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.
What do you think about Fox resurrecting the series? How do you feel about the change in format? Leave me a comment and, as always, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like the blog on Facebook.
I am a big 24 fan. I disagree with you that the later seasons were awful. Season 6 was the weakest season of the series. However, season 7 and 8 did have their moments. I don’t agree that season 8 was unwatchable. It started out slow, however the final 10 episodes were pretty solid. Jack killing all those people at the end of the series did not ruin his character. It was what the entire series had been building up to. He finally snapped. It was about everything that had happened to him. He lost every moment of happiness he ever had. His wife was murdered, and the two people he fell in love with later on ended up in a coma or dead. He sacrificed everything to stop multiple terrorists threats and saved countless lives, and yet how was he repaid? The government abandoned him, treated him as a traitor, and refused to believe him whenever there was some new threat. At the end of season 8, the government was willing to look the other way rather than finally do the right thing, as they had done in almost every season prior. It wasn’t all about the death of the woman he loved and avenging her. It was a combination of everything that had happened to him up until that point. Even then he wasn’t a complete monster as Chloe was able to talk him down and convince him not to assassinate the Russian president. Maybe you’ll change your view if you re-watch the series. I’ve found that the later seasons are also much better when you watch them over the course of a few weeks.
I am personally looking forward to Live Another Day. I hope with the 12 episode format they can focus entirely on Jack and abandon all of the filler content. The story lines about the people from CTU and Kim were always the weakest aspect of the series. 24 has always been a great popcorn action/thriller. However, the character of Jack Bauer is what elevates the series for me. The character and Kiefer Sutherland’s performance is what adds depth to 24 and really makes it great, at least in my opinion anyway.
I am extremely eager to rewatch the series now. I am sure I won’t find season 8 as horrible as my memory views it. But I doubt I’ll think it’s good television. My biggest issue with the season wasn’t even Jack, necessarily. It was mostly Katee Sackhoff’s really boring mole storyline. The last straw was her helping her old boyfriend break into the police evidence warehouse where the show tried to force drama. My clearest memory of season 8 is laughing at the absurdity of the ex-boyfriend’s accomplice faux-threatening him with a water gun. I didn’t care about these characters. I didn’t care about the situation. I barely cared about the season.
Having said that, I totally get what they were doing with Jack. I know it was an amalgamation of the entire series’ worth of tragedy that led to Jack finally snapping. I won’t argue that at all. I just don’t get why they expected us to go along with it when the one that finally got him to snap was the death of a woman he knew two days. His wife died. His girlfriend was basically killed. The people closest to him died, hated him or went crazy. Why should her death make him go into crazy vigilante mode? Why not Teri’s, Palmer’s, Tony’s (well, you know), Michelle’s, Bill’s or any other death cause him to break?
It just seemed way too convenient for me. It took me out of a season that already took me out of enjoying the series.
I agree about Katee Sackhoff’s storyline in season 8. That was pretty bad. I’m hoping with Live Another Day only being 12 episodes that they can skip all the pointless filler and focus entirely on Jack. The filler content was always the weakest aspect of 24 and something that began to drag the show down as it went on.
In regard to Jack, you can’t apply logic as to why he finally snapped. He was mentally unstable for multiple seasons and Renee being murdered was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I always interpreted his explosive anger as coming from being denied happiness over and over again. You can really feel his frustration. Every time he walks away and finds happiness with someone, it is basically yanked away from him violently. Anybody would go crazy having experienced everything that he went through. If I was Jack, I probably would have just given up by that point and shot myself. Again, there is no logic to it because you can’t apply logic to an unstable mental state. And again, it wasn’t just Renee dying. It was the fact that the government and the president once again screwed him after all he had sacrificed. It was what his entire character arc for the entire series had been leading up to. Also, he had broken multiple times before. We did see him contemplating suicide at the end of season 6 because of what happened to Audrey. Season 8 just marked the tipping point of all that had happened to him. Loosing her just marked the point where he couldn’t take it anymore.
I agree, 12 episodes will suit the series very well.
Like I said, I really hope my opinion on his mental break changes when I rewatch it. It just left a sour taste in my mouth. Knowing it was the final season, I wish they would have killed off Kim to give his breakdown more of an impact.
Also, I’m a little fuzzy on the end of season 6, but if you’re referring to the last shot, I don’t think he was contemplating suicide. I think he was just lost. I did like that throughout all of season 6, he was trying to sacrifice himself but it never worked out. Thinking about it really makes me anxious to rewatch it.