Mock me if you must, but I love 24. Always have, always will. It’s the perfect blend of cheese, suspense, soap, action and intrigue… With constant plot twists and character deaths, 24’s real-time format was a groundbreaking success and one of the best shows of the pre-Mad Men/Breaking Bad era.
See not that long ago, in a country just like this one, there was this shady little hobbit named George… And George got himself, mostly through the political connections of his ex-president/CIA chief daddy, elected President of the United States. However, George wasn’t really the president. He was just the talking head for an administration that was unlike any other in recent history- a group effort… See George, well he’s not the brightest bulb in the donut shop, but he did have some very, very smart friends… And those friends also happened to be devious evil dickwads who controlled the government, media, and the people of the United States for almost 8 whole years of terrifying hell. With 9/11 and anthrax and 2 wars in the middle east… The country was stretched to the breaking point.
It was a perfect time for a different kind of hero. A secret agent who did what he had to do, no matter what, to protect the country that continuously kicked him in the balls over and over again… That man was Jack Bauer, of the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit… CTU. He saved Los Angeles, America, even the world over a period of 8 increasingly terrible seasons. He shot more terrorists than anyone ever knew existed, hell he even shot a few of his fellow agents now and again (RIP Ryan Chappelle). He tortured suspects for information to a ridiculous degree (propagating the myth that torture is remotely good for getting information), but he did it because he had to… Because in the world of 24, there was always the one thing that made it such a brilliant show: A ticking clock.
The constant threat.
It reflected our society as a whole… All our fears, all our reactions, all our prejudices, and oh all our ignorance. At the same time, it was just a kick-ass show. Goofy but suspenseful, soapy yet still had some truly TV-history making plot twists. 24 was a mirror of the post-9/11 society, but with awesome lines like, “I’m gonna need a hacksaw” or “You’re going to tell me what I want to know it’s just a matter of how much you want it to hurt.” Then there was my favorite pastime the 24 drinking games. Every time Jack Bauer says “DAMNIT!” you take a shot.
At the same time, television itself was a different machine than it is now. Supposedly we’re in the Golden Age of television right now. A Renaissance, of sorts, for long-form visual story telling. To an extent, I agree, but only because I look back and I remember what it was just 10 years ago. When seasons were 23-25 episodes long and were stretched out over the whole year with RE-RUNS in the middle. When there weren’t as many serial-form shows, and it was mostly the X-Files and Law and Order.
Then 24 came along, re-inventing the wheel with a real-time format. A whole season that played out one hour at a time over the course of a day in the life of special agent Jack Bauer. It was brilliant. While it suffered from the bloated and lengthy season format, often throwing in the lamest of the lame plot lines to fill up space (I’m looking right at you Kim Bauer, daughter of Jack and dodger of Mountain Lions), it told a story that no other show had, in a way that no one had tried before… And it worked. It was extremely popular and won a ton of awards before it faded into obscurity after 8 loooooong seasons.
Now days we have better TV in the sense that it’s smarter. Shorter seasons, better writing, better stories, and a seriousness that demands respect that keeps some people at arms length watch NCIS and Law and Order: CSI clones. HBO started this thing almost twenty years ago with OZ, The Sopranos and The Wire, but only until the last few years have basic cable channels like AMC and FX been able to produce shows that could compete on a level above all the popular clone shows and reality TV. The Networks are still struggling to recapture the fire of Lost, throwing anything out there that will get a bite.
And that’s why 24 is coming back to Live Another Day. A 12-episode arc that will continue the show’s real-time format, but will break it up so the hours are scattered. Thank god, with London traffic I don’t think Jack could get anywhere to save anything if he had to account for every minute of every hour. For example, we’ll get 8:00 am-11:00 am and then 2:00 pm-5:00 pm, that kind of thing.
Wait, since it’s overseas will the clock be 24-hours now? That’d be cool.
Jack Bauer returns May 5th on FOX, and I can’t wait. Super agent on-the-run Jack Bauer is transplanted to London this time, where he’s hunted by the chick from Chuck, and pitted against his old friend and ally Chloe O’Brien, Super Hacker (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub). Jack’s ex-love Audrey is back, and her father James Heller is the president now (should make for some great “Jaaaaack”‘s). We also might see the return of Tony Almeda… a return for Jack’s one-time friend and colleague turned terrorist was hinted by the show’s executive producer David Fury who said he’d just had dinner with Carlos Bernard and that we could “read into that” what we will. Sounds like he’ll be coming back if you ask me.
Hopefully it won’t suck. There I said it. It’s still FOX, and it’s still network television… so it easily could. Especially if they stray from what makes the show work so well: Jack Bauer doing what Jack Bauer does so well. Too many side-plots and somebody’s junkie brother are not necessary this time, especially given the shorter format.