Thursday, December 08, 2005

24 Is the Best Show Ever

The past few months, my eyes have been opened to perhaps the greatest television show of all time: 24. Though I have never seen it on television, my friends and I have been watching the DVD's all fall, and I have now watched all of Seasons 1, 2, and 3. Please keep in consideration that I have not yet viewed Season 4, so in any of your comments do not give away anything that happened if you have seen it. In this post, I'd like to talk to you about my favorite storylines and characters, and ultimately the larger cultural commentary that the show provides.

First, let me explain the basic premise of the show. Each season is comprised of twenty-four, one-hour episodes, comprising a one-day period in which the show occurs in real time. Thus, every season functions as the equivalent of an 18 hour movie (if you take out the commercials) when watched back-to-back (like I have). The main character, Jack Bauer, works for a fictitious "Counter Terrorism Unit - Los Angeles" which is a federal law enforcement agency with regional offices, such as Bauer's in LA. Each season deals with a single terrorist threat, which have ranged from an assassination attempt of the President, a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, and the release of a deadly virus.

On to storylines. I'll try not to give anything away here, so I'll speak somewhat generally. I love the fact that in every season, main characters die. Their work is dangerous, and the show would be incredibly unrealistic if they were constantly getting into gun fights, being held hostage, etc., and nobody ever died. Also, not to sound incredibly sadistic, but I think it is sweet that the terrorists are often mildly successful. In both season two and season three, the terrorists are able to blow up a federal building, release a deadly virus in a busy building (killing over a thousand people), and twist the arm of even the President himself. I think this is cool, because it makes the urgency of what the good guys are doing that much greater, because their failures lead to the deaths of at least thousands, and possibly millions. Another recurring storyline that I love is that characters are constantly "switching sides." Again, without giving anything away, every season includes characters who you think are good, being revealed as evil, and characters that you think are evil being revealed as good. As you watch, you never know who to trust, and that makes it that much sweeter.

As for characters, everybody has to love Jack Bauer. First, I have a theory that his name is symbolic of the "right bower" in Euchre. For those of you that don't play Euchre, the Jack of the trump suit is the strongest card, and trumps everything else, and it is called the right bower. Just a thought. But Jack is pretty much the sweetest guy ever. He's formerly special forces, and he is the toughest guy alive. He is able to torture bad guys with no remorse, yet he somehow is incredibly compassionate and caring. He is constantly willing to sacrifice his own life to save others, yet is so good that he always saves his own life as well. Let's be honest, every girl wants Jack, and every guy wants to be Jack. But Jack isn't my favorite character that has appeared on the show. This might give something away, but an IT guy, named Gael, from the third season, is my favorite character, because for most of the season, I totally misjudged him. Without going into detail, while you think he is the most evil guy ever, he ends up being a totally sweet guy. The last dialogue that he is a part of before he dies goes something like this:

(Gael is dying from a horrible disease that eats away at his body. Michelle pulls out her gun and places it on the table...)
Michelle: Nobody could fault you for ending your suffering, in this life.... or the next.

(Gael puts his hand on the gun...)
Gael: Are you so sure about that?
(...and he slides it back across the table)

So, there's so much to talk about with characters and storylines, but I've tried my best to not give anything away, because you guys should all rent this show and watch it, all of it. It is amazing. The show has brought up some cultural commentary however, that I will only pose as questions for now:

1. Are mild forms of torture useful in stopping terrorism? Morally justifiable? (The show seems to answer yes and yes.) (A bigger question might be whether it is strategically counterproductive)

2. How should we deal with terrorists when a threat is imminent? We say we will not negotiate with terrorists, but that position is difficult when there is a nuclear bomb set to go off and kill millions.

3. Can the President really pardon a terrorist in order to stop other terrorists?

4. CTU Agents are always conveniently disregarding privacy laws, and they always seem to have access to private phone numbers, email accounts, etc. Are we ok with this? Is it realistic even?

Please comment with praise of 24, answers to these societal questions, and additional comments about the show.


At 7:41 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

1) Maybe and Yes- a great article on Hollywood and Torture can be found here-

2) I think a blanket rule is going to be extremely hard here. As a rule, I would say negotiation is generally pointless. I don't support bargaining when the stakes are four peaceniks that got kidnapped being somewhere where they shouldn't, and I don't think bargaining will be that useful in a nuke situation either- I would have to think that terrorists would blow it regardless. If they aren't going to follow the rules for combat, why would they follow through in negotiation? I mean the fact that jihadists charge US tanks on donkey carts lends me to thinking that logic doesn't always play a factor...

3) Sure, the President can do anything he wants. This goes double if the terrorist has a connection to Marc Rich...

4) I think this is the everyday application of the McCain torture amendment exception (John McCain on a ticking timebomb situation- “you do what you have to do,”- I, for one, think this exception makes the whole amendment stupid). If illegal wiretaps and the like stop something, then they'll be justified. If not, it's totally illegal.

I was going to write a sweet criticism of "24", but apparently I'm not allowed, so I won't.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

You can criticize if you'd like, but I can't imagine there's any thing bad to say.

I've read that article on NRO, and I've also watched a sweet video on the Battle of Algiers about it, but I still don't have a great answer for the torture question. I'm open to more discussion about it.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

Actually I've never watched it.

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