Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
NEW UPDATES 4-16-07
I was recently at a work lunch, when talk came around to television. There was your standard love for The Shield and Battlestar Galactica, hesitation about The Riches and the loss of Studio 60, and a surprising amount of hate (that I predicted back in September) for Lost. Then…the topic of 24 came up. One co-worker went crazy, spewing venom for a show that, to him, had lost all credulity and had descended into lunacy. Everyone turned to me for rebuttal, and my response was…that of COURSE it had! Be honest, is anyone out there watching this show on the edge of your seat anymore? Are the stakes actually felt? Honestly, if a savvy producer wanted to turn 24 into an all-out farce, all he’d have to do is take any episode from this season, and add a laugh track to it! To prove this, let me point out two particular facets of the show that make me laugh no matter what the circumstance:
- The Fluidity of Time – I am sure I have mentioned this before, but if 24 can dust off the old “The Vice-President is EVIL!” chestnut all the time, then surely I can repeat myself once in a while? Basically, what amuses me about 24 is that the entire conceit of this show is that the action takes place over one day (they were militant about this at the start, to the point that they considered canceling it after one season rather than take it to a standard, one-adventure-per-episode format), and yet their willful ignorance of the laws of time and space have become simply hilarious. Let’s look at some recent examples, with my notes in parentheses:
- A few “hours” ago, Jack Bauer captured Gredenko, and forced him to draw Fayed out into the open. Fayed tells him to meet at Santa Monica Pier…in EXACTLY ten minutes, or Fayed will leave. (I just spent a week in California, and in fact I was AT the Santa Monica Pier at one point. It took us ten minutes just to get onto the HIGHWAY! Can you imagine if a terrorist in California imposed that kind of time restriction on such a meeting? No one would get ANYTHING done!) Before they send Gredenko, they inject an isotope into his arm so he can’t shake their tail. Gredenko enters the secret room where Fayed is hiding, and within two minutes, they have escaped from under CTU’s nose. How? Why, they chopped Gredenko’s arm off, of course! Fifteen minutes later, Fayed was captured, and Gredenko was dead. (Now, I’m no expert on this or anything, but I’m not sure that two minutes is enough time to conceive of the plan to chop off someone’s arm, actually chop off that arm, and then make good your getaway. Even better is that the dialogue seemed to imply that this was GREDENKO’S IDEA! He was a GENERAL, remember!)
- After Fayed was captured, Jack begins beating him as a means of “interrogating him.” They get nothing from him, and the decision comes down to ship him to CTU so Burke can drug him into submission. Agents Bauer and Schroeder are transporting him, when their truck is hit, the two agents are shot, and Fayed is swept away. Soon after the escape, Jack wakes up, and reveals that THIS WAS THEIR PLAN ALL ALONG! Fayed’s “rescuers” are CTU agents in disguise! (This happened approximately fifteen minutes after Fayed was captured. In that time, Bauer attempted to beat the information out of Fayed, failed, hatched this plan, contacted CTU, got their acceptance, found the agents to go undercover, briefed them, got them into a truck, made sure their routes intercepted, collided with Fayed’s truck, and staged the mock fight so no one was injured. Man…it took me fifteen minutes just to TYPE that!
- The fluidity of character – The important thing to remember when watching 24 –at least if you’re doing so for comedic purposes—is that the events take place over one day, even as it takes place for US over six months. Thus, the little character developing moments that are thrown in to add “depth” to the show are just as quickly thrown OUT when they’ve been exhausted. The result is a show in which not a single character acts in a way remotely realistic, given what they go through individually or collectively. Now, I’ve already discussed in this article how Jack is kicking ass (he actually takes down Fayed and his henchmen SINGLEHANDEDLY) despite the fact that he was getting actively tortured by the Chinese government approximately 48 hours before, so there’s no need to rehash. Instead, consider these two examples:
- Abu Fayed is the criminal mastermind behind this season’s action. He has consistently been one step ahead of CTU and Jack. (Besides the whole “Let’s get out of here while Jack Bauer is still wandering around the sewer free. I’m sure he won’t be a problem to us anymore” thing from the premiere). He was able to kidnap a CTU agent right out from their headquarters, and force him to arm the nuclear devices. He detonated a nuclear bomb in LA, and very nearly blew up another one in San Francisco. When Gredenko was captured, Fayed somehow sensed the danger, and created an elaborate reunion that might have even provided for his escape if Gredenko hadn’t suddenly decided to turn on him. Once he is captured, it becomes clear that the only piece of information he has that can keep his mission intact is the location of the remaining bombs. He won’t give up the information under torture. Even when CTU stages the elaborate rescue to get him to take them to the bombs, he senses danger again, reveals nothing until he speaks to a superior we knew nothing about until that episode, and even THEN is able to detect the trap. He shoots his way out of the predicament…and then HOPS INTO A TRUCK AND DRIVES DIRECTLY TO THE BOMBS!!! Whoops! Why is this character only stupid when it would be the most advantageous to the heroes?
- At CTU, the following exchange occurs during that entire sequence:
Agent Schroeder reveals that he was hurt. Analyst Nadia asks if he’s okay. Analyst Milo is annoyed at her concern for Schroeder. Analyst Morris breaks up the argument.
Pretty tame, right? Now, let’s write that again, but this time with CONTEXT:
Agent Schroeder (who is a huge badass, who has a problem with Analyst Milo from an earlier assignment, who arrested and tortured Analyst Nadia when she was suspected of leaking information to the terrorists, who concealed evidence of his mistake when it became clear she did not do this, who we then found out did not conceal it (thus making him a good guy), who forced Analyst Nadia to check and see if Analyst Milo made the mistake that allowed the leak, who then erased the proof that Milo made the mistake so Milo could continue to work) reveals that he was hurt. Analyst Nadia (who had her security clearance revoked because she is Muslim, who had it re-instated under the table by Analyst Milo, who found herself arrested and tortured for that leak, who was then asked to return to work when her name was cleared, who then kissed Analyst Milo after he thought she was guilty of this crime, who then watched Agent Schroeder break the rules to save Analyst Milo’s hide) asks if he’s okay. Analyst Milo (who hates Agent Schroeder, who wants to sleep with Analyst Nadia, who was shot earlier this day in the line of duty, who was convinced Analyst Nadia was a terrorist, who kiss raped Analyst Nadia after she told him she wanted nothing more to do with him.) is annoyed with her concern for Agent Schroeder. Analyst Morris (who is a recovering alcoholic, who is petulant and childish when it comes to Analyst Milo, who was captured and tortured by Fayed, who was forced to arm nuclear devices for which he harbors enormous guilt, who fell off the wagon and drank earlier this day) breaks it up.
Sort of changes the whole thing, doesn’t it?
Okay, that’s enough for this week. In our next installment, we’ll discuss how the key to a successful presidency is keeping your key staff members in the dark to every decision you make.