Last week Fox announced that it was resurrecting its former hit show 24 for a 12 episode limited series to be aired next year. Kiefer Sutherland will be returning as Jack Bauer and Howard Gordon will once again serve as executive producer.
24 and I have a troubled past. I started watching it when season 2 premiered and received the season 1 DVD set that Christmas. From the second season premiere until the series finale in 2010 I watched every episode. In between seasons I would rewatch the entire series from start to finish. This was my ritual every year. 24 was my first real TV obsession.
What I loved about the show was pretty much what everyone else loved about it. It was a high-concept action series with a godlike super hero at its center. It had over the top action, suspense, some melodrama and some political intrigue that was easily accessible for anyone who didn’t want a show bogged down with fictional politics.
On its better days, the supporting cast was great. But Jack Bauer was always who we were tuning in for, obviously. Below the surface, the super agent was also one of network television’s most tragic characters. Saving the world often came at a harsh price. It was when Bauer wrestled with protecting his loved ones and his duty to his government that the show became more than just “popcorn television.”
But eight seasons is a long time. For me, and many others, the series peaked with season 5. From there, we were given three seasons of repetition and repetition and repetition. Plot twists were recycled time and again. Characters were resurrected and tarnished. It became painful to watch as my first TV obsession became the first show I watched crumble and die.
The final season was almost unwatchable. The token CTU mole storyline in season 8 was the worst thing the writers ever did to the show. And I say that knowing there was an episode where Johnny Drama saved Elisha Cuthbert from a cougar after she couldn’t figure out how bear traps work.
Worse than that, the writers killed Jack Bauer. Not literally, but definitely in spirit. Pissed that terrorists (sponsored by the government, sigh…again) killed the woman he loved, Jack goes rogue on the people responsible. Even murdering someone in cold blood for no other reason than to satisfy his blood lust.
This destroyed the character for me. If only because (by the very definition of the show’s concept) the woman whose death he’s avenging was only in his life for literally two days. Combine that with multiple recycled plot lines and a series finale that provided no closure except to set up a movie that was never made, and the final season of 24 almost retroactively ruined the entire series.
So why bring it back? Fox is jumping into “event programming” of limited run series with the hopes that 24 will be the first of multiple short installments in the franchise. It’s honestly not a bad plan. Limited run means no preempted episodes and lower commitment from the viewers. It’s similar to what CBS is doing with Under the Dome.
After the 24 announcement, I was actually pretty angry. The writers did such a piss poor job handling the final season that I truly don’t think they deserve another chance to write for that character or universe. Then they announced that the season will be called “24: Live Another Day” and something just clicked.
My tastes in television have changed dramatically since my life was consumed by the adventures of Jack Bauer. It was my show. I read too much into every small thing that happened (“Oh shit, it’s almost 3am, the last three seasons something big happened at 3am!”). Reading the title “Live Another Day” makes me think of the Bond movies I’ve been watching lately. Making that connection put the entire series into perspective for me.
Despite the depth the show concocted for the Jack Bauer character throughout the series, the show isn’t the premium level dramatic series I so desperately wanted it to be. In truth, it’s a popcorn show that delivers a ton of entertainment when it’s firing on all cylinders. Maybe viewing it that way will make for a better experience.
The anger and annoyance has subsided. I’m actually excited about rewatching the series from the start for the first time in a very long time. It will actually be interesting to watch it on Netflix (despite owning most of the dvds).
The Netflix autoplay feature is a godsend for serialized television viewing. In fact, I feel like 24 missed the boat by about a decade. If it were premiering for the first time now, it could have been a huge asset to Netflix’s original programming lineup. But I wrote enough about that sort of thing last week.
I’m almost excited for the new run of episodes. I’m already intrigued about Fox’s “event programming” as a concept. Even if it is simply an attempt to rebrand the TV miniseries, bringing back 24 is really best fit for that form of storytelling. It means less time for superfluous filler episodes and ridiculously melodramatic plots. It could work very well.
I’m warming up to the idea more and more. it’s starting to feel like I had a friend a long time ago who I parted ways with after he became a bit of a dick. Now some time has passed, he’s coming back to town and wants to catch up. It would be rude of me not to oblige him.
You can buy the 24 Complete Series DVD Set here on Amazon.