Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes, I'm Still Watching 24

I really don't know why I'm still watching 24. I can't say I was anticipating the show beginning; honestly, it felt like a bit of a chore, knowing that I'd be stuck with the damn thing again for the next four months. So why don't I just not watch? Well, you have to understand that I'm not like you jonny-come-latelies; I'm an original 24 fan. I watched the pilot. I've sat through this show for seven goddamn years now- a full week in real time!- and I'll be damned if I'm going to stop now just because I know the show's long since peaked creatively and should just be canceled.

And, God help me, I still like the show. I like Jack. I like all the twists and turns I know it's going to take, even if I know they are stupid and won't make any sense if looked at in context. 24 is not a show that holds up to repeated viewings, I think, because knowing where the train is going ruins the whole thing. I also don't think it plays well on DVD, because getting to the end of the hour, and then waiting for the next week, is a big part of the fun. There are a lot- A LOT- of shows that do serialization better then 24 (funnily enough, this season has added cast members of several of those shows), but none does episodic television better.

Plus, I've sacrificed for this show. I've changed plans. I've forced myself on friends, when I didn't have cable, that I'm sure would rather be doing something else. I've dragged my wife into this. I need to see it through to the end.

But man, I really hope this is it. Last season gives me some hope that the show won't go out on a down note, because it was a huge improvement over the horror that was Day 6. But it wasn't up to the standards of seasons 1,3, and 5. See, that's one of the things that makes me apprehensive about this year: it's an even year, and my theory (which not everyone may agree with) is that the odd numbered seasons have been vastly superior to the even ones. Day 1 was great. Day 1 was one of the best TV seasons I've ever seen. I bought the DVD, very cheap, a year or two ago and was surprised how well it held up. I would have been happy if it ended there, especially after watching Day 2. Which is probably really better then I think, but my only real memory of it was Kim caught in a bear trap being stalked by a puma.

But Day 3... oh man, Day 3. Everything about it is perfect. I know a lot of fans don't agree, but Chase Edmuns was the best sidekick Jack ever had. Jack was given a believable failing (a heroin addiction that he'd picked up while under cover... okay, maybe believable isn't the word I'm looking for) that made him fallable for the first time; the White House subplot is actually interesting, and leads to David Palmer's resignation; Kim actually has something to do; Sherri Palmer and Nina Myers finally die; and I think this is even Cloe's first season. And Tony's in charge and Michelle is awesome and the villain is the best one ever...

And then there was season 4. Which was okay. Had some moments. But there are several tedious subplots involving these new characters that we don't give a shit about. And in the Day 8 premiere tonight, they already started this with Starbuck from BSG. Hey everybody, see this character that you've known for the last hour? Well, she's not who she says she is! She has a secret!

This has always been the downfall of 24: nobody other then Jack is particularly interesting, but he can't be on camera all the time (after all, he has to drive places), so they have to have other things going on. Affairs and personality clashes and just all sorts of stupid crap. Now, if these characters last long enough, like Tony and Michelle and Cloe and several others, then we get to like them and their subplots are interesting. And then they kill them, for drama, and we have to start with a whole new bunch. It's like freshmen initiation.

Where was I? Oh yes, Day 5. Glorious Day 5. Where the ridiculousness factor was cranked to 11. It's probably the most over the top 24 ever was, but it worked. Jack utters my eternal favorite line, in threatening this year's traitor: "you've read my file!" The Nixonian president is revealed as the bad guy, even though it made absolutely no sense. Jack steers a plane from the baggage compartment; best of all, he does so after grunting "okay, you son of a bitch!"

And then Day 6...God. So bad. I don't even really want to talk about it. Except to say that Wayne Palmer was pretty hard to accept as president, since it was his affair with the wife of David Palmer's main financial backer lead to the deaths of the aforementioned backer and wife, and the death of David's ex-wife Sherri, and David's resignation as president. Seems like that would probably have come out during the campain. And another Palmer sibling is introduced, and even gets star billing, only to disappear after about three episodes, pop back up, do one thing, and disappear again. Oh, it was not good. And the producers knew that, and you get the sense in watching it that they were just trying to get to the end of the day. Just like Jack.

A lot of people stopped at that point. But not me. And I was rewarded with a pretty decent season, a return to form, kind of like U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind. But one that really didn't hold up all that well next to the show's peak, kind of like U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind. Tony came back, but as a bad guy, only he wasn't actually a bad guy, he was under cover. Only he wasn't actually under cover, he was pretending to be a good guy to use the feds to trick the bad guys so that he could get his hands on some chemical weapons for some other bad guys. Only he wasn't actually on their side, he was just using this as a way to get close to their leader, who somehow had his wife Michelle killed. So in the end... wha?

And then there was the president. This is what I find hardest to believe, perhaps about anything over the course of the whole series: people actually liked President Allison Taylor, and Cherry Jones portrayal as such. She won an Emmy. And I have to say: I was surprised that she was the one named Cherry Jones. I like to try to guess which characters have which real names from the credits, and I was sure that hot FBI agent/ Bauer sidekick Renee Walker was Cherry Jones, and frumpy President Taylor was Annie Wersching. But no, it's the other way around. And I still can't believe that. I mean, doesn't this look like a Cherry Jones?

And this like an Annie Wersching?

But I digress. She was the worst part of Day 7. Each time they cut to the Oval Office, I groaned. What's funny about 24 is that the producers keep trying to tweak the format, to keep the show fresh, but they still keep all the White House stuff, even though it's all totally played out. David Palmer was the good-guy President; he's dead. Charles Logan was the bad-guy president; he should be dead, but for some reason will be returning later this year. Because that's just what they do on 24.

The show tonight was fine; I'm sure tomorrow will be fine as well. I didn't buy for a second that the reporter chick was the traitor, so I'm glad they didn't try to make us believe it for longer then the break between episodes 1 and 2. And I really wish Freddie Prinze Jr. wasn't on the show. But Jack's leather jacket tonight was wicked cool; so was his little bag. Say what you want about the man, but he's got style.


  1. I recently watched Season 7 on DVD. I have to tell you, the hearings with Red from that 70's show were PAINFUL. All the republican apologetics for torture they snuck into that season made me want to barf. Watching that season was still fun, but I watched it half as a piece of camp.

    That said, I just don't think I can do it anymore. And I am loyal to my shows. I watched Twin Peaks LONG after it had become utterly ridiculous and I am still loyal to the Simpsons. But when the show became a crappy excuse to make liberals seem unwilling to do what is necessary to "stop terror" I just have to get off the boat. I just can't do it this year.

    I applaud loyalty to a show, and I think you are a better man than I am for sticking with Jack.

    PS: What did you think of Damages? Its Devil Wears Prada meets the Firm. I liked it, though.

  2. You're not the only one I've heard complain about the Senate hearings. I dunno, I made my piece with the fact that the creators are neo cons a while ago, so it didn't really bug me. I also thought that the character was shown to be more then just a liberal with his head in the sand (before his death, of course).

    Damages was very entertaining. It's funny that you bring it up here, because like 24, I think it probably actually plays better when watched week by week, rather then over a few nights on DVD. I think that, as all the clues were laid out, and the flashbacks and the present moved closer to each other, it was probably pretty exciting. We're going to hopefully start watching season 2 this week.

  3. Season 8 of 24? Isn't the day OVER yet?