Friday, 4 September 2009

Looking Back on 24

Anticipating a lot of down time on my recent family holiday (last year I managed to watch seasons 2&3 of Alias) I picked up a copy of 24 season 1 (I already owned 2 through 6). So I thought it snapshotwould be interesting to do a post about looking back at 24 from a season 6 perspective.

I remember, nostalgically, tuning in week after week to watch as Mr Bauer struggled to save the world, while Mr. Palmer had a tiny crisis that no one cared about. (Ps. I have a huge respect for Mr Haysbert, but David Palmer was not exactly the bag of excitement that Jonas “Snake Doc” Blane was, was he?") And I remember snapshot(2)watching the last moments of the series with shock and awe as Nina turns out to be a traitor and Teri Bauer turns out to be dead.

And now, I can’t see why. When it started out, the first 13 episodes were pretty exciting as Jack rescues Kim and Teri from the evil clutches of Ira Gaines.

It had the tension building episodes where they knew there was a mole but they didn’t know who. Is it Nina, is it Tony? No its the softly spoken Jamie who no one would have suspected. It was snapshot(6)good and tense and Jamie’s suicide rounded that section out nicely. At the time it was like nothing else on the air.

We had Jack under the control of the baddies, who made him do things against his will, including shooting Nina and leaving her for dead. Jack was motivated with two clear goals, both of which snapshot(9)were being obstructed by CTU and the bad guys, but we liked that right?

We had Kim, who, while nice to look at, was, and continued to be for the next two seasons, highly irritating. In fact, had Jack turned on the TV and seen how irritating she was being, he probably would have let Ira shoot her!

However, then we hit episode 14 and things began to fall apart. For a start, Jack spent this episode sat a table. First in the interrogation suite, then in the conference room, then back in the interrogation suite. Which after the high octane rescue in the previous episode left the show feeling flat, but at least it was still focused. The next ten episodes really began to wander off course snapshot(5)as the show struggled to find plausible plotlines.

Teri and Kim were kidnapped, again. This time they escaped without Jack’s help. After a car explosion Teri looses her memory, but in show time, this memory loss is cured in hours, without a trip to hospital. Meanwhile Kim is taken prisoner, again, this time by the police, before being finally re-kidnapped (and then escaping again, without help.).

At CTU the cast repeat the earlier storylines of “Who is the mole?” now with George Mason being cast in the part. I don't think, in the history of 24, that the person everyone thinks is the mole, has ever actually turned out to be one. You’d think that an agency, snapshot(8)founded to fight terrorism, would develop a better screening process to weed out double agents?

Meanwhile, Jack falls back under the influence of the bad guys, however this time he is a little more carefree about it, clearly Victor was less likely to kill his daughter than Ira.

This cyclic use of storylines riddles the second half of season one like a cancer. The character development is all over the place too. Tony switches sides, from CTU’s golden boy, to Jack’s best pal at the drop of a hat. Nina switches sides with no warning at all. In fact the only major character who suffers little in the way of character degradation is George Mason and because of that he is snapshot(7)painted as a mole!

The real reason why 24 season 1 is so memorable is that shock moment when the clock strikes 10:59:57 when Nina is revealed as a double agent and then again when the clock turns 11:59:57 when Teri Bauer turns up dead. However, the reason Nina’s betrayal comes as a shock is because it makes no logical sense. She has been way too helpful! The final episode reveals that she was not working for Victor Drazen, still, she had enough invested in his release to compromise her cover, which begs the question, why did she go out of her way to help Jack? After all she put her job (and cover) on the line for him too! In fact, watching it knowing she is a traitor, forces you to look for those clues that point to her true nature. Those little signs were abundant in the first 8 or so episodes (when she was being painted as a possible traitor), a little glance here etc, but entirely absent from the last 11.

Add to this the fact that they shot an ending where Teri lived and you have a recipe for disaster. Had they aired that ending I’m not sure 24 would have survived past season 2.

Season 1 had some bad acting (Elisha Cuthbert can’t cry, period!), bad accents (Dennis Hopper) and bad snapshot(4)editing (Check out the camera man in the episode entitled 07:00).

All that said, season1 gave birth to what we now know as 24. The high octane drama with the world’s most forgiving audience. Each new series has been filled with those great moments we find in the first half of this season. New stories (and some recycled old ones), a new cast (except for Jack.) and new special effects.

When I mentioned writing this review a friend of mine pointed out that it is only natural that the later seasons would be bigger (and snapshot(10)better), it is just the nature of television. However, it is not the “bigger” that interests me so much as the “better”. Because of the expectations of the fans for 24 to deliver “heart stopping cliff hangers” and “impossible to predict twists” the writers have had to become very clever about how and when these occur, about the development leading up to them, and the final execution. That is something that season 1 created, but didn’t have as a driving factor.

Each subsequent series has had those “I can’t believe they did that moments” that season 1 laid the way for, but they have been much better integrated into the shows overall storyline. For example George Mason’s radiation exposure in season 2, or Ryan snapshotChappelle’s execution by Jack in season 3, or the detonation of a nuclear device on US soil in season 5.

24 still has its problems, but it has become a show that is allowed to take risks, to go to places that other shows dare not tread and the more it does, the more the audience loves it in return. That is the legacy of season 1.

This has been My Two Cents…

Look out for season 7 in the My Two Cents Store on the 19th Oct


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