24  gets on my last nerve

Posted by Al Barger on January 11, 2005 01:15 AM (See all posts by Al Barger)

This 24 show really gets on my nerves. They get on my very last nerve. This of course is why I'm so devoted. No other show ever has kept me on the figurative edge of my seat like Kiefer et al, week after week and season after season.

Fox just shotgunned us the first four hours of season four in two nights, and that's about three hours of high and rapidly evolving dramatic tension, with just enough recovery time mixed in for exposition and re-sensitizing.

The dramatic tension to care about these tv characters living or dying has to be earned by the writers in particular. They have to flesh them out with enough individual personality and perspective to draw forth the empathy for the audience to significantly care about these fictional characters. Otherwise, they're just targets in a video game, or a cheesy Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Among the new characters, the teenage son of two key jihadists has a great role. He's all about pleasing his parents and making history, but he's been Americanized or otherwise just plain humanized enough to not want to murder his nice American girlfriend. Check out his mom's test in hour four. This boy has some ISSUES to work out.

Far less empathetic so far, but the Secretary of Defense's rebellious long haired, dope smoking, anti-military son has a pretty interesting character. The boy's a jerk, but he's a fascinating jerk.

This year, I've definitely fallen in love with the socially challenged computer geek Chloe. Probably the best dramatic scene in these first four hours involves her watching a live video feed, seeing her old friend being beaten and about to be murdered by jihadists. She's begging Jack, who's hiding in the bushes, to intervene, but he can't.

This is a beautiful scene with all the unique points of views and emotions of kidnapper, victim, helpless observer- and Jack having to figure out what to do. He might have to let them absolutely murder this innocent friend of his most loyal partner. Jack's done FAR worse.

I'm sorry, but Chloe's hot. It seems that she's set up to be the "ugly" chick, the distinctly UNsexy girl in the office. This runs on about the same level as Sandra Bullock being just the plain old girl next door, though.

Chloe's socially a little maladjusted, among other things lacking the sense to know when to keep her mouth shut. But that's not ugly, and the intensity of her internal struggles and the constant struggle to figure out the right thing to do generate just the kind of passionate empathy that really makes a chick hot.

Speaking of hot chicks, 24 has way surpassed any other show ever for generating hot evil women, including in particular the president's wife Sheri Palmer, the best Lady Macbeth character ever on a tv show.

This season, we have an evil jihadist mom. IMDB says that the Iranian actress is 52 years old, which about makes sense for the character. Yet I don't remember 52 year old women looking so sexy- and without any type of flirting or hint of sexual behavior.

I'm having visions of Jon Lovitz' Evelyn Quince character saying "Dangerous sex! Dangerous sex!" In just a quick sentence, this Dina Araz chick is so quietly and calmly deranged that I'm about half expecting to see her kill her own teenage son for The Cause. I mean, this chick might do anything. It could make any man all tingly.

The series has sometimes been somewhat reasonably faulted for pacing, running out of story before they run out of day. Notably, the nuclear weapon exploded barely halfway through season two, for example.

However, they seem to have a well measured plot trajectory this season. We're fully now four hours into the 24, and have not yet even found out what the big attack is that they have to thwart. They've been focused on the kidnapping of the Secretary of Defense in the early part of this day, which is a MUCH better and more reasonable storyline than the Salazar prison break that provided the first act last season.

Yet this storyline looks to play out within the next couple of hours with Secretary Heller's scheduled trial and execution, live on the internet of course. Also, clearly this is supposed to be only the prelude to some big climactic act. We just know it's something to make kidnapping a US cabinet secretary and executing him live via satellite look like small potatoes. Yowsa, what would pay THAT promise off?

This series is all about gaming out realistic horrible terroristic scenarios [OK, you're the president. What do you do if...], so I appreciate the realism involved in the decision to make this season straight up Islamic jihadists. It doesn't look like there'll be any silly neo-Halliburton foolishness as per season two. Dennis Hopper as a Bosnian gangster in season one really doesn't represent the boogeyman haunting American dreams. The Araz family absolutely does.

One warning sign in episode four: they introduced a schizophrenic daughter character for the director of CTU, who is having some kind of breakdown. I don't mind that the director of CTU is a witch, but we really do NOT need an even more retarded replacement for the thankfully departed Bauer daughter.

Also, the producers and Fox have done well by the scheduling. They broadcast four hours in two days, and intend to show the rest of the season in 20 consecutive weeks. That's good. With this intensely serialized drama, it's annoying to have two or three weeks between shows. We can more easily pay attention and follow this drama in five consistent months rather than scattered over eight or nine.

Of course, you could wait for the video about Christmastime, at which point you could suck down a whole season sans commercials in 24 hours. But being drug out is part of the fun, really. Give that cliffhanger at the end of the hour time to work on your mind a bit.

Savor the anxiety. How's Jack going to get out of this? You do miss that sense of wonder and anticipation if you immediately play the next hour. Heck, in this context even the commercials serve a decent and useful purpose of catching your breath.

24 - Seasons 1-3
Release date: 14 December, 2004

24 - Season One
DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Release date: 17 September, 2002

24 - Season Two
DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Release date: 09 September, 2003

24 - Season Three
DVD from Fox Home Entertainme
Release date: 07 December, 2004



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