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January 11, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | January 11, 2007 |

OK, look, I enjoy “24” as much as the next guy. I’ve watched every minute from the very beginning of Day 1, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s generally entertaining as hell, and almost as addictive as crack. And yes, last season was a marked improvement over some of the earlier seasons, harkening back to that Day 1. That being said, folks need to stop claiming that there is some great drama going on here. It won last year’s Best Drama Emmy, for fuck’s sake and, quite frankly, it ain’t great drama. It’s unbelievably over the top, requiring more suspension of disbelief than any reasonable person should ever have to muster, and this is coming from a guy who’s willing to believe in Cylons, in 30-year-olds routinely playing high school kids, in a cute little SoCal college freshman being one of the best detectives in the country and in a serial-killer-hunting serial killer who works for the police, among other things. If you want a very good drama about terrorists and the people who stop them, go check out the two “Sleeper Cell” miniseries from Showtime.

But, if you are a fan of “24”, the first four hours of this sixth day don’t disappoint. The over-the-top has been ratcheted up a good deal (while the quality of writing has diminished inversely), but it’s still as entertaining and addicting as ever. Now, before we get into any specifics, lemme just give you fair warning. I really won’t give away much more than what you’ll learn rather early in the first episode, but if you simply want to know absolutely nothing about the new season at all, best go read my 2006 Year in Review column instead. Likewise, there will be some “spoilers” from earlier seasons, particularly Day 5, so if you’re one of The DVD Folks, keep on movin’ on.

OK. So the most recent longest day in Jack Bauer’s life starts at 6 a.m., and we quickly learn that over the past 11 weeks our country has been getting pounded with terrorist attacks. Buses, trains, malls — shit’s getting blown up left and right. We still have a President Palmer, but it’s not that President Palmer, since he’s too busy kicking ass on “The Unit” and, you know, being dead on this show. David Palmer’s brother Wayne is president now, and poor Wayne just doesn’t know what to do about our country going to hell in a hand basket. Thanks to a rather lame plot contrivance, however, New President Palmer negotiates for Jack’s release from China, for some unstated-yet-melodramatic “high price.” This was a rather big disappointment, quite frankly, as it would’ve been nice to have something a little different to start Day 6, at least for an hour or two, with some type of elaborate rescue (although I guess that would leave the whole season stuck in China, since it would take a tad too long to fly back to the states in real time). Ah well.

And speaking of Jack’s vacation in China, he was there for about 20 months. According to the ever kinda-sorta trusty hive over on Wikipedia, this puts the current day somewhere around 2011. You know, with the show being set in the future and all that, couldn’t they throw us a bone and tell us who won some NFL playoff games or something? For crying out loud — the TV Whore could use a little help in making his weekend parlay bets!

Anyway, Jack’s back, and since we have another 24 hours to fill, it will surprise no one to learn that he’s got his work cut out for him. So he quickly gets into doing what he was brought in to do, although he first takes a time-out for a shave and a haircut (two bits!). This took no more than eight minutes, which is ridiculous considering just how much hair and beard he had — hell, it takes me 10 minutes to get a good clean shave with a couple days’ worth of stubble (which is why advise you to remember to check your brain at the door). Plus, it was a stupid idea to clean him up so early because I think the show would’ve been well served to give us scruff-and-gruff Jack for a bit. Sadly, we’re deprived that enjoyment. But while he’s once again clean, our new Jack does carry some rather deep psychological scars (which match the gruesome physical scars he now has). This is actually a rather nice touch, but it’s something I fear will quickly be ignored and forgotten, much like that heroin withdrawal he had back in season three.

The show moves along, as the opening hours of “24” often do, at a pretty frenetic pace. Along with Wayne Palmer, we’re introduced to a couple of other familiar faces who have stuck around for the fun, including a slightly-less-annoyed Chloe, Milo (the computer nerd from season one, played by Eric Balfour), Curtis, and Bill Buchanan. And at some point down the road, we know that we’ll see some more of Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart and, personally, I can’t wait to see what ridiculous shit is thrown at us to get the disgraced ex-president back into things. But there are also several new faces — I’m particularly excited about Peter MacNicol, who plays an advisor to the president (and he’s free to perform the task since his “Numb3rs” character was conveniently sent, literally, into space for six months). There’s also Regina King as a new Palmer, which is amusing if you ever watched “The Boondocks,” as she also provides voices on that show — every time she talks, I just hear Huey Freeman. But the most entertaining new face is Kal Penn, Kumar of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle! I say “most entertaining” because he gets the honor of being in the storyline that, for at least the first four hours, is by far the most ludicrous of them all. Just silly, in fact. Must be all the pot he’s been smoking.

However, it’s not the most ludicrous single plot-point. That award goes to (and again, I’m not hurting you by telling you this, as you learn it rather early on), whatever writer decided that it was plausible to have the President of the United States give a former terrorist full, unbridled access to all of our monitoring satellites and “surveillance protocols.” I mean, it’s actually almost brilliant in its sheer audacity and willingness to fly in the face of any type of logic or common sense.

The writers do have one thing a bit more grounded in reality (and its plausibility is a sad statement of the current political terrain), which is the government’s choice to tread on civil liberties in the name of security. You get the sense that the writers want to use this as an opportunity to play out some real weighty issues. Make this show into a real drama, with substance! Unfortunately, the dialogue stumbles along like a second-grade report on civil rights, as the writers are apparently ill-equipped to deal with the intricacies and meat of this topic. So it ends up feeling more like listening to Donald Trump tell us about morality and civil rights than watching, say, a Ted Koppel special.

It’s tough to say much more about the show without getting into things you probably don’t want to know ahead of time. But here’s a quick-hit list of some things you can expect, and some other random thoughts I have about the show:

You can expect many people at CTU to break all types of protocols and security procedures without getting fired or thrown in jail or punished in any way.

When will the terrorists learn that they should just stay the hell away from Los Angeles, which is where our government’s only competent tool appears to be (and how is it that Jack Bauer is the only agent in the whole damn country capable of doing anything)?

You can expect more stupid and contrived romantic entanglements between characters.

You can expect to learn a really neat trick for getting a free bus or subway ride, courtesy of one Jack Bauer.

You can expect at least one continuity problem (it’s a very small one — one episode refers to something in Chicago, and in the next episode it’s suddenly St. Louis — but the lack of attention to detail doesn’t bode well).

You can expect a very annoying and manufactured way to “shockingly” write out a character, which may leave some fans pissed.

I can’t say more here without giving too much away, but I really wish this show were on another network and that I were president of that network, because I would’ve pulled a knock-out crossover with another show that would’ve had folks reeling (if you want to know more specifically, ask me again next Tuesday and I’ll add something here or in the comments).

And finally, you can expect to see Kiefer reprise, at least for a moment, the best role he’s ever played:



Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He’s already run out the door to finally buy
The Lost Boys because, with vampires and the Coreys, how can you go wrong?

I'm Jack Bauer, and My Blood is in Your Veins

"24" / The TV Whore
January 11, 2007

TV | January 11, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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