Saturday, February 25, 2006

24 is the new Coldplay: I’m over it.

Might have been the medication, but I was home sick last night, watching 24, when this awful realization crept into my skull. Awful in the sense that it was a moment of clarity that formally identifies one of your vices as a vice (upgrading its status from “guilty pleasure”) and thus signals the beginning of the end of your relationship with it.

24 used to have a lot of mystique for me, because, when it debuted, it came on Tuesday nights, when I worked late, and so I’d have to get updates from my friends who thought it was The Crack. Eventually, it became my new X-Files – something that I paid a lot of attention to in spite of not knowing quite why.

Last night, the ring of truth landed on me the way it always does, with the subtlety of a flaming blimp crash: this show just ain’t that good. In fact, there’s the distinct possibility that this show sucks but people can't bring themselves to admit it.

Don’t get me wrong, the formula for success is there:
  • Ridiculously convoluted plot lines? Check.
  • Maddeningly complex relationships among characters? Roger.
  • Tied to an area in current events that scares the shit out of everyone? Yup.

And, unlike The West Wing or Grey’s Anatomy, 24's cast isn’t solely populated by unfailingly earnest characters. (Really, think about Josh, Leo, Toby, CJ et al. Ever see any one of them consider a bribe, display a whiff of apathy or otherwise lean towards doing the wrong thing? Hell, no! They’re doing The People’s Business! They care too much to bother with graft, fraud, corruption, ineptitude or not giving a shit! Pittance salaries of public servants be damned!)

To that end, 24 is like the West Wing on meth: lots of really good-looking, stressed out people running around and cutting each other’s knees out, either to prevent or hasten something catastrophic. And every season 24 comes with the guarantee that at least one person is on two payrolls. And that’s good, right? Everyone needs a Nina Myers to stoke whatever paranoia isn’t already stoked by the prospect of terrorists leaking sarin gas in a crowded mall or glassing Los Angeles County. And then there’s Jack Bauer, who unexplainably has been anointed this decade’s de facto badass, with various fact lists comparing him to Chuck Norris. From what I’ve seen, the comparison ought to be with Harrison Ford. Every action movie that features Harrison Ford also features Harrison Ford getting his ass kicked. Similarly, no episode of 24 is complete without Bauer getting the business end of an ass-kicking or three. We all know what Chuck Norris would recommend: Learn to roundhouse kick.

Ever see Chuck Norris do this?

By the way, has no one noticed how bad the dialog is? I know that’s kind of film school of me, but I didn’t go to film school and don’t profess to know a damn thing about what makes a good movie good. So if I’m noticing the problem, it really must be a gaping wound. Witness:

Jack Bauer: You're a good liar. But I've seen better.

Sure, dialog takes a back seat to action. But, if I’m supposed to get involved with these people’s development over 24 episodes, I expect a little more in this department. The running assumption among producers seems to be that, if the actor’s eyes are sufficiently bugged out and his/her brow is convincingly wrinkled, even ‘80s porno lines will sound compelling. Which perhaps sheds new light on cocaine’s role in pornography, but I digress.
24 got a lot of attaboys for not letting political correctness influence the depiction of terrorists, although it doesn’t look like the writers let pesky research get in their way either. And, gee, imagine going out on a limb for a season and having terrorists who happen to be from – you better sit down for this – the Middle East. Such boldness aside, your typical 24 terrorist group is distinctly multi-cultural, in marked contrast to the incestuously mono-cultural Islamo-fascists and white supremacists who normally busy themselves with plans for Western annihilation.
In the first season, the terrorists were Eastern Europeans. In the second season, we got Turkish(!) terrorists whose mother tongue inexplicably was Arabic. Of course, the conspirators were rich white oil execs, which is a unique pairing when you consider that, in a good year, Turkey supplies about 0.092% of all the oil consumed in the US. That’s ninety-two thousandths of a percent, folks. We get more oil from friggin’ Denmark.
In the third season, it’s a disgruntled white soldier with some Mexican drug lords thrown in. It’s not until the fourth season that the primary terrorist is Arab, and even then, he has white and Chinese people working for him.Anyway, I'm sure this rant has probably said a lot more about me than it has about the show and I'm sorry if I ruined it for any of you. (Well, not really. Grow a damn spine and like what you like for your own reasons.)


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