on 24 to the one on Lost. At the end of another draining day, Jack Bauer was true to himself - a misunderstood lone wolf with a nasty eye tic, renounced by the country that he has defended so tirelessly.

And how could you not love that final moment: Jack's haunted face captured by what may be TV's first drone shot.

Lost? I'm still not sure what it was trying to say at the end, even after reading dozens of adamant explanations online.

All I know is that I got more mail than Santa Claus this week for daring to suggest that the castaways had all died in the original plane crash and that everything afterward - both on the island and in the sideways world - was a sort of fevered dream state.

Hard-core Losties are pretty united behind the interpretation that the island was real - it was only the sideways world that was an illusion.

This argument depends heavily on the lengthy last-minute soliloquy of Jack's father, Christian (which I found a cheap device). For six seasons, I saw Christian as one of the least trustworthy characters on the show. I'm supposed to believe him now?

Anyway, I have another theory for the Lost finale: The 45 minutes of commercials were real, it was the 45 minutes of programming that was imaginary.

Respect your elders. As long as I'm hypothesizing, here's my explanation for how Crystal Bowersox finished second on American Idol, despite clearly being the more talented and compelling singer. And despite eating Lee DeWyze's lunch on the final performance night:

Crystal forfeited many votes because her omnipresent father kind of creeped people out. It's the same reason David Archuleta didn't win two seasons ago.

By the way, does anyone else think that goodbye package for Simon Cowell was oddly listless? Maybe the staff just saw the writing on the wall. The climactic show drew an average of 24 million viewers, the fewest since the inaugural season, when Justin met Kelly.

People have obviously figured out Idol's tricks. Skipping the frivolous first two hours, an additional 13 million viewers tuned in just for the final seven minutes to catch the results.

Such a shame. You missed performances by mothball acts like Alice Cooper and Chicago. To quote the Beatles: "Let's all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born."

Full of itself. Here's hoping Glee takes a long, hard look at itself in the mirror over its summer vacation.

Enough with the suck-up tributes to Madonna and Lady Gaga. Resist the flashy production numbers and the elaborate costumes, as seductive as they may be.

Bring back the funny. And remember these kids are at McKinley High School in Ohio, not in Hollywood.

I'm with stupid. To no one's surprise, the insufferable Salahis were back in the tabloids this week after their limo, with a TV camera crew on board, was pulled over for straying a little too close to the White House during another state dinner.

But it was pretty astonishing to see them in the Today studio the next morning being interviewed by Matt Lauer.

Why would NBC give this pathetic couple exactly what they crave - national exposure - on its top-rated morning show?

Then I remembered that Michaele Salahi is rumored to be on the coming Bravo series The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. And Bravo is owned by NBC. One hand lubricates the other.

Don't hit the fast-forward button. A pair of singularly beautiful songs provide the soundtracks for a pair of current TV commercials.

Colin Hay's "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" plays during the Hertz spot with a couple in a convertible driving to a hot-air balloon festival. And Nick Drake's "From the Morning" can be heard as the country is draped in orange fabric for AT&T.

Who needs an iPod when you have ads?

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http:// go.philly.com/daveondemand.