I still remember the first time I watched the Jack Bauer Power Hour. I was a freshman in college and at the behest of a dorm-mate, I gave the show’s first episode a shot. Instantly, I was hooked by the real-time format and fascinated by how they could maintain it from week to week, even from a technical standpoint. Not only did they pull it off, they made it immensely addicting; what really got me were the little moments at the end of each episode, the hooks that would ensure you’d tune in next week to find out what would happen in the next moments of Jack’s Bauer’s longest day (though of course, by now we know he’s had several ‘longest days’)
Ever since the first season, I have watched every single episode of 24 when it has aired for the first time on Fox. I have re-arranged study session, put off homework, neglected work-related and familial obligations, all to watch Kiefer Sutherland kick some terrorist ass from week to week. I have been, by turns, breathtakingly amazed and crushingly disappointed by some of the plot developments. Season Two, for example, had Kim Bauer getting trapped in the forest with a cougar, only to be taken hostage by some creepy underground bomb shelter guy, only to be taken hostage by an unstable convenience store robber. On the other hand, Season Four’s first ten episodes, which chronicled a terrorist cell masquerading as the family-next-door had some of the finest, most riveting television ever (Shohreh Aghdashloo’s performance as Dina Araz was particularly moving…and whatever the hell happened to Behrooz anyway? I think the last we saw of him, he was getting his homing chip removed from his neck, forcibly).
Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the show, with the four-hour premiere almost upon us, and without further ado, I present to you five things I think would make Twenty Four better for this upcoming season…call it a “wish-list,” though of course by this point in time, many of the decisions have already been made, though with Twenty Four, you never know. (It should be noted that I have read no spoilers for the upcoming season, so I don’t if they’ve divulged that any of these will/will not happen…):
[SPOILERS FOR “TWENTY FOUR”, SEASONS ONE THROUGH FIVE, TO FOLLOW]
1) Characters We’d Like To See More Of -
Curtis Manning – Curtis is pretty much the only potentially worthy successor to Jack that we’ve seen thus far, yet he’s been relegated to the thankless role of black/minority sidekick. Can we please, please see more of Curtis destroying some terrorists, possibly alongside Jack if the opportunity arises? Thanks.
The Logans – Gregory Itzin’s portrayal of the President you love to hate was something that got me riled up, week after week. Jean Smart also gave a spine-tingling performance as the beleaguered First Lady. I’ll never forget that episode when she basically gave up her body to distract the President while the plan to take him down was executed; I was overcome with a horror I rarely experience while watching TV. Logan may be rotting in some prison by now, but hopefully they’ll find some way to bring him back into the show. The anger he inspires is completely unparalleled.
Morris O’Brian – He was delightful in the short time that he was on-screen for Season Five…and I need some more insight into the psyche of a man that would marry Chloe. Perhaps he can teach patience and endurance to all of us men…
Please also leave out characters and plotlines that have no bearing on the main plotline and exist only to generate false tension. As I type this, I’m giving the evil eye to Chase Edmunds’ baby and Erin Driscoll’s mentally unstable daughter (Did you even remember these characters before I mentioned them just now? Honestly?)
2) Institute a Strict Maximum of ONE Double-Crosser This Season - Nina Myers. Mike Novick. Gael (kind of). The President of the United States. The list goes on and on…double-crossers, whose ulterior motives are introduced midway through the season to the surprise of both viewers and the actors that portray them. It’s in these moments through which the show demonstrates that it does still, indeed, make up the story as it goes along (Seriously, the Nina Myers double-cross makes less and less sense on repeated viewings. If she was really on the terrorists’ side, then what the hell was she doing for all of Season One?! Am I the only one who thinks this?). Capping the number of double-crossers at one would ensure more creativity in generating tension. Necessity is the mother of invention and revealing that someone is a mole gets kind of old and lazy after the 8th time you’ve done it.
3) Let Jack Do His Own Thing – Every single season of Twenty Four has seen Jack Bauer frustrated by the bureaucracy of CTU and the federal government, which he fights so hard to protect. Even Season Five, which started out with Bauer being officially dead, eventually ended up with him getting the keys of CTU handed back to him. For Season Six, let’s please have Jack breaking away and doing his own thing, maybe going rogue and taking out some people that have hindered his efforts in the past, or otherwise flagrantly disobeying orders with no consequences. An unencumbered Jack is a happy, violent, and deadly Jack.
4) Split-Screen Is Good – Remember early on, when almost every episode of Twenty Four had numerous instances of this:
You may not be able to tell from these screencaps, but what I'm trying to demonstrate is that early on, split-screens weren’t just placeholders for the ticking clock, nor were they clumsy transitions (which is what they’ve become); they were exciting ways of driving the action and/or tying the four stories together, simultaneously. Seasons Four and Five had hints of this, but never really exploited it to its full potential. Hopefully Season Six returns the split-screen to its former glory.
5) End The Show – This one is a long shot; it was big news awhile back that Kiefer had signed on for two more seasons, not to mention a movie deal that, while sure to be a blockbuster, would break from the show’s real-time format. But could it all have been a red herring for Kiefer's imminent demise this season? Here's hoping...As much as I love the show, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When the show premiered in 2001, its first episode made the bold move of having an airplane being blown up by an assassin. In the wake of 9/11, executives didn’t even know if the show would last till the end of its first season, let alone go on to become a huge cash cow for the network and spawn countless imitators. While this unexpected success blessed us with five additional years of Jack Bauer, it became obvious how unexpected this was as season after season, writers have tried to draw out the series and to make Jack’s day ever worse and worse.
Early trailers of the new season have teased that Jack will sacrifice his life for his country this season. I can think of no nobler way for Jack Bauer to go out. It would certainly be better than going out by sucking every last drop of revenue from the withered teat of commercial success.
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