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24 Day 4 - and thoughts on future days

When 24 premiered ... was it really four years ago? (ack) ... I was glued to the TV every week, especially during the first twelve hours. I even ordered the DVD box set, which came out in the US weeks before the series finished its run here, so I could avoid the ending being spoiled.

But the show declined in quality over the years, and never more so than in the season that recently concluded. Frankly, 24 got stuck in a rut and it's been a long time since I paid more than half attention to it. The acting has always been good, but I stopped caring about the characters.

The show now relies too much on the invulnerable Jack Bauer (the last time I was concerned about Jack's safety was in season two). It depends on unlikely contrivances and learned the same wrong lesson that The Practice did - twists over tension. And it's saddled by the perceived need to get bigger and bigger every year. So we're continually subjected to the same events and situations - though the stakeouts are quicker, the chases faster, the torture more extreme and the ticking clocks on shorter fuses.

Sadly - because Kiefer Sutherland is very good - it's Jack Bauer who's at the root of the most damaging problems. The tension is short-circuited because you know Bauer is going to survive anything the bad guys throw at him. And even the moral dilemnas aren't as interesting because you know he's going to do whatever it takes to save the day.

So, for what it's worth, some suggestions on future seasons (there'll be at least two more):

  • Get out of LA. I hate to think how much LA property prices have dived in the last four years because every terrorist plot is centred on that city.
  • Pull back the flash and sizzle and tell a smaller scale story with a single antagonist and a single arc. Season 4's "mini arc" format was needlessly disorienting to the point of being annoying and silly.
  • Dump CTU and a terrorist threat. That enemy, while still topical, is dramatically played out. Substitute something else. The Da Vinci Code demonstrates you don't need super villains to tell a gripping thriller.
  • Fewer twists. More tension. And if there are twists, set them up so that they're impossible to predict but inevitable in hindsight. Not like Nina Meyers in season one in other words.
  • And most significantly: Kill Jack Bauer. Introduce a small ensemble of stars (so you don't know who's going to make it to the end) and kill Jack early in day 5 for shock value, then shake things up. Bring back fresh blood and uncertainty.

Comments (1)

I agree completely.

I still believe a 24 version of The Fugitive would be the best way to go now.

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