24 and there's so much more…

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I recall our own Professor Thoreau being a 24 fanatic, but don't know if anybody else is still watching this show. In any event, Salon's Laura Miller (free ad serve required) calls for the show to be sent to a small-screen Camp X-Ray without further ado:

My biggest complaint, however, is the clenched humorlessness of CTU. To which people will often respond that a 24-hour nuclear/chemical weapons/presidential assassination crisis is hardly the time for jokes. Au contraire, mon amis. As Jerry Dunn's invaluable subcultural slang dictionary, "Idiom Savant," demonstrates, the professions that generate the most extensive, creative and funny slang are precisely the ones that deal in life-and-death situations: cops, nurses and soldiers. Black humor and wisecracks are crucial tools to building camaraderie in high-stress jobs that expose people to the worst of human behavior and suffering.

But there's no camaraderie at CTU. Instead, these waspish drones bicker and intrigue like the staff of an insurance company or a poetry magazine—any office where the stakes are so low that people get easily sidetracked into currying favor and screwing their enemies. Don't tell me there's no room for esprit de corps in CTU, when everyone who works there can always be persuaded to spare a few minutes to berate a co-worker or have a heart-to-heart with some wigged-out relative. The most miserable trick of "24" is that it takes what's probably an exciting and meaningful profession and makes it seem just like the swamps of mean-spirited triviality where most Americans work.

This seems like an odd complaint. Is there much doubt that GWOT-related government offices are filled with petty people devoted to bickering and office politics? I tuned out 24 after the second season, but my realism gap with the show was always its presentation of supremely competent and fast-moving government officials who wouldn't fuck up the proverbial one-man parade. But I'm intrigued that the writers have contrived to bring back the great Penny Johnson for another round of villainy. Has nobody else remarked that Penny Johnson not only has the distinction of playing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in two different movies, but has been a regular or recurring character on what must be a record number of top-notch television shows? Deep Space Nine, ER, 24, Larry Sanders… She's the anti-Ted McGinley. Keep your Sutherlands. Make mine Johnson or Johnson-Jerald!

Also, has anybody ever gotten a full season of 24 on DVD and watched the whole show in 24 hours? That would seem like a must-do stunt for a true fan.

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  1. Johnson Jerard got whacked at the end of season 3. What an insufferable storyline that was, btw.

  2. I’ve watched the first 3 seasons in marathon form, it ‘only’ takes 18 hrs though, no commercials … it’s definately the best way to watch the show.

  3. Ha, I did the same thing as Will…three seasons in a row just to do it. Yes I had too much time on my hands. Not a great show, but fun and each season got progressively better.

  4. When Jack Bauer tells his lover’s son that the only reason he’s still conscious is that Bauer doesn’t feel like carrying him, that’s humor. It’s even funnier that Jack’s also quite happy to do it. Just because it’s not banana peels and knock-knock jokes doesn’t mean it’s not funny.

    When Jack Bauer tells a joke, your blood or fear is the laughter he’s after.

  5. Re: 24 in 24. I’ve done it for every season so far. And I named my pug “Bauer.”

    True fan? Loser with too much free time?

    I report, you decide.

  6. “Also, has anybody ever gotten a full season of 24 on DVD and watched the whole show in 24 hours? That would seem like a must-do stunt for a true fan.”

    “I’ve watched the first 3 seasons in marathon form, it ‘only’ takes 18 hrs though, no commercials … it’s definately the best way to watch the show.”

    I bet this would be a lot harder to with, say, 30 Days.

  7. who cares about 24. i just want the dead season finale and one more complete season.

  8. There have been a lot of TV shows and movies
    that involve torture. Usually though it’s the
    villain doing the torturing.

    On 24, on the other hand, the hero is the
    torturer. For me that crosses a line
    (I would never watch it or support it in
    any way).

    Should there be a line? Or as long as a show
    is entertaining anything goes?
    (I’m talking personal support, not government
    intervention.)

    For example, what if the hero was a terrorist,
    or a Nazi?

  9. Did they forget about Chloe?! Her personality-disorder driven wackiness is better than every episode of any current ABC comedy combined. When she tasered the pick-up artist at the internet cafe and casually went back to work on her laptop while he drooled on the table, I almost lost it. And then she tased him up again it was comedy genius. If they’re not finding dark humor, they’re not looking.

  10. *** SPOILER WARNING ***

    Terry’s right, in Season 2, instead of torturing the radical Islamic terrorist and threatening his family with execution, Jack Bauer should have just allowed a nuclear bomb to explode over LA.

    *******

  11. For example, what if the hero was a terrorist

    I already have an awesome sitcom pitch in which the heroes are terrorists. Two jihadis want to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge or the Transamerica building, but because of tighter visa controls they can’t get here as students, so they decide to take advantage of the growing new field of gay asylum, pleading that they’re actually a couple of homosexuals who will be beheaded in their home country if they can’t get refuge in the USA. They get into the country and settle in the freewheeling Castro district, studying old Paul Lynde and Liberace tapes to learn how to really lay on the flamboyant tooty fruity bit. Their colorful neighbors include a host of wacky gay neighbors, a gawky but lovable fag-hag buddy, a slow-burning al Qaeda controller they report to at the end of every episode, and a suspicious CIS agent perpetually frustrated in his efforts to get to the bottom of things. I don’t need to tell you that wackiness ensues…

  12. Tim, you should pitch that idea to the Bravo! network.

  13. Sherry Palmer was an AWESOME villain, and she deserved a better storyline in the third season. It’s fitting that she was killed by somebody that she betrayed, but the betrayal should have happened in a more interesting story.

    And Chloe is the ultimate comic relief.

  14. Did they forget about Chloe?! Her personality-disorder driven wackiness is better than every episode of any current ABC comedy combined.

    Absolutely Goddam right, Chloe O’Brian is the funniest thing ever.

  15. Tim-

    Over the course of the show, your proposed characters should slowly learn to enjoy their new cover stories, and develop a keen fashion sense. In the season finale, their plans are finally at the point of fruition, but they nearly bail on the whole thing because their weapons and outfits aren’t accessorized. Then, when they get ready to attack, they have a change of heart and decide that the city of San Francisco is far too fabulous to destroy.

  16. Tim, my brother, your righteous praise of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine shows that you are spiritually enlightened and a bad mutha. Shave your head, grow a beard, buy a white BMW and matching trenchcoat, and come with me to kick some Dominion ass in the Gamma quadrant. And we’ll save Spenser’s behind again, too.

    Anyone notice that I nailed both Dax and Kira? Oh, yeah. There’s a reason Kirk was my hero.

  17. 24 Sucks, why are u even discussing it on Reason. If you want to watch good drama, watch The Shield and Nip/Tuck. 24 is horrible.

  18. Actually, a few months back the New York Times had a piece on a sitcom in development that centered around a hapless group of slapstick-clumsy terrorists. I think it’s high time, frankly.

  19. Tim — I propose Larry Thomas (the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi”) as your heroes’ controller.

    And I see your heroes as less-than-committed Jihadis — Perhaps the longer they get to stay in SF on the al Qaeda expense account, the more reasons they come up with to postpone their mission:

    “Sorry, chief, your shipment of exploding hair gel got mixed up at the salon, and…”

  20. I watched the first season of 24, in 24 or less. I had dysintery, and I was stuck on the john or in bed. It wasn’t that good a show.

    The Shield, and The Wire are much much better. It was enetertaining though. It was just frustrating.

    I like Tim’s idea. It would be really cool to have a show about two terrorists pretending to be gay. But then because they pretend so hard, they actually do catch ‘the gay’.

    I was thinking a show that I would really like to do would be kind of like ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, except where the good guys are drug dealers and the bad guys the DEA.

    And each episode could have the DEA do dastardly true things that the DEA has actually done. The fiction would be that our heroes take it to them for their misdeeds.

  21. Tim’s idea is brilliant. I’d like to suggest that one of the characters actually be gay or at least bi, but he’s conflicted; he’s actually a serious and committed muslim and jihadist who genuinely loves the traditional and extreme, yet, he’s struggling with what to do about his gayness. A little like David from Six Feet Under or the black cop from The Shield. Then again, might not be able to sneak in the comedy, so maybe that’s another show.

  22. “…the staff of an insurance company or a poetry magazine…”

    So, is she saying Ted Kooser is somehow involved?

  23. “I don’t need to tell you that wackiness ensues… ”

    Pitch this to the guys who do “Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” It will be brilliant.

  24. I thought it was obvious just from watching the show: The reason there’s “no room for esprit de corps in CTU” is because at any given time there are at least 2-3 enemy “moles” working in the department. You can’t afford to trust anyone around you.

    Hey, there’s another sitcom idea: The CTU HR department.

  25. “these waspish drones bicker and intrigue like the staff of an insurance company or a poetry magazine — any office where the stakes are so low that people get easily sidetracked into currying favor and screwing their enemies”

    Kind of like a bunch of writers and producers working on a television series, maybe?

    That’s why Chloe stands out: She may have an annoying personality, but at least she’s got a personality.

  26. Hey, there’s another sitcom idea: The CTU HR department.

    Take a number. The people responsible for maintaining a “secure perimeter” in case a bad guy tries to escape are the biggest joke of all. When somebody on 24 says “We have the building completely surrounded” that means the villain will escape.

  27. You know, reading Hawk’s posting above reminds me how freakin’ tough ol’ Hawk was. He could take Bauer down. Yeah, that’s right. Down hard.

  28. kwais,
    you should check out Weeds on Showtime. Granted its sometimes unrealistic, but its pretty cool nonetheless.

  29. Bauer cannot be stopped. He has even come back from the dead to successfully fulfill his mission. For this reason, around my house 24 is known as “Jack Bauer: Federal Zombie.”

    I think the bickering in CTU is a conscious attempt to portray the CYA attitude that the scriptwriters imagine must pervade a tight-assed, authority-driven, hierarchically organized, government agency. The camaraderie is usually expressed in terms of personal loyalty, wherein someone who has the chance to mess with Jack steps out of his way, out of respect for his “good guy” status, and regardless of formal orders or rules&regs.

    In its first season or two, 24 was exposed as obvious fantasy almost immediately, as everybody at CTU used Apple computers, which, in their pre-Intel days, had not enjoyed much popularity in the law-and-order part of government, despite years of trying on Apple’s part. Later seasons seemed more true-to-life: I think Dells (or some similar PC brand) were employed. That distraction out of the way, viewers could concentrate on the many other ways that the show deviated from reality (see zombie reference, above).

    And yet, we watch. My wife and I never miss it. 24’s paucity of Emmy Awards is a crime that Jack Bauer needs to investigate. Personally, I think it’s some sort of shadowy conspiracy, probably run out of Beijing.

  30. Bauer cannot be stopped.

    No! Jack Bauer is a maverick. He’s out of control. So we’re taking him down. And if you don’t watch your step, he’s going to take you down with him. * glare *

  31. “has anybody ever gotten a full season of 24 on DVD and watched the whole show in 24 hours?”

    I’m told Penn Jilette has a party to do that annually.

  32. Tim!

    Is genius!

    I already have an awesome sitcom pitch in which the heroes are terrorists. Two jihadis…decide to take advantage of the growing new field of gay asylum… They get into the country and settle in the freewheeling Castro district, studying old Paul Lynde and Liberace tapes to learn how to really lay on the flamboyant tooty fruity bit…

    Series title: Out of the Qloset

    The jihadis will be played by:

    Lewis Alsamari (United 93) as the kinda hunky “straight man” one.

    Amir Talai (Campus Ladies) as the glumly whacky one.

    Their colorful neighbors include a host of wacky gay neighbors, a gawky but lovable fag-hag buddy…

    Played by Kathy Griffin.

    …a slow-burning al Qaeda controller they report to at the end of every episode …

    Umbriel’s suggestion of casting Larry Thomas (“the soup Nazi”) is a good one.

    … and a suspicious CIS agent perpetually frustrated in his efforts to get to the bottom of things.

    Played by Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

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