Friday, May 04, 2007


This post won't be of any interest unless you watch the show "24."

I've watched it since the beginning of the first season, and it's one of the few TV shows that I take the time to download on ITunes (since cancelling cable about a year ago).

But I agree with the critics who say that 24 is losing steam. One of the main reasons, I suspect, is that it's become too restricted by the convention that everything is happening in real time, over a 24-hour period.

Just because of that one convention, the range of the show has to be very restricted. Nearly everything has to happen within about a 10-mile radius within Los Angeles. Any terrorist that they're looking for has targeted Los Angeles. When Jack needs to talk to ex-President Logan, he's living in Los Angeles (not in Kansas or Pennsylvania), as is Mrs. Logan. When it turns out that the Russian consulate is involved (or the Chinese consulate in a previous season), it's in Los Angeles. Whenever any part of the plot doesn't occur Los Angeles -- such as the plot surrounding the President and Vice-President -- those characters will never cross paths with the CTU folks in Los Angeles, simply because the show doesn't want to spend 6 or 7 episodes having the characters fly cross-country.

Another problem caused by the 24-hour convention is that whenever something bad happens to a character, that character has to make a miraculous recovery in order to keep appearing on the show. This has happened too many times to remember -- the season where Jack was tortured and died before being shocked back to life; Tony Almeida getting shot in the neck, undergoing surgery, and then returning to run CTU; etc. This season has had several of those moments -- Jack stepping off the Chinese plane in the first episode, decrepit and barely functioning, only to turn into the same old Jack by the third episode or so. Morris getting tortured with an electric drill, only to return to his regular job at CTU. Or the worst: President Palmer being in a coma in one episode, and then attending a meeting in the next episode, having had an adrenaline shot.

Besides these two issues, "24" has to assume that lots of other types of events happen far more quickly than they would in real life. Earlier in this season, the Vice-President and President were in a standoff as to whether the President was capable of resuming his duties. They decided to ask the Supreme Court. Within about an hour (supposedly), the members of the Supreme Court had been roused out of bed; had agreed to hear the case; had called for briefing to be submitted within the hour (!); and the President's sister (not SG or White House counsel!) had written out a brief on a pad of paper. This is just absurd; none of these events could have happened that quickly. But given the "24-hour" convention, the show didn't want to spend the next 12 episodes watching the characters discuss legal strategies, etc.

The 24-hour convention also leads to an air of ridiculousness, in that the characters never really seem that tired, even though they've all supposedly been working for 20 hours straight. Nothing ever seems to slow down. None of the characters complain about wanting to go home and get some sleep.

All of these problems would be diminished if "24" were changed to represent a 24-day period. If the events were supposedly happening over 24 days, rather than a mere 24 hours, you could have events happening somewhere other than Los Angeles, without having to show all of the travel time. This would greatly expand the possibilities for the characters -- you could have more characters interact with each other, for example, rather than being trapped on the other side of the country. And so forth.

Another recommendation that has nothing to do with the time scale: Lose the melodramatic subplots. I know these have always been around -- Kim getting kidnapped in the middle of the woods; the female head of CTU (forget the name) having an insane daughter; etc. But it's just hard to believe that in the middle of a nuclear crisis, Chloe and Milo would be trying to check Morris's breath to see if he might have had the tiniest sip of alcohol (his behavior was obviously not affected in any way).

Finally, I'm not impressed with the characters this season. Chloe has been declawed, and mostly just mopes around. Wayne Palmer has the appearance of a junior staffer, not a President (a complete contrast to his late brother).


Blogger Unknown said...

Plus Jack doesn't seem to torture people as often as in previous years

12:06 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

This season is very disappointing. First, for the reasons you mention. (And isn't it amazing how fast everyone gets around LA?) But also because they simply ran out of steam with Fayed and had to totally change directions by bringing in the Chinese in to complete the requisite 24 hours. (And isn't it amazing that the Chinese call immediately after Bauer has killed Fayed?)

9:49 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Oh my, yes. I forgot to mention that one. How on earth would the Chinese instantaneously know that Jack Bauer had captured the Soviet nukes? Do they have a mole somewhere? How did they know Jack's cell phone number (he's been out of commission for two years; surely he wasn't given the same cell number)?

10:47 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Little of it is plausible. It's always been that way. The past few weeks have shown marked improvement in entertainment value. We also have to remember that we're comparing this season against its most immediate predecessor, season 5, which was the best season to date.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Christopher Blosser said...

You also have to factor in the fact that in the course of the series the U.S. has been the recipient of an attempted and actual presidential assassination; several attempted coups; multiple nuclear attacks, not to mention chemical and biological weapons . . . what's next: killer robots? an asteroid hitting earth? WMD's are so passe.

10:46 PM  

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