Saturday, January 20, 2007

"24" Drives Me Crazy

I have a problem. My wife is in love with "Jack", the individualistic, rebellious, brave, usually brilliant fast-acting hero of "24". After hearing a rave review of "24" from a good friend last year, we purchased the DVD of season 1. We recently finished viewing all the DVD's through season 5, just in time to start recording season six off Fox. We've now spent over 120 hours tracking Jack's tumultuous career as the CTU agent who saves America again and again.

In "24", some smart screenwriters have managed to combine the major elements of soap opera, spy thriller, techno expo, and war movie. Within ten minutes the same character can talk simultaneously to two people she's slept with, be betrayed by her partner, redirect a satellite camera to follow a bad guy, and assault a bunker populated by 20 very smart terrorists...and this character isn't even "Jack". No question about it, "24" has something for everyone, and it moves pretty much nonstop except for the interminable commercials (thank God for DVR!).

So what's the problem with "24"? It's that these screenwriters stock the sets and move the plots with ridiculous scenarios and out-of-character actions which almost always make the "good guys" dumber than the Keystone Kops. The top secret Counter-Terrorist Unit lets employees work for their relatives, is infiltrated by traitors, has systems penetrable thru endless back doors, and admits people to the command center if they show their library cards. U.S. presidents do even worse: they micro-manage strategy and tactics, carry and answer their own cell phones, give pardons to terrorists at the drop of a hat, and have staffs that never exceed three inept people. The original "Superman" was more believable than "24".

Despite its silliness, "24" has succeeded because its cast is excellent. "Jack" (Keifer Sutherland) comes across as independent, yet absolutely dedicated; ruthless, but capable of great tenderness; and vulnerable, but resilient. Chloe, his analyst assistant, is loveably quirky, totally loyal, technically brilliant, and always plagued by conflicts with other employees. The remainder of the cast somehow manages to keep straight faces while acting out some of the most melodramatic and improbable scenes ever written. In short, "24" has transported the old Saturday afternoon serials to 21st century television and millions of people wait impatiently for each Monday night at 9 to arrive.

How can I continue to subject myself to this brain-numbing, never satisfying program? I lay down on the couch, pull a down comforter over me, and rest my head on a pillow in my wife's lap. She rubs my head when I start to grit my teeth, and everything is again right with the world.

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