Monday, September 05, 2005

24 Reasons to Watch A&E

Starting at 3PM yesterday, A&E began airing a 24 marathon, showing all of season 4 from start to finish. For anyone who hasn't seen it, take it from me-- 24 is a very exciting show. I tried my damndest not to like it initially, since I always resist jamming more TV programs into my bloated TV hole, but, during its first season, it aired after another show I watched at the time, and before I knew it, I was hooked. Back then, it was a fresh new experiment-- 24 episodes, each representing an hour of real-time within the show. The show tried very hard to give you a sense of speed and excitement-- a digital clock constantly counting forward, and occasional split screens to give you a sense of many things of significance happening at once.

Beyond that, the formula was actually pretty simple-- have some kind of action every episode, make sure all of the characters have personal and interpersonal problems to work past while trying to address the more pressing national security issues, and keep the audience guessing. It worked in large part due to the strength of its two main characters-- Jack Bauer and President David Palmer. Both of them are actually pretty one-dimensional (in stark contrast to the complicated personalities they surround themselves with), but they're still probably two of my favorite TV characters ever.

It's as simple as this-- Jack Bauer is king badass, he is always right, and he will do whatever it takes to protect his country, not matter who or what he has to go through, and what rules he has to break. If he has to murder a handful of orphans to protect his country, he'll do his damndest to protect those orphans, but, if there's no option left, those orphans are as good as dead. He's actually an awful government agent, and has no business working for them-- no matter how much of a badass he is, he's entirely uncontrollable, and always does what he thinks is right, so the chain of command may as well be non-existent. He should be either in charge (which he is come season 3) or out on the streets-- he has no business being anywhere in between. But even still, he holds a strange appeal-- his absolute certainty about everything he does is strangely compelling.

As the nation's moral compass, David Palmer has to seem as convinced that he is right as Jack always is, and he always exudes confidence and authority. As I've been known to say of Captain Picard: if President Palmer handed me a gun and told me to kill a man, he'd simply have to point me in the right direction and I'd do it in a heart-beat. However, he has to make some very tough decisions, and unlike Jack, he agonizes over these choices. Once he makes up his mind, though, he's every bit as certain as Jack. And again like Jack, he'll do whatever it takes to safeguard the nation-- however, he actually has the authority to do it. He and Jack make a very good team whenever they're given the chance to work together, since they're usually on the same wavelength.

That first season was very exciting, and it was probably the best to date. In fact, the show didn't really lend itself to future seasons, but after its success, there was no way FOX was going to leave it at that. Unfortunately, this has resulted in things seeming a little forced at times. The writers keep needing to find ways to write back in characters from previous seasons, there's always a damn mole somehow, and they've gotten a little sloppy with their timelines in recent seasons, requiring a bit of suspension of disbelief in how fast or slow some things happen.

Also, many of the new characters that have been written in since have been, although very interesting, very unlikeable people. This season especially, I had to spend far more time than I'd like watching bickering self-serving IT professionals-- I get enough of that in real life. By this point, most of the first-season characters have disappeared save Jack and Palmer, and it'll be a challenge to write the two of them in for next season given how season 4 ended. In fact, as much as I'd like it to be otherwise, I fear that Palmer might be gone for good. Not Jack, though. 24 might be a weaker show without David Palmer, but without Jack Bauer, it's not 24.


Post a Comment

<< Home