Stephen Speicher

24 (2001)

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102 posts in this topic

Don't they still do that?

Yeah, but only for about five minutes. It used to be half an hour or more.

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I did say malevolent component. After all, the bad guys are beaten each season, so it doesn't convey the meaning that all efforts and goodness are futile. I wouldn't watch it if it were like that. And yes, it's unfair to compare 24's treatment of the president's circle to West Wing's. But simply because both depict the presidency, it prompts comparisons across the production spectrum (whereas for example, I don't find myself comparing Deadwood to 24 or West Wing).

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Yeah, but only for about five minutes. It used to be half an hour or more.

I don't see that as a flaw. It's a fictionalized universe, so I don't mind if they take substantial liberties with the layout of Los Angeles.

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I don't see that as a flaw. It's a fictionalized universe, so I don't mind if they take substantial liberties with the layout of Los Angeles.

And incidentally, these same liberties are taken in lots of movies. I recall "The Blues Brothers" (which is admittedly a comedy), there is a scene at the end that shows Belushi and Ackroyd driving off the end of an unfinished bridge in Chicago. That bridge was actually in Milwaukee and I recall when the crew was filming the sequence.

I'm all for accuracy when it comes to locales, but not at the expense of a good story. The creators of 24 never pretended they weren't taking certain liberties with LA, but because the show exists in its own universe, I am OK with it.

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Well I recently finished the second season, and I like the show more now, for what it's worth. It's important to realize what a show is and what it isn't, and given wrong expectations even a worthy show will come across as inadequate. Originally, from the praise of so many Objectivists, I assumed 24 was a lot like Firefly and mainly character/heroism driven; by that I mean, you wait to see what happens to your favorite character, and the show's emphasis is aimed at uncovering more and more of that character's virtuous traits under various circumstances. While 24 is partly that (and appeared to be wholly that in the first 3-4 episodes of season 1), I see it now in a more accurate light -- the show is drama-driven, not character driven, and the main emphasis is placed at creating very dramatic situations, and successful resolutions thereof. There is also a little bit of interest in Bauer's character, and likewise some interest in Palmer's character (I know what's coming). However, neither Season 1 nor 2 were about about the virtues of these men, but about placing these men in very intense situations and observing them struggle through; sometimes the situations would get resolved through their actions, sometimes through actions of others, sometimes through a deus ex machina. The point is about drama, and resolution, with some character development in the background.

Given that, I don't think the show is on the whole malevolent. It requires malevolence in order for the good guys to overcome it, and since it's an intense show it requires some very intense badness happening; but the fact that everything always gets resolved, indicates that any malevolence created by the show's authors is only meant as a target to be eventually struck down. So while this makes for some intense moments in the middle of a season, the relief always comes at the end, when the good guys always end up winning.

P.S. I don't have a problem with Elisha Cuthbert being estranged from her dad in some future season -- whatever the writers have to do in order to keep her on the screen is fine by me!

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P.S. I don't have a problem with Elisha Cuthbert being estranged from her dad in some future season -- whatever the writers have to do in order to keep her on the screen is fine by me!

She sure is a cutie. It's nice to see shapely women back in the spotlight... :)

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She sure is a cutie. It's nice to see shapely women back in the spotlight... :)

The other common thing about 24 is the creators NEVER keep a character around (at least in the later seasons) who has outlived his purpose in the story. I think this is one of the virtues of the show, keeping in mind the premise that it is a plot-driven, and not a character-driven show.

I'm about as big a fan of the show as is humanly possible. I have enjoyed every season, despite some flaws. I don't consider 24 an especially intellectual show, but it does present some ideas in an exciting, life or death manner. On top of all that, the plots keep me glued to my set, and that is a rare treat in today's world.

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SPOILERS (from several seasons):

I like this season, and don't find it any less plausible than many of the other scenarios:

1) virus that can wipe out the whole country (season 3)

2) President behind the nerve gas conspiracy (season 5)

3) Terrorists using a briefcase to melt down every nuclear plant (season 4)

I don't really see why you think this season is more silly.

While I am enjoying the current season, there are some plausibility issues that can't be ignored.

What I can ignore are the plot holes: for example, the guys in the detention center say "5 visitors" [ie, weapons] and are then later discovered to be innocently reading from a webpage. Yet the terrorists to whom they had no connection actually did have 5 nukes and CTU continues to treat the dodgy intelligence as factual even after the guys in the detention center were shown innocent.

... I can ignore all that. I'll raise an eyebrow if Jack crosses town in 5 minutes but will continue watching as happily as before.

What you cannot change is human nature. After Morris had his shoulder drilled by terrorists, Chloe was indignantly asking him to stop feeling sorry for himself and get back to work. After a nuclear bomb has gone off it's like business-as-usual a few episodes later. And the acting has bothered me in some points.

(This is the same reason I am bothered by Lost - the characters don't ask questions when they should, and generally do not behave as you'd expect. I can live with [some] bad plot points but not bad scripting/acting).

24 continues to remain in my top 3 shows. The above issues are only occasional.

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While I am enjoying the current season, there are some plausibility issues that can't be ignored.

After Morris had his shoulder drilled by terrorists, Chloe was indignantly asking him to stop feeling sorry for himself and get back to work. After a nuclear bomb has gone off it's like business-as-usual a few episodes later. And the acting has bothered me in some points.

24 continues to remain in my top 3 shows. The above issues are only occasional.

Well, there are also matters like: nobody ever did a background check on Morris and found out he was an alcoholic? This is the CTU, for God's sake, not a Burger King. And if they're "short" of personnel, how come? They should have had people in place to take on added work during a crisis -- which in their line of work is to be EXPECTED -- and to "spell" people exhausted from emergency overtime, etc. Another complaint from my wife: Joshua Bauer's seems a cypher, who shows no reaction whatever to the horrendous events in his life.

A friend of mine, Marc Cerasini, writes 24-based novels* (his latest is just out this week), and also penned a tour-de-force (hard to find now) that took the form of a supposed Congressional investigation of the events of the first season. He knows the show backwards and forwards, and loved it from the start -- but he isn't happy about a lot of stuff last season and this season.

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A small thing about 24, but one that I found interesting. On TV and in the movies for some time now I always hear phone numbers given with a "555" area code, or in some other way so as not to give out a real phone number. But just this morning while watching a tape of the latest episode (Day 6: 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM, aired on 3/5/07) I noticed that Jack gave out a real phone number to a security man in the Russian embassy. The phone number was 310-597-3781.

Out of curiosity, I called the number and, in addition to some canned message in Spanish, a recorded message said "Nextel phone for 24." I was half expecting a gimmick where I could leave the message the Russian intended to leave (that is, before he was killed). But, still, nice that 24 has a phone number that they used for this purpose.

p.s. Just before posting it occurred to me to search on the phone number, and I see that 24 has used this number before, including once when you could talk directly to the crew!

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p.s. Just before posting it occurred to me to search on the phone number, and I see that 24 has used this number before, including once when you could talk directly to the crew!

This is what folks in the software biz call an "Easter egg." Personally, I think it's a nice touch. Those 24 folks sure care about their fans. :angry:

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My wife and I were watching a Season Two DVD tonight, and were really touched by this exchange:

<<George Mason: Believe it or not, I used to want to be a teacher. A long time ago. You know why I didn't? DOD offered me more money. That's how I made my decision. So I made myself miserable. And I made everybody else around me miserable. For an extra five thousand dollars a year. That was my price.

Michelle Dessler: I'm sorry.

George Mason: You know, Michelle, I'm not a big advice giver, but under the circumstances... Don't wait around for your life to happen to you. Find something that makes you happy, and do it. Because everything else is all just background noise.>>

It's an action show, sure, but these extras are part of what made it great.

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My wife and I were watching a Season Two DVD tonight, and were really touched by this exchange:

<<George Mason: Believe it or not, I used to want to be a teacher. A long time ago. You know why I didn't? DOD offered me more money. That's how I made my decision. So I made myself miserable. And I made everybody else around me miserable. For an extra five thousand dollars a year. That was my price.

Michelle Dessler: I'm sorry.

George Mason: You know, Michelle, I'm not a big advice giver, but under the circumstances... Don't wait around for your life to happen to you. Find something that makes you happy, and do it. Because everything else is all just background noise.>>

It's an action show, sure, but these extras are part of what made it great.

I saw the second season when it aired, and so far, it is the season I've liked the best (I missed the first season, so I'll have to catch it on DVD). As some people have said, it is reminiscent of the old Republic serials; there's a "cliff-hanger" at the end of every episode. I still can't forget the episode where Kim Bauer and her boyfriend are trying to get the little girl out of the city; boy, did that have a zinger of an ending!

Also, there is a subplot in the second season that I would say must have been inspired by the 1949 film noir D.O.A., with Edmond O'Brien. That was a good movie, but the 24 subplot adds more dimension to the D.O.A. plot.

I am watching the current season, but I must say that I am starting to grow a little weary of the show. There don't seem to be as many moral and existential "corners" that the characters get forced into, or maybe they don't seem as weighty. And I've noticed a trend in the show of rarely if ever depicting an entire terrorist-sponsoring state being directly behind terrorist actions; it's almost always "rogues" who are involved. Heaven forbid a t.v. show should depict and glorify a U.S. attack on another country that would eliminate the threat from that country for good, and show all other terrorists and terrorist states that we mean business when we warn them not to attack us!

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[...] must have been inspired by the 1949 film noir D.O.A., with Edmond O'Brien.

Is that (essentially) the same movie by the same name, made much later, with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan?

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[...] must have been inspired by the 1949 film noir D.O.A., with Edmond O'Brien.

Is that (essentially) the same movie by the same name, made much later, with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan?

Yes it is. But even though the remake had better production values, I prefer the original -- it was simpler and starker, without irrelevant complications.

One of the best episodes of THE X-FILES, "SR 819," was also inspired by D.O.A.:

http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp610.htm

Walter Skinner's monologue at the beginning of the XF episode has the same kind of seriousness as George Mason's dialogue in the 24 episode.

Of course, there's no mystery about why Mason is dying. Or is there? The real cause is that he was a coward -- he'd never have been exposed to plutonium if he hadn't been trying to flee LA pn a bogus mission. And yet he redeems himself -- as you know, he dies a hero.

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In my opinion, the first season was the best, followed by the fourth, then the fifth, the third, and the second.

The second had some great scenes and great lines (like all of the seasons do), but it was horribly crippled by the Kim thread (i.e. running from Gary Matheson and the cougar).

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As a longtime fan of 24, season 6 was quite disappointing. I don't expect it to get foreign policy right, but I do expect plots that make sense. This year was chock full of weird tangents and throwaway characters. Even the reliably excellent Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe was given nothing to work with.

I understand this season was wrapping up a number of threads from the previous two (and much better) seasons, but it was executed poorly, in my opinion.

Let's hope season 7 returns the show to its finer previous form.

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As a longtime fan of 24, season 6 was quite disappointing.

It sure was. I am so disgusted that I don't plan to watch next season's series. It was full of many bad ideas - e.g. the injection of anti-nuclear propaganda, designed to associate the use of nuclear weapons with "deranged thinking"; that the terrorists are "stateless"; that it should still be "business as usual" even after they detonate a nuke in Los Angeles; that the Russians would blithely threaten us and threaten to attack a U.S. base and that we should be terrified of that; that both the Russians and Chinese can work against us with impunity but somehow we're automatically powerless against the big bad commies (or sorta-ex-commies ala Putin.) This projection of American weakness extended so far as a direct physical attack on CTU, which of course CTU was essentially powerless against (except to some degree for Jack Bauer - but come on, if it's Jack v. The World and nobody else in America can hack it, it's a lost cause.)

I think that if there's even a next season, it will be its last, and good riddance if this is what they permitted the show to become.

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...It was full of many bad ideas - e.g. the injection of anti-nuclear propaganda, designed to associate the use of nuclear weapons with "deranged thinking"; that the terrorists are "stateless"; that it should still be "business as usual" even after they detonate a nuke in Los Angeles; that the Russians would blithely threaten us and threaten to attack a U.S. base and that we should be terrified of that; that both the Russians and Chinese can work against us with impunity but somehow we're automatically powerless against the big bad commies (or sorta-ex-commies ala Putin.) This projection of American weakness extended so far as a direct physical attack on CTU, which of course CTU was essentially powerless against (except to some degree for Jack Bauer - but come on, if it's Jack v. The World and nobody else in America can hack it, it's a lost cause.)
This is an excellent summation, Phil. Those are exactly the things that annoyed the hell out of me as well. The farce of the Russians rushing (well, they're Rushians, after all) to attack a U.S. installation until and unless the U.S. can catch a Chinese agent with a circuit board shows up a central weakness of the very premise of the show: That it all has to take place in 24 hours. This works fine in the first few seasons, in which the conflict is between agents, essentially tactical, the bad guys following their carefully crafted Diabolical Plan and going after one overarching goal, Jack coordinating the forces of Good to head it off. This doesn't work at the Head of State level: No Russian leader, except maybe Stalin, would risk such an escalation against the United States over something which was so secret. It would raise the liklihood that the reason for their attack would become public and, hence, their vulnerability. If anything, they would have worked with the U.S. agencies to intercept the Chinese outside U.S. territory. The time lock of 24 hours ludicrously compressed actions and reactions that, to have any plausibility whatever, would have taken place over days and probably weeks. Our attack on Iraq took 6 months (admittedly, a significant amount of that was posturing, but that fact, also, is not irrelevant to the discussion). I'm good at suspending disbelief, but this baloney required a winch and a crane.

Your point about Jack's singular competence is also merited. I love the fact that, whatever else is weak in the show, Jack will always come through -- he's one of the few heroes left who hasn't been given a massive failure to render him "believable." But it has become cliche in the recent seasons that he spend more time fighting his own arbitrary, incompetent management and the U.S. Government itself than the acknowledged Bad Guys. That's a confession of weakness by the writers in their inability to create a threatening enough threat that they have to attack the hero from the rear on a regular basis. Used occasionally, this does show his astuteness by contrast, when he is right and they are wrong, but, used frequently, it calls into question the shows entire premise of an elite team skilled in combatting terrorist attacks and the show becomes another 'Dirty Harry,' or 'Death Wish.'

I will start watching next season, but, if the same writers are telling the same sad story, as if taking notes from the Hollywood Left, I, too, will have to abandon it. That would be a shame. Jack is still my favorite hero. But I take no pleasure in watching him being kicked around as punishment for being truly heroic. That is a greater shame.

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That's a good point - the latest series does undercut the entire premise of the show by portraying CTU as almost totally incompetent as an organization.

One particular event struck me as an especially bad example of writing. When the bad guys ask for the head of CTU then shoot Milo - then shortly thereafter, Nadia is identified as the head of CTU but not shot - what was that all about?? Even the bad guys should have some rationale for what they're doing, and that seemed totally disconnected and completely gratuitous, just a sloppy way for the writers to eliminate Milo.

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One particular event struck me as an especially bad example of writing. When the bad guys ask for the head of CTU then shoot Milo - then shortly thereafter, Nadia is identified as the head of CTU but not shot - what was that all about?? Even the bad guys should have some rationale for what they're doing, and that seemed totally disconnected and completely gratuitous, just a sloppy way for the writers to eliminate Milo.
Maybe Eric Balfour (Milo Pressman) asked for a raise, or a top-of-show credit :P.

I agree, that kind of inconsistency was common in this season. I think the writers were just tired and coasting. But this discrepancy is something they could easily have justified, by having a new reason to need the head of the organization... for her security clearance, or as a bargaining chip, or for her voice to communicate to the field to avoid revealing the take-over (I think they did do the latter, but it wasn't a clear connection, with a clear decision to spare her for their purposes -- you know the sequence: Point gun, phone rings, light bulb in head goes on, 'answer that... say everything's fine; say anything about us and you die').

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Jack always whisper-talks and Chloe always looks like she just ate something bad. We need a bit more acting range here, folks! :P

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One particular event struck me as an especially bad example of writing. When the bad guys ask for the head of CTU then shoot Milo - then shortly thereafter, Nadia is identified as the head of CTU but not shot - what was that all about?? Even the bad guys should have some rationale for what they're doing, and that seemed totally disconnected and completely gratuitous, just a sloppy way for the writers to eliminate Milo.
Maybe Eric Balfour (Milo Pressman) asked for a raise, or a top-of-show credit :P.

I agree, that kind of inconsistency was common in this season. I think the writers were just tired and coasting. But this discrepancy is something they could easily have justified, by having a new reason to need the head of the organization... for her security clearance, or as a bargaining chip, or for her voice to communicate to the field to avoid revealing the take-over (I think they did do the latter, but it wasn't a clear connection, with a clear decision to spare her for their purposes -- you know the sequence: Point gun, phone rings, light bulb in head goes on, 'answer that... say everything's fine; say anything about us and you die').

Not only that, but there was practically no emotional impact. Remember how we felt when George Mason or Edgar Stiles died? Nobody felt that way about Milo; his character was never developed enough to make us care about him.

I'm sure it's been addressed somewhere in this thread, but I'll mention it anyway: CTU seems to be the LEAST secure place in L.A.: three attacks so far. And the CTU geeks can call up detailed diagrams of every building in town, but never notice the sewer under their own building?

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The show has now gone through two three-season story archs. From the interviews I've seen and read, big changes are ahead. In an article that Harry Binswanger excerpted, the writers admitted that season 6 "sucked" primarily because they didn't know the conclusion up front, so they couldn't write to it.

I don't need to comment to people here that in good fiction writing, you need to know where you're going BEFORE you get there. The 24 writers have realized this and have plans to map out the next season much more in advance. Let's hope they do.

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The show has now gone through two three-season story archs. From the interviews I've seen and read, big changes are ahead. In an article that Harry Binswanger excerpted, the writers admitted that season 6 "sucked" primarily because they didn't know the conclusion up front, so they couldn't write to it.

I don't need to comment to people here that in good fiction writing, you need to know where you're going BEFORE you get there. The 24 writers have realized this and have plans to map out the next season much more in advance. Let's hope they do.

One thing I don't understand about this is that, to my knowledge, they have never had a full season completely written before starting. I was hearing and reading this back when it first came on. In fact, they characterized this as part of the fun of the show, even from the actor's point of view.

I even have a vague memory of someone connected with the show talking about how this lack of knowledge actually helped capture truer emotion from the actors, as they would have their real emotions toward learning the direction of the story and then have to act while experiencing them. So, for instance, the cast learns that some character is going to die, and they all have personal reactions to that fact, which fueled the acting. In any event, I don't see how this is actually news or why it is now being blamed for the poor quality of this season.

I also completely agree with JJPierce that there was no emotional impact to the show. I felt no connection to any of the new characters, and the old ones were so watered-down (e.g., Chloe) that I didn't feel much for them either. Too bad, but maybe they will learn from this year.

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