Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"24" or "Why Don't You Just . . ."


Many people have been recommending the show 24 to me. I've been curious for years, ever since networks advertised the new show starring Kiefer Sutherland. At first I thought, Wow, Kiefer Sutherland's career must really be in the dumps. What's next? A Lifetime movie? But he's entering his sixth season of a popular, Emmy-award winning show. Go figure.


My brother-in-law and nephew are obsessed with the series. In fact, Michael went out and bought the DVDs. That's something I admire. If I'm interested in a TV series on DVD, I'll work my way down a list: A) the library B) cable reruns C) Netflix D) the video store. Notice that "E) purchase at Best Buy" doesn't even make my list. I'm genuinely unable to spend $75 a pop for a single season of a TV show that I only want to see once, but I admire anyone who can. Instead of fussing around, Michael wants something and gets it with little fuss.


Anyway, I watched a few episodes of season 5 over the weekend, and I can see why people are riveted. The show moves quickly from intense scene to intense scene. And even if the scene isn't really intense, the drum beats in the background or the fact that Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) is always either whispering or yelling makes it intense. It seems like good mindless television for late-night viewing. OK, we're in. Michael agreed to loan us his DVD collection.


But then I saw a couple of episodes last night that may have turned me off forever. Jack Bauer hijacks a plane so that he can obtain a confiscated tape that records the current President of the United States admitting that he assassinated the previous President of the United States. So far, so good. Jack knocks out the flight marshall with one punch (no one notices), knocks out another guy and drags him down to the baggage hold (no one notices). Again, fine with me. I was drinking beer and scratching nuts, willingly suspending the big D. Then, after a flurry of exciting scenes that force Jack to break into the cockpit, he obtains the tape.


This is when it all fell apart for me.


The President is desperate to get that tape, so he agrees to shoot down the plane. Jack has the tape in his hand and he's talking to various people on his cell phone to work out a way to evade the F-16s. Here's what I said aloud: Why doesn't Jack just call someone and play the key part of the tape over the phone? More excitement, more drumbeats, more whispering/yelling. Emergency landing on an L.A. freeway. Daring escape. Why don't you just save everyone trouble and play the tape on an answering machine? So Jack gets back to safety and announces a big press conference, but . . . some bad guy sneaks in and erases the tape before he could play it in front of everyone! No one made a backup copy! This causes Jack to alternate between whispering and yelling.


I can take that kind of frustration in a bad horror movie, where people are disappearing and the last woman in the house hears a strange noise in the basement. The why don't you just get in your car and drive like a bat out of hell aspect adds to the horror as you watch the woman light a birthday candle and descend the stairs. But Jack Bauer saves the world regularly. He should know better. Of course, that's not how I process it. When I'm frustrated by the why don't you just... angle, I move away from the characters and think about the writer. That's no good. I think I'll play online Boggle while Wendy watches 24.