A few years ago, Russell recommended a TV show called “24.” I started watching it with him and was hooked almost immediately. It is an extraordinary show, filled with violence and implausibility. Each season tells the story of one 24-hour day, with each episode being one hour of the day, shown in “real time.” The hero, Jack Bauer, is never shown eating, or sleeping, or engaging in other bodily functions that are the bane of lesser mortals. He dispatches teams of terrorists with ease while at the same time uncovering governmental conspiracies and delivering to “moles” and assorted evildoers his own form of rough frontier justice. The show introduces characters and kills them at breakneck speed. Bad guys and innocents alike are seen for the first time, given a name, occasionally tortured for information, and then knocked off in an episode or two.
I discovered that four of my friends at work also watched the show and enjoyed the mindless violence. We decided to create a game called the “24 Death Pool.” It is a bit like a fantasy sports league. Each player drafts a team of 4 characters. Each week, we identify which of the individuals on our teams we believe will be the first character on any team to be killed in that week’s episode. If you correctly pick the first “deader” from among your team members, you get two points. If one of the characters on your team gets killed otherwise, you get another point. Points also are allocated for “plot twists” — although, to my recollection, no one has actually correctly predicted a plot twist. Whoever ends the season with the most points wins.
This sounds silly and bloodthirsty, and it is, but it makes watching the show more fun, and the freewheeling post-episode analysis and commentary by other participants in the Death Pool is even more enjoyable. A few weeks ago I was in Chicago on a Monday night and found myself in a hotel room, cheering wildly when three of the characters on my team were rubbed out in a single episode. Litvak was shot in the head, Samantha Roth was brutally stabbed, and Agent Gedge broke his neck after the First Gentleman — who had been crippled by a paralyzing drug — recovered sufficiently to push Gedge off a balcony. As a result, I’m in the lead this season, although the death rate on the show is such that there is no assurance that any lead is safe. And, we wouldn’t have it any other way.