Thursday, 5 December 2013

TV Shows #4 - Part 1

24 (2001 - 2010)
Created By: Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Elisha Cuthbert, Dennis Haysbert, James Morrison, Reiko Aylesworth, Kim Raver, D. B. Woodside, Penny Johnson Jerald, Roger Cross, Gregory Itzin, Cherry Jones, Jude Ciccolella, Louis Lombardi, Xander Berkeley, Annie Wersching, Sarah Clarke, Glenn Morshower

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "I'm federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life."

In the last post for this feature I took a look at a superb example of the kind of TV show I don't like; a kind which was prevalent around that time and which came close to causing me to swear off TV altogether. Even if you like(d) the type of show in question though, few could praise their quality or production values which were generally very… TV like. Only to be expected I suppose - the gap between the worlds of the small screen and silver screen were vast then, and it was always very obvious which you were watching. Just as all hope seemed lost, however, the turn of the century apparently brought with it a change in tide when an ambitious new show called 24 arrived.

It was no ordinary show either – its cast included Kiefer Sutherland, an actual movie star, and it packed a budget to rival a Hollywood blockbuster. Not only that but it also did the impressive job of taking a tired, generic genre - that of a heroic government agent/agency thwarting a terrorist plot - and putting an entirely fresh spin on it. The concept was simple: each season has twenty-four one-hour episodes (including advert breaks); each episode represents an hour of the same particular day - for example, the first episode may run from midday to 1pm on the show's clock, the next episode would run from 1pm to 2pm, etc, until by the end of the season an entire day had been covered, and an extremely eventful day too!

Hi, I'm Jack and I like hurting people. Grrrr!
It's quick and easy to explain but must've been an enormous pain in the backside to make! Keeping all the story threads tied together would be difficult enough but the timing of everything, especially during exterior scenes where the natural lighting would have to be relevant to the time of day, would need to be intricately planned and executed as well... jeez, rather them than me! It was executed well though, amazingly well, and the result was one of the most action-packed, even chaotic at times, TV shows to have ever seen the light of day. On top of all that, the acting and production values were consistently of movie standards as well. It's therefore safe to say that 24 was a pretty large-scale production but, crucially, thanks to sterling work from all involved, it worked superbly and was justifiably a huge success - a success that eventually led to eight seasons (and a TV movie).

Although Kiefer Sutherland was undoubtedly the star as Jack Bauer, a field-operative working for CTU - Counter Terrorist Unit, a (fictional) government agency answering to Homeland Security, the show was undoubtedly an ensemble affair with many characters appearing in multiple seasons. Favourites include Mary Lynn Rajskub as perpetually annoyed analyst Chloe O'Brian, Dennis Haysbert as Senator/President David Palmer, Carlos Bernard as loyal CTU dude Tony Almeida, James Morrison as my favourite of the CTU bosses Bill Buchanan, Glenn Morshower as US Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce, and Jude Ciccolella as Mike Novick, advisor and Chief of Staff to more than one White House administration. There have been a few recurring villains too, including the superb Gregory Itzin as cowardly President, Charles Logan, and Sarah Clarke as CTU agent-turned-terrorist, Nina Meyers, as well as tonnes of stand-out characters/actors only appearing in one season or a handful of episodes.

Oh hey, I'm Chloe. I'm sarcastic and I hate everyone...
For a while now I've been watching the show through for the second time (despite the protests of my wife who can't stand the sight of Kiefer Sutherland's face) and, even though I found each and every season fantastically entertaining the first time around, I had often forgotten many of the plot twists, some of the minor characters, and even some of the villains from the earlier seasons when watching for the second time. This is by no means an indictment of a poor show, merely one that had been running for many years and had managed to cram so much into its sizeable running time. It also means I once again got an enormous amount of enjoyment out of the constantly-gripping stories, with more than one thread often running simultaneously. That said, it was slightly strange going back to the first season after finishing the eighth - the events of the show, from first season to last, take place over more than 14 on-screen years after all!

Some of the characters die over the course of the show, naturally, and a few even just disappear, never to be heard from again, but some of them go on remarkable personal journeys and end up dramatically different to how we first met them, none more so than Mr. Bauer himself. We first meet him at home in the evening where he just seems like a normal guy – he's just gotten back together with his estranged wife and is enjoying spending time with her and their teenage daughter, Kim. This is pretty much the only time we see him under 'normal' circumstances though, and all the shit he goes through over the subsequent years is amazing.

I'm David Palmer and I'm nicer than any real President...
In fact, it was my good friend Luke who introduced to me the show to begin with - ironic considering he stopped watching it himself after the first couple of seasons due to what he perceived to be a lack of realism, particularly with regard to Jack's continued existence. He may be right about that I guess - there probably aren't many people around, government agents or not, who could endure half of what Jack does without ending up dead via one means or another, but he has had pretty much everything possible done to him except being killed. Besides, if he bought the big one the first time out it wouldn't make for a very entertaining show, would it? You can't keep replacing the lead character every five minutes after all (unless your name is George R. R. Martin, but that's a different story) - you wouldn't really care if they succeeded or not then! Plus, aside from Jack's longevity, 24 is one of the most realistic shows I've seen (or at least, realistic seeming - I guess I'm not really privy to the innermost workings of US governmental agencies and all that stuff).

Still, whether you find it realistic or not, I would be really surprised to find anyone who genuinely didn't think 24 was a blindingly awesome show from start to finish. Whilst primarily action/thriller based, it really does cover a lot of other ground as well so fans of most genres are catered for to some degree (well, maybe not musicals). I've certainly enjoyed watching the show again anyway! I was actually intending to take a look at the first few seasons in this post but I've been rambling on a bit now so... look out for 'Part 2' of the feature soon where I will have a look at them!

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