If you like characters to love and hate, spies, car chases, shoot-outs, vehicles and buildings that go BOOM!, and political intrigue, “24” has got it all.
Recently I did something I’ve never done before because there wasn’t a show good enough and the means to do it wasn’t available.
A little late to the party, and wanting to be caught up for the grand return on May 5, I watched eight seasons of the original “24” back-to-back, as soon as I could, online. It works out to approximately 128 hours of viewing time. I wasn’t just caught up in it; I was saturated.
People mentioned the character, Jack Bauer, in conversation and on Facebook posts over the years. I became familiar with the reference just to be somewhat in the loop, but I’d never watched the show. It just wasn’t on at a good time for me so I passed.
Maybe you liked “Mission Impossible” with its scenes of wiring stuff to explode in the dark of night or the one-season 1972-73 show called “Search,” which was way ahead of its time in the use of computers for spying.
“24” is like those-on steroids.
The plots are about major incidents of pending or launched terrorist activity in America. The show is skillfully written, with plots and twists that keep eyes and ears glued to the action. Love or hate them, the plot turns help us to understand the characters, offering a glimpse into their behavior and why they turned away from or turned back to goodness. The people of the fictional “Counter Terrorism Unit” are put in action to catch the bad guys, with a little help from the FBI, NSA and CIA at times, with access to the president.
Presidents come and go as often as people who work in fast-food restaurants. There’s always a believable reason for the president’s term to end. Oh no–no spoilers here.
David Palmer, (Dennis Haysbert) a black president long before the real thing, is my favorite, followed by Allyson Taylor (Cherry Jones)-yes, a woman president-while Charles Logan (played excellently by Gregory Itzin) fakes ineptness and innocence to cover the devious behavior. He reminds me a little Richard Nixon in mannerisms.
Villainous women who stand out include Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke ), an emerging whacko who evidently had an affair with Jack while he was separated from his wife; and Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald), prove once again the old adage, “pretty is as pretty does.” These two are wicked, ugly at their cores.
Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) seem an unlikely pair. Tony is a dark and brooding spy guy, good at his job and willing to be in Jack’s shadow as the competent and loyal sidekick, while Michelle is quiet, focused and intelligent of a higher caliber that belies her youthful face.
How anyone has time for romance at CTU isn’t explored in detail, but it’s included. One of Jack’s ladies, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), is separated from her husband at first so it’s allegedly okay that they find time for a fling. Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) is somewhat believable as a love interest in her vulnerable yet gentle characterization but, alas, it doesn’t last.
There’s no gratuitous sex in the show, which is very refreshing. A couple of passing characters are obviously in the sex business, and the depiction of the reason that they are is made clear yet not overtly. I’m really into “24” for the spies and plots and prefer that intimate sexual behavior is left to my imagination.
The CTU staff characters seem like regular people, going to work each day, just doing their jobs on an unusually long shift because it’s national crisis time. They don’t eat, sleep or visit the bathroom, unless they do so during one of the 4-minute commercial breaks. Each episode is on the clock for one hour.
The CTU office has its share of “moles”-employees who have a hidden agenda against CTU and/or the American government-yet they manage to get through security clearance and inside. The way they try to shift the gears to derail the brains that are CTU is interesting to watch. I often wonder at how the writers form their ideas.
Most interesting to me are Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub). No matter what’s going on, they are friends. There is no hint of sexual or romantic attraction between them. He trusts her, she trusts him. They work together well and have mutual respect for each other. Chloe is a little like Radar in M*A*S*H-she knows what Jack needs before he has to mention it and delivers just in time. She also provides a bit of comic relief with her unique personality and comments. At one point, Tony is telling her to do something critically important as the brains behind all communications. She offers a wise-off comment to which he replies he could do without having to deal with her personality disorder at the moment.
Jack Bauer, of course, is the lead character, appearing in every episode. He’s comfortable as a spy guy, doesn’t mind hurting people physically to make the bad guys give up important information, yet he has a soft side that isn’t mushy or patronizing. It’s believable that his tender moments are genuine and really part of him, even if he doesn’t get to demonstrate them often. When girlfriend Audrey sees him use electric shock on her estranged husband, who’s a legitimate suspect in some dangerous plot against America, she must question and agonize over the relationship with Jack. She has known his kind side as a lover but sees a dangerous harshness she can’t ignore. It rattles her and changes their relationship.
If you appreciate the juxtaposition of main characters who are experts at their jobs but their personal lives are a mess, Jack Bauer is worth watching. His personal life is mostly nonexistent, as if he’s the one trying to hide as effectively as the bad guys he chases.
If you want to see the good guys win, when it seems the bad guys are closer to winning, while exploring the ethics of a world gone crazy, tune in.
Can the president allow Jack to be captured or killed by another country in the name of national security? Can CTU give into a terrorist demand and deliver the dead body of the director in order to prevent the deaths of millions of people?
I finished watching all of the seasons of “24” in such a short time, and allowed a couple of days of withdrawal and processing all that I’d seen, I sought videos of the real actors. I particularly needed to see what they are like in real life, real time. I needed to see if Kiefer is different from the often intense and chilling Jack and I was relieved to learn it is so. Kiefer’s parents deserve some credit for raising a polite, intelligent, gentle, witty, talented son. There seems to be a touch of Kiefer in Jack; is there a touch of Jack in Kiefer? Hmm…maybe just a pinch.
But “24” has been off the air for four years, you say? “I’m already on it,” Chloe might retort.
“24: Live Another Day” debuts an all new season on May 5 on Fox. I promise you, you don’t want to miss it (as Jack might say). A recent promotional video says you don’t need to know the past seasons to enjoy the newest episodes. But you might want to watch all of them anyway.
As for Kiefer, if I was a little younger…thinner…and unmarried, I might-oh, wait…Hey! I’m married, not dead.