24 and counting (down)

3 05 2005

Guilty Pleasure Admission #2 (I promise that these will end sometime before they get too guilty or too pleasurable).
I like 24.

That’s right, the Fox show with Kiefer Sutherland as a cel phone toting kick-ass anti-terrorist government man who Gets Things Done because he Doesn’t Play By The Rules.

My friend, the composer Richard Einhorn has correctly pointed out that there is a very Cheney-esque streak of authoritarianism in the show, in which the only way to Get Things Done is to kick someone’s ass and let the Bill of Rights be damned. I can’t say that I disagree with that. The show certainly promotes the fact that it is only the strong who survive. It is more than fascistic in places, it is a combination of Darwin and Machiavelli.

So I’m not really down with the politics of the show.

But here’s the guilty pleasure part — I like the energy of the show, and a comparison to Sydney’s Pollock THE INTERPRETER might clue you in as to why. Sure, there’s a completely unreal sense to the plot — everything happens in one day (in the first season Sutherland’s character introduced the show every week by saying “This is the longest day of my life.” I want to add now, “except for the days in the next three seasons”). Sutherland’s character, Jack Bauer, has a superhuman sense of when something is wrong. He’s like an anti-terrorist bloodhound. He can walk into a room where every other agent sees normalcy. Jack will stop and look around, with an angry quizzical look on his face, not unlike a dog when it enters a room where someone has peed three days before. “Watch out for that closet!!!” he’ll yell, and (sure enough) three seconds later a large explosion rocks the room.

There’s also a rather strong smelly sense of Big Brother throughout the show. If Jack needs to get into a building all he needs to do it call up the Counter Terrorism Unit on his handy cel phone (doesn’t he ever run out of batteries with all of his usage?; mine would have died in episode five) and say “Michelle. Give the passcode combinataion to the office building garage at 1234 Wilshire Blvd.” Within seconds he’s got it.

I’ll tell you. If the government were this organized and together in real life, I’d REALLY be scared.

So it’s fantasy. I got it. (Perhaps it’s George Bush’s fantasy, I’m not sure). But shit gets taken care of on this show.

Contrast this with THE INTERPRETER, the remarkably predictable feature that took the box office by small rainstorm two weeks ago. Sure, it’s more realistic than 24. Sean Penn (who is, by the way, fantastic in the film; I’d fall down on my knees to beg him to keep making movies if I really thought he was going to retire) spends a lot of time in a car, at one point, watching the rear lights of cars and trucks ahead of him in New York. Those red lights are pretty much as real as it gets.

But there’s no sizzle or energy in this by-the-numbers remake of every sorry political thriller you’ve ever seen and some that you aren’t sure if you’ve seen or if you’ve just imagined them. There is an absolutely bogus resolution to the film and a gaping plot hole that is so egregious that you end up screaming at people you don’t even know next to you that you will absolutely never ever go to see a movie like this again. NOT EVEN IF THEY PAY ME!!! I SWEAR ON A STACK OF UTNE READERS!!

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest. I feel ten pounds lighter.

In any case, though there are adsurdities in 24’s plot lines, they are rarely insulting to the audience. And, besides, it’s not as much fun jumping up and down at home and screaming at the dog that you will absolutely never ever go to see a movie like this again. NOT EVEN IF THEY PAY ME!!! I SWEAR ON A STACK OF UTNE READERS!! Television just doesn’t have the power to make large assholes of people who are watching it. Notice that I’m not talking about the people who become contestants on I MARRIED A BIG STUPID SPOUSE or the like. Just the people watching it. And, while everyone who is watching STUPID SPOUSE may be stupid, the only people who will ever know it are the families and the dog watching the program along with you.

Who ever coined the term “mass media” for television surely wasn’t thinking of this at the time.

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8 responses

3 05 2005
Tamara

The energy of that show is exactly what turns me off. I’ve never been able to get through an episode because I’m always thinking, This is one hour of this guy’s life? Too much.

Alias, however… now that’s an entirely different story.

3 05 2005
Norman

Yeah, the weird thing is that when you see them all together you say “This is one DAY in this guy’s life??”

It’s way too unreal. But I like that kind of stuff. CARNIVALE was one of my favorite shows of last year.

3 05 2005
Cory

I’ve always sort of thought of you as an anti-terrorist bloodhound, Norm. But your powers are limited to sensing upcoming bad edits.

Tamara, I know this might be blasphemy, but I’ve tried watching Alias (this is the part where I risk having Jen never speaking to me again) and I just don’t get it. Beautiful girl + skimpy outfits + ass kicking usually adds up for me. I’m not saying it’s a bad show. I can see it’s good. It just leaves me cold. Unlike 24. Which I think is trash (sorry Norm).

3 05 2005
Norman

Ah ha. You have now found the limits of my previously wide extraterriestrial powers.

Does it count that I loved LOOK AT ME?

What about CARNIVALE? (did I mention that twice? Hmm, everybody should march down to your local email client and send a missive to HBO to renew this show or I will go into mourning)

3 05 2005
Cory

It does count that you loved LOOK AT ME. Bacri and Jaoui are fantastic. Although I was more moved by A TASTE OF OTHERS. I think that’s because of my long and trying experiences with unrequited love.

I’ve never seen CARNIVALE. My roommate really enjoyed this last season though. I thought the first season of DEADWOOD was fantastic. Some of the best characterizations and storytelling I’ve seen anywhere in a long time. But season two seems lost and meandering. I’m looking forward to the return of RESCUE ME. It’s a brave show because of the way it allows its characters to have such terrible flaws. Plus, some of the characters remind me of my friends back home. Which is a little scary.

4 05 2005
wamez

Carnivale is fantastic. I was lucky enough to be paid to watch the first season (usually video quality control does not pan out this well) and I can say that, while I in no way intend to give that money back, I would have watched the show for free. (Actually paying for the HBO subscription is another thing entirely, though.)

Unlike most network shows — 24 and Alias included — Carnivale appears to be very intentional in every episode. The season is 10-12 episodes shorter which, I would imagine, was a conscious choice by the creators and avoids the filler plotlines (i.e. amnesia — 24 Season 1) and repeated conversations (i.e. Alias — Season 3 — all of it). HBO seems to be one of the few places that actually trusts storytellers enough to let them tell their stories the way they want.

The Wire is another good example of this. I generally could care less about cop dramas (how there are so many CSIs, I’ll never know) but the Wire weaves procedure, character, and plot perfectly — and you get the story from multiple sides which offers the added benefit of allowing me a fall back career as a drug dealer now that I’ve seen how to set up and maintain a fully functioning narcotics empire.

4 05 2005
Cory

So James, the narcotics empire you were running out of the sound department wasn’t fully functional? You had half the the QST’s working as your mules! I shudder to think of the things customs did to poor Wes Kobernick…

if i remember correctly you and JQ were big Firefly fans? I work at a place where they do DVD extras and featurettes. I’ve seen a lot of the Serenity stuff and it looks pretty cool. The interviews about the life, death and unlikely rebirth of the show are good too. other than that I’ve seen some fight scenes and some effects shots. They look good. Much better than the tapes of Monster in Law I’ve been dubbing (Jane and J-Lo? Too awful to even contemplate!)

4 05 2005
wamez

Yes, JQ is a mad scary Firefly fan and has a Serenity desktop on both her work and home computers.

I liked it the first time I saw it, but it really grows on you as you watch it more. The depth of the world is pretty astounding and it’s so painful to think about where it could have gone if it were being handled by someone who understood it (I mean this on the executive level — I think Joss had a pretty good idea of where it was going).

Very excited for Serenity. Please NO SPOILERS! I want to see it pure.

As pure as my cocaine. You want some? I’ll get Wes right on that.

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