24: It's fast, it's exciting, it's extreme

24 is back for a fifth season, and it's wilder than ever.

So here we have an alternate reality where nukes go off on American soil, terrorists succeed in bringing down Air Force One, and presidents are assassinated with alarming frequency. Everything we're afraid will happen is constantly coming true. Given today's total political preoccupation with terrorism, 24 is as topical as this week, and as serious as a heart attack.

The unique format of this show is both its strength and its weakness. Having an entire season take place in a single day makes everything more tense and immediate. Every episode but the finale is a genuine cliffhanger, and constant cliffhangers certainly keep it exciting. (If ever a show was meant to be watched on DVD, it's this one; the real time aspect works beautifully when you can just watch one episode after another.)

Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Jack Bauer, is a talented and charismatic actor who manages to remain likable even when his character does the unthinkable. (In fact, he's superhuman; he can go twenty-four hours without eating, sleeping, or using a bathroom.) But the supporting cast is constantly changing, and I never feel like I've gotten to know them. How far can you take character development when you only have a day to work with and everyone is constantly in a state of emergency? How many forgettable girlfriends has Jack gone through by now?

I've recently become a fan of La Femme Nikita (1997-2001) a show that was produced by many of the current producers of 24. Little homages to Nikita show up now and then in 24, and CTU actually looks like Section One. But there's a difference. Nikita was a love story set in a virtual purgatory. 24 is a straight out thriller, where the characters are almost an afterthought. As much as I like 24, on some basic level, it makes me uncomfortable every time Jack goes over the line for the sake of Mom and apple pie. Sometimes I feel like I'm being manipulated, that they're giving us characters as living, easily disposable chess pieces, there to die for the sake of the story. And sometimes the torture scenes go way too far.

All of this may sound like I don't care much for 24, but that's not true. 24 is exciting, well-written, and unique. I just wish it had a little more heart.
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Rolf (Netherlands) said...

I totally get what you are saying in your blog there! 24 is an excellent show, but a little more depth would be really cool.

The writers do try and incorporate personal stories here and there though.

Anonymous said...

That's true. Season 5 only started in the Uk on Sunday and it's looking good so far.

Anonymous said...

I just started watching season 4 a couple of days ago and who's that in Jack's old office? Madeline!
Now I keep wondering what her real intentions are for the decisions she makes during the show... why did she infiltrate another country's agency? And why are there no plants in her office that need watering? Well, and her talking about a "Section One security reboot" doesn't help much with focusing on the actual show either :D
Disturbing, very disturbing.

Freya said...

I'm glad you have changed your opinion about 24.

best regards

Freja