Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Film on TV: 24's Final Days

By now you’ve surely heard that the clock for Fox’s long running 24 will finally strike zero when its series finale airs, appropriately, on May 24th. But really this groundbreaking show has been dying a slow death for years, joining the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a franchise continuing to produce mediocre entertainment long past its prime.

It’s easy to forget when watching 24 in its current Season 8 form just how great this show really was. But a quick scan through EW.com’s “24 Timeless Moments from ‘24’” reminds you what made the adventures of Jack Bauer so special…not timeless, per se, but timely historical....

SPOILER ALERT – If you aren’t well-versed in your 24, read no further.

24 dared to be different, to challenge our norms and blow up our comfort zones. It kicked things off by bombing a plane in mid-air, just months after 9/11. It combined international intrigue and political scandal with the close-to-home assault on family, creating a world where terror was everywhere, in every form.

It screwed our notion of a happy ending by killing of Teri Bauer at the end of Season 1, then continued the trend, tearing at our hearts and souls as one by one we watched characters dear to us (Edgar! President Palmer! Curtis!) fall victim to a violent, unforgiving world. It continuously rattled our sense of safety, no more shockingly then when they blew up CTU in season 2, then nuked half of Los Angeles in season 6, the last great season that even then couldn’t hold strong all the way through.

It beat us senseless, all the while promising that, even on the brink of our own demise, Jack Bauer would show up in the nick of time, save the day and see us through.

In Jack Bauer we found a quintessential hero, an unstoppable force falling somewhere between James Bond and Chuck Norris. He was the show’s anchor, the gravitational power around which other great, fallible characters rotated, desperate people making desperate messes for Jack to clean up. He endured – loss, shame, death, betrayal, pain and suffering.  He endured it all, and he endured for us.

And while nothing could break Jack, his determination or his soul, the people, the stories and the very show around him could not endure the same. Eventually Jack ceased to develop, to be human, his character giving way to an idea, or worse – a tool for plot. As 24 devolved into a show devoid of creativity and originality, it relied more and more on brute force. It hit us with so much shock and violence over the years that it desensitized us.

The vulnerability of CTU became a running joke (and oh yes, they got hit again this year). The great characters had all been killed off, leaving only a watered-down Bauer and a barely functional Chloe as his faithful to the end Iphone…er, I mean, tech-wiz sidekick.

When Dana Walsh proved turncoat this year, the latest in this seasons many betrayals, and the thousandth of 24’s long and turmultuous career, I was angry, not because I felt betrayed, or because I cared enough about her for her betrayal to sting, but because it just…seemed…so…pointless. We’ve reached the point in 24 where we’ve seen it all before, and we reached that point some time ago.

As star Kiefer Sutherland looks to end this latest chapter on an appropriately cumulative note, he’s leaving the door open for the long rumored feature film. There’s a chance the 24 world would be rejuvenated in its new format. There’s a chance it could find new purpose. But there’s an even bigger chance it won’t.

So when you tell me 24 is finally ending, my only reaction is relief, blended with a dash of hope – that the finale will be fitting, and that they won’t do too much more damage to it’s irrevocably diminished shine before they’re through. And that Jack Bauer will – finally and completely – save the day.

1 comment:

DubMC said...

UPDATE: a quick piece in EW on the Dana Walsh backlash


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