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January 28, 2004


24: Like Christians in Rome +

2424, the show we love to hate and hate to love, has been rewarding our bloodlust with zeal lately, sacrificing one character after another for no reason other than to titillate those of us in the audience. I say, Keep up the good work!

24 won the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Series the other night. I have no idea why. 24 is a lot of things, but if it's the best show on television, we've got problems. The plots rely on manufactured coincidences and implausabilities, the dialogue is often teeth-grittingly bad, and each episode drags on sometimes like you're sitting there just watching the little orange clock tick for an hour. But I guess the Hollywood Foreign Press and America still find something compelling about the show: maybe because it's so over the top, Kiefer is so great, and because the basic conceit of it -- telling a story in 60 minutes of real-time, and a full-day over the course of the season -- is just innately tantalizing.

24 invented the genre of the action soap-opera...maudlin portrayals of human relationships interspersed with gun battles and helicopter chases. If the show has any subtext at all anymore, it's that the torture and physical beatings the characters go through every week are metaphors for the emotional pain inflicted on them by the other characters on the show. Jack gets Chase hung up by his thumbs and beaten nearly to death, but Jack is also angry at Chase for dating his daughter. Nina ties Jack to the chair and threatens to kill him. She's already killed him emotionally. It's just a matter of time before Kimmy, the perennial damsel in distress, finds herself out of the cozy confines of CTU headquarters, and at the mercy of Nina in the same way she was when Nina killed her mom a couple of years ago.

So the last two weeks have seen the deaths of two fairly major characters who happened to be in love with each other, at least in the way people are in love on 24. In this way, the two episodes presented a kind of 24-ified version of Romeo and Juliet, a star-crossed love that was doomed from the beginning -- one family immersed in the drug world, another simpler family drawn into that world for love. Even with these omens, their doom was hastened by Kiefer's attempting to rescue a woman who, deep down, maybe didn't want to be rescued.

Like Shakespeare, 24 isn't afraid to kill off important characters midway through the story, but unlike Shakespeare, only rarely do the deaths feel called for. More often, people die because of seemingly arbitrary decisions made by the show's writers and producers. Death on 24 is a sport, a spectacle, a tease, like the writers are sacrificing their creations on the altar of ratings and shock value. But we'll take what we can get. Since no other show is willing to take the chances that 24 does, even if those chances are merely meant to manipulate and shock us, we'll go along with it and keep watching, even if we're not exactly sure why. -ADM

This hasn't been the strongest season of 24 so far, it's true. But last night's return of the villainesses was our reward for slogging through that goddamn Chloe's baby plot and every single moment that Chapelle is on screen. Lady MacPalmer has returned, and keeps calling everyone "sweetie," which is I guess what overtly evil people do on this show. She also sports those super-long, below-the-eyebrows bangs, the same ones that Kim has this year. Will they engage in a vicious hair-pulling hand-to-hand gunfight by the end of the season? I hope so.

Nina's return has been less spectacular and violent than I might have hoped, though getting to watch her engage in evil tongue-kissing with Kiefer is a thrill, and apparently it gives her the ability to see through his "I've left CTU" lies. Nina, if you want to know if he's gone renegade, or at least if he wants to have another illicit and life-threatening affair with you, it's in his kiss.

I like ADM's ideas about the show's subtext, but the subtext I see is all about the ambiguous nature of truth, which we're all experiencing in the real world these days too. Kiefer presents a fake truth to Nina, who sees through it, and understands the real truth of his plan to double-cross the Salazars. Palmer thinks he can stand up to political threats by himself, but Lady MacPalmer understands that underhanded, devious blackmail works better. Kim thinks she knows that her dad won't be able to control his revenge-lust to work constructively with Nina, while Tony understands the real truth that Kiefer will do whatever it takes to do his job. Even if that means making out with the sexiest character on the show. -Amy

categories: TV
posted by adm at 12:21 PM | #