Wading Into A New Death Pool

Thomas Wolfe famously observed that “you can’t go home again.”  His saying seeks to convey the wistful notion that things that you once enjoyed, years ago, can never be fully recaptured and will never have the same magic again.

That may well be true — in the abstract.  But I’m guessing old Tom wasn’t a 24 fan.  If he was, he would have agreed that you should at least try to go home again — in the sense of giving a shot to a new series that seeks to recapture the most over-the-top, terrorist-frenzied, mole-addled, conspiracy within a conspiracy within a conspiracy TV show ever broadcast.

So when our group of 24 diehards heard there was going to be a 24 reboot called 24 Legacy we couldn’t resist the idea of resurrecting the 24 Death Pool.  Sure, it won’t have blood-soaked, torture-happy Jack Bauer at the helm — the new hero is a tough dude named Eric Carter — but we’re hoping it will have the same awesome, jaw-dropping body count, the same mayhem, the same blood and gore and maniacal focus on catching terrorists bent on destroying the country and ferreting out every scheming conspirator seeking to install a new regime even while everything happens within one no-bathroom-break 24-hour period!  (Whew!)

So tomorrow we’ll be having a beer at a local tavern, peering at the cast of characters and trying to decide who is most likely to get knocked off in the first episode, which airs immediately after the Super Bowl.  Will it be a security guard?  An innocent bystander?  A hardass CTI agent who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Who cares?  We say:  let the bloodbath begin!

Will 24 Live Another Season?

24 Live Another Day wrapped up Monday night.  It was a pretty good season in my view — I also happily ended up tied for first in our 24 Death Pool at work — and now the question is whether Jack Bauer will be back for another season.

(Spoiler alert!)  The writers and producers of 24 have a love-hate relationship with Jack Bauer.  They love to let him kill bad guys, but they put him through hell.  Over the years, Jack has lost countless family members, friends, romantic interests, and supporters to death or estrangement.  At one point in the finale, Chloe O’Brian aptly remarks that she’s just about the last friend Jack has.  This season continued that trend — Jack’s former lover, Audrey, is killed by an assassin and her father, President Heller, one of the few people in the U.S. government who doesn’t view Jack as a rogue quasi-terrorist, has rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s and will soon forget all about him.  After Jack hears about Audrey, he pulls out a revolver and briefly considers suicide; fortunately, he decides instead to use it to kill dozens of bad guys before beheading this year’s uber-villain.

This year’s season shows that 24 still has legs.  The ratings have been solid if not spectacular, and the plot line was action-packed and appropriately pushed the envelope on the plot twist believability scale without venturing into the absurdly incredible developments of past seasons, when cougars roamed the wilds of southern California and a nuclear bomb detonated over the Mojave Desert.  Chloe continued to explore new technological frontiers, this year being able to turn a small satellite dish antenna into a device that could detect the heat signatures of every human on a ship, display them in a nifty color graphic, and direct Jack on where and when to shoot them.  True 24 fans watch the show as much to chuckle at Chloe’s technological awesomeness as to watch Jack knock out, hoodwink, and cold-bloodedly murder scores of terrorists and henchmen.

The season’s storyline ended well-positioned for another season, if the network and creative team want to do it.  Jack trades himself to the Russians to free Chloe and ends up in a helicopter, bound for Moscow and the gentle ministrations of Russians who was revenge for Jack’s past actions.  A new season of the show therefore could go just about anywhere.  If they make it, I’ll watch it.  

24 And Obamacare

You never know how a TV show might affect American politics.  The West Wing and House of Cards often have given people a different perspective on pending national issues, and 24 has helped to keep terrorism front and center in the national zeitgeist.

But now 24 may have a new impact . . . on Obamacare.  Everyone knows that Great Britain has the National Health Service, and Republican critics say that’s where Obamacare will lead us — to a single-payer system where the government employs the doctors, pays for all care, and decides how long you have to wait to get that knee replacement.  According to the Republicans, it’s just unacceptable.

But last night, the British National Health System was shown off to good effect on 24.  A terrorist is hit by a bus.  She’s quickly treated by an EMS crew and efficiently taken to the nearest hospital.  When she arrives she’s whisked into the ER room and treated by a team of doctors and nurses in crisp uniforms.  The hospital is spotless.  Not only are there no crowds, the place seems almost deserted, and the warm and caring health care providers have plenty of time to devote to each patient.

Socialized medicine was looking pretty good there for a while – at least until an obviously threatening guy was able to steal a uniform from a room full of them and wander through the hallways with a loaded gun, until the head doctor of the trauma team was willing to give up his patient because some unknown whispering American got in his face about it, and until the threatening guy was gunned down in a hospital hallway.  Thank goodness the desperate crowds waiting for care that the Republicans have talked about weren’t there, or some innocent waiting for their procedure could have been hurt!

Next week, I’m expecting 24 to show a Desert Storm veteran getting immediate and excellent care at a VA hospital.

On 24, It’s All About Family

Most people think of 24 as an action show on steroids.   Poor, misguided wretches!  They obviously have missed the deeper subtext of this gripping drama about Jack Bauer — which is that 24 is all about family, and the deep emotional ties that bind us together.

Consider last night’s episode, for example.  A mother and a daughter are enjoying a conversation in the kitchen of their London, England flat.  The mother puts a kettle on the burner so that she and her daughter can enjoy some tea and conversation.  What a warm, moving family scene!  The mother learns some disappointing news about the daughter’s husband and decides to talk to him about it — because on 24, the families know that you need to talk about your problems and issues.  Unfortunately, the husband won’t change his mind, so the mother has to order her henchmen to — lovingly — chop off one of her daughter’s fingers using a chisel and hammer.  The husband then demonstrates his love for his wife and honors his elders by thoughtfully agreeing to his mother-in-law’s request.

This continues a long-standing theme on 24.  Jack Bauer has always been motivated by family, whether it’s to save his wife from peril (unfortunately, she is nevertheless murdered) or to save his daughter from peril (as she is chased by a mountain lion in the wilds of southern California, for example) or to help his errant brother return to the path of righteousness (by smothering him in a sheet of plastic and torturing him).  Other characters, too, must deal with the pain of loss as their spouses and friends are gassed, poisoned, shot, and killed by rampaging terrorists.  Even the President of the United States must wrestle with the family issues caused by having a wife who is exposed as a cold-blooded, homicidal maniac.

Of course, some might say that 24 really isn’t about family at all, and instead just uses family characters and situations to create drama and promote mayhem.  Ha!  If you read the news these days, who’s to say what’s more realistic — a huggy, simpering melodrama on the Hallmark Channel, or the blood-spattered family carnage on 24?

The Death Pool Lives Again

In a few short minutes, the new season of 24 will begin.  We celebrated today by reviving the 24 Death Pool.

This year we decided to start the pool without watching even a single episode of the show, or even knowing anything about the characters.  We got the list of the characters from the wikipedia and imdb websites and know only their names.  We don’t have any idea whether those websites even know what they are talking about when it comes to characters.  But, because it’s 24, we know that deaths will occur — inevitably and in droves.  Along with mayhem, torture, conspiracies, moles, Jack Bauer screaming, evil and clueless Presidents, and the failure of American intelligence agencies to maintain a “hard perimeter.”

When you don’t know anything about the characters you are drafting as likely future corpses, you can only fall back on tried and true 24 plotlines.  It therefore is not surprising that the first three people drafted were identified as “Agent” X, Y and Z.  If 24 teaches us anything, it’s that otherwise nondescript “agents” are as likely to be promptly knocked off as the red-shirted security guys on the original Star Trek.  Because I drafted last, all the “agents” were gone when I made my selection — so I chose “Pete,” a member of a hacking group.  I’m speculating that we know his name only because another character yells “Pete, look out!” before a bomb goes off and “Pete” is blown to kingdom come.

I’m ready, baby!  Bring on the deaths!

5/5 24

One of the few notable things about the lopsided Super Bowl was the debut of the trailer for the new season of 24, which explodes onto the airwaves on May 5, 2014.

The new season of 24 will be set in London, where a fugitive Jack Bauer hooks up with Chloe O’Brian to try to foil another dastardly terrorist plot. From the all-too-brief brief trailer, we know two things we knew already: no mere explosion can have an impact on Jack Bauer, even if it knocks Chloe O’Brian senseless, and Jack will somehow be armed and ready to scream and fire off shots at any time and anywhere, even in England where private ownership of handguns is forbidden.

I’ve already sent around the email seeking to reinstitute the 24 Death Pool and have received enthusiastic responses. True fans of the show understand that, if CTU still exists, its agents will die by the score, harbor a mole, and be unable to establish a “hard perimeter,” that hapless Brits will be shot, poisoned, gassed, disemboweled, blown up, and tortured simply by virtue of being in the proximity of a whispering Jack Bauer, and that Jack is unlikely to stop for a pint of bitter or a trip to the loo during his frantic 24-hour quest to stop the terrorists. Bring it on!

When Jack Comes Back . . . .

When we last saw Jack Bauer, he was walking into the sunset as a deeply moved Chloe O’Brian watched with a tender smile.  Now Fox has announced that Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer and 24 will be back, for a miniseries starting next year.

What has happened to Jack, and what kind of perils will he be confronting when he returns to the small screen?  Beats me, but here are some ideas:

*  Haunted by the fact that he murdered Chappelle in cold blood at the instruction of former President David Palmer, Jack has sworn off violence and become a French pastry chef.  But when Tony Almeida is ruthlessly gunned down while buying a baguette at Jack’s bakery, Jack must spring into action to avenge the death of his old comrade.

*  Haunted by disturbing nightmares of being chased by several forever-comatose ex-presidents and Charles Logan with the arms of the Hulk, Jack has been become a fitness instructor.  His clients love him for the results he achieves, even though he motivates them to exercise through random acts of torture.  But when his loyal client, the National Security Advisor who happens to be David Palmer’s half-sister, is seized by French terrorists seeking to restore the Holy Roman Empire, Jack must once again shoulder the Jack Pack to battle the forces of evil.

*  Haunted by the fact that he failed to detect the presence of countless moles at CTU, Jack has become a real-life mole exterminator.  But when his excavations to knock off the furry critters infesting a large California estate uncovers nuclear devices, fatal gas canisters, and biomedical weapons planted at the estate in advance of a presidential fundraising visit, Jack is sucked into a high-energy race against time to foil the plotting of former President turned terrorist Allison Taylor.

*  Haunted by the fact that he never answered the call of nature or ate any food for days at a time, Jack has spent the last two years in the bathroom eating fried chicken and whispering inaudibly.  But when a sobbing President Chloe O’Brian calls to tell Jack that her two children have been kidnapped by her ersatz nanny, in reality an agent of the North Korean government, Jack must set down the drumstick to help his old friend and fend off an invasion led by his estranged daughter, who has been brainwashed by the North Korean state.

Well, you get the idea.

The Return Of 24?

Could we soon see the return of Jack Bauer, Chloe, implausible coincidences, and the deaths of scores of nameless, faceless innocents?

Fox apparently is in talks with Kiefer Sutherland to bring back 24, the rock ’em, sock ’em, “real time” drama about superman Jack Bauer, super-helper Chloe O’Brian, soulful Tony Almeida, and the otherwise horribly inept counter-terrorism team at CTU.  They’ve fought foreign and domestic terrorists, dealt with gas attacks and nuclear blasts, and watched as co-workers were knocked off, exposed as moles, or shown to be craven blowhards.  They’ve experienced countless plot twists, broken every constitutional right afforded to American citizens, and applauded as Jack Bauer has used torture to wring confessions from appalling evildoers (including his brother).

Sutherland’s current series, Touch, was not renewed.  It was a show with an interesting premise, but this season it became a lot more like 24, as Sutherland’s character and his son and their allies fought an ultra-powerful corporation that was using human subjects to advance its evil corporate agenda.  So why not just bring back Jack Bauer in full, give him his PDA and his Jack Pack and his pistol, and let the death pool begin anew?

The 24 Movie

When a popular TV show ends, it’s not unusual for fans to be promised that a movie will be forthcoming.  Sometimes it happens (think Star Trek, for example) but often it doesn’t.  Deadwood fans were told movies would happen, but they haven’t.  (More’s the pity!)

It’s looking more and more like 24 will actually make it to the big screen.  Kiefer Sutherland — excuse me, I mean Jack Bauersaid this past weekend that the movie will begin filming this spring.  He added that the movie will pick up about six months after the end of the series and, like the TV show, will follow the characters during one 24-hour period.  The plot will involve the scowling, cranky, indomitable Chloe O’Brian, ace computer hacker and one of the most original TV characters ever.

There’s always trepidation when a favorite TV show gets the movie treatment.  Sometimes the gist of a TV show gets lost between the small screen and the big screen.  Twin Peaks was (for the most part) a great TV show; the movie wasn’t.

Let’s hope that the 24 movie is able to capture the frantic pace, the constant conspiratorial twists, and the rapidly mounting death toll that made the TV show so enjoyable.  And who knows?  Maybe we’ll get to see something we haven’t seen before — like Jack Bauer coming out of a bathroom.

“24” Withdrawal

I miss 24.

Right about now, we would be around hour 14.  The grim terrorist plot, assassination plan, or criminal enterprise that started the new season out with a bang would have been foiled thanks to the heroism and steely nerves of Jack Bauer and the technical prowess of Chloe O’Brian, but a broader and deeper conspiracy posing its own special threat would have been detected.  The appalling Charles Logan, with his prissy smarminess, would have been seen lurking on the periphery, trying to wheedle his way into power.  Scores of bad guys would have been shot, blown up, electrocuted, tortured, or otherwise dispatched in some gruesome fashion.  And the members of the 24 Death Pool would be debating whether this was a good season of 24 or a bad season of 24.

I miss Jack Bauer’s certainty about right and wrong and willingness to endure all manner of beatings and horrors to save the country.  I miss Chloe’s constant scowls, PDA wizardry, and snarky comments.  I miss the general incompetence of every other employee of CTU, with its legendary inability to establish a secure perimeter.  I miss Presidents in constant peril and ever-present nuclear threats.  And I want to get certain questions answered.  What happened to Tony Almeida?  Are Wayne Palmer and one of the predecessor Presidents still in comas?  Did Logan survive?  Is Chloe a crappy mother?

When you think about it, 24 was a pretty entertaining show.

An End To Logan’s Run, And To 24

Well, I’ve watched the series finale of 24, and I think it showed why the show really needed to end.

It really seemed like not much happened during the two hours.  Sure, Jack got shot by Chloe, bit off the ear of Logan’s suckboy, whispered his dialogue, and resisted assassinating the Russian president, and his recorded message of lukewarm platitudes somehow convinced President Taylor to walk away from the “peace agreement” — but to my mind the “will she, won’t she” plot about President Taylor really didn’t create much tension or, for that matter, interest.  The scenes with the Russian President, the UN Secretary General, and Dalia Hassan came across as a lot of background noise and filler; it seemed clear all along that President Taylor would eventually return to her principles, and that Charles Logan would be foiled again.  You almost expected him to say, “Curses!”

It was interesting to me that, as the series reached its end, so much of the show focused on Charles Logan.  I think the writers recognized that he was the one compelling character in the show who hadn’t been fully fleshed out or painted into a corner.  We all know Jack will stoically stand for his concept of justice, and that Chloe will help him to the end.  With Logan, however, you never quite knew how far down he would go, and in the end, by killing his aide and then trying to kill himself, he showed there really was no bottom to his depravity and megalomania.  (Of course, being Logan, he couldn’t even be successful in his suicide attempt.)  Too bad he didn’t get to die a good death at the hands of Jack Bauer — but perhaps the writers wanted to leave open the possibility that Logan and Jack would cross swords again.

Jack, meanwhile, got to say thank you to Chloe for her years of help, and that was a scene that packed some punch.  And then, Jack Bauer walked off into the sunset.  We’ll apparently see him again on the big screen, with the Russians, the Americans, and God knows who else in hot pursuit.

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

I can’t resist posting a few words about last night’s episode of 24.  The episode featured a much-anticipated encounter of Jack Bauer and Charles Logan, and I have to say it was very satisfying.

We first got to see the smarmy Logan reveling in being acknowledged for his role in securing the peace agreement from hell, talking President Taylor into another titanically stupid decision, and then confidently assuring the Russkie ambassador that Jack Bauer posed no danger.  At that moment, he sees that traffic is stopped by a faceless man clad in black body armor wreaking havoc, realizes that Jack Bauer is coming for him, and sees that he is trapped.  Logan’s immediate freak-out in his presidential limo is one of the more believable depictions of abject terror I have seen on a TV show — kudos to Gregory Itzin — and he then gets gassed, further terrorized, and gut-punched before spilling the beans about his co-conspirators.  I think Logan is such a great character that I was even glad that Jack just put him a sleeper hold so that Jack could plant a hidden microphone in Logan’s collar and Logan’s no doubt gruesome death therefore could be plausibly postponed until the series finale.

The body count on 24 has jumped up impressively in the last few episodes, as Jack Bauer has become a completely bloodthirsty renegade who is perfectly willing to gun down innocent Secret Service agents and Russian diplomatic personnel alike.  No one seems to be safe from his killing rampage.  President Taylor, en garde!

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan) (cont.)

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan) (Cont.)

As 24 draws to a close, the titanic struggle between Jack Bauer and Charles Logan is coming to a head.

Logan foolishly believes that he is on the cusp of redeeming his crippled reputation, but he knows Jack is out there somewhere, working to foil his conspiratorial plans.  Jack, meanwhile, has become a kind of depraved lunatic.  In yesterday’s episode alone, he recklessly endangered the life of an innocent civilian by using her as a decoy, repeatedly fired his weapon in a crowded department store, and then cruelly tortured an apprehended sniper.  The torture scene, which involved pliers, acid, an acetylene torch, and finally a torso gutting, was so graphic and disturbing that Fox ran a special warning immediately before it occurred. The episode ended with Jack learning that Logan is behind things.

This necessarily means that Logan is dead meat.  There is only one question to be answered:  what kind of horrible humiliation will Logan experience when he is captured by an unhinged Jack Bauer?  Will Logan begin with a show of false bravado, only to promptly wet his pants?  Will he burst into tears and shriek like a teenager at a Beatles concert?  Will he get down on his hands and knees, tearing his hair and begging for Jack to spare his sorry life?  Or, will he be a man about it, admit he has been a complete sleazeball who betrayed his country, and take the kill shot with a level gaze and some small measure of class?  Either way, I’m betting that Gregory Itzin, who has made Logan into a character for the ages, chews a lot of scenery in the next episode.

Worst. President. Ever.

No, I’m not talking about a real President.  I’m talking about President Allison Taylor, who has taken an abrupt turn for the worse in the last few hours on 24.

First, she seems to be willing to risk just about everything for some kind of Mideast peace agreement, even though she knows that the Russkies are so opposed to it that they bankrolled a terrorist operation that successfully assassinated President Pompadour, the head of state of Whoswhatistan, the key party in the negotiations.  Now, that’s sure to be a “lasting peace”!  Apparently the Prez thinks that securing a Mideast peace agreement will cement her place in history among the great U.S. Presidents.  President Taylor, please meet President Jimmy Carter . . . and feel free to ask him whether the Camp David Accords put him in the Top Ten of American Presidents, as opposed to sucking wind at the ass end of the list, down there with Nixon and Buchanan.

Second, President Taylor is mysteriously listening to scuzzball ex-Prez Charles Logan rather than the saintly Ethan Kanin, her upright Secretary of State — even though she knows that Logan is a traitorous, duplicitous sleaze who was drummed out of office after spearheading a conspiracy against his own government.  So far, at Logan’s suggestion she has covered up the Russkies’ assassination plot and,  most recently, has remanded a federal prisoner to a “private security firm” bent on torturing the prisoner into spilling her guts about the Russkies’ secret plan.  Sure, President Taylor secured a meaningless promise from Logan that torture would be a “last option,” but we all knew it was a sham.  This, from a President who formerly was so ethical she sent her own daughter off to the federal pen?

Third, President Taylor tried to lock down Jack Bauer.  Who is she kidding?  She knows Jack can’t be stopped, and she’s just made him into an enemy?!?  I don’t care how often she looks pensive or concerned — she obviously is addled.

24 is a pretty PC show, so I don’t think this season can end with President Taylor, the first female President on 24, bringing up the rear in the lineup of 24 Chief Executives.  That means one of the following plot twists must inevitably occur: (1) the President Taylor we have seen the past few hours is her evil twin or a “double,” (2) President Taylor has been drugged and manipulated by Logan and will soon come to her senses, (3) President Taylor is in fact under cover and in league with Jack Bauer and falsely cooperating with Logan to smoke out a deep-rooted conspiracy in her government, or (4) the President will quickly realize the gross error of her ways, repent and join Jack, and be killed in some heroic fashion that redeems her in the 24verse for all time.

Five hours to go.

Jack Bauer vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

24 will soon run its course, and it is clear the the writers and producers want to end the series with a bang.  Recently we’ve seen one character dispatched with a gruesomely slit throat, and another got plugged after unwisely enjoying a few moments of passion with Jack Bauer.  So now Jack, once again, is on his own and battling the forces of evil pretty much unaided.  The only difference this season is that the faithful Chloe, who has been bizarrely elevated to head of CTU, may not have Jack’s back as he breaks the rules and flouts her orders while he exacts his bloody revenge.

As interesting as that plot development may be — and it holds great promise for all participants in this year’s 24 Death Pool, because we can only guess at the spectacular body counts Jack Bauer will rack up in his zealous quest for “justice” — the real pleasure of the most recent episodes has been the reappearance of former President Charles Logan.  You have to give great credit to Gregory Itzin, who plays Logan, because he has given birth to one of the great characters ever seen on TV.  Logan is evil, corrupt, smarmy, arrogant, devious, and craven, all at the same time.  When he is on the screen spinning his conspiratorial webs the sleaze just seems to pour out of him.  He is fascinating and riveting to watch, whether he is trying to wheedle the formerly upright President into taking her first step down the path to perdition or ranting that some flunky didn’t pay him the proper respect.

I expect that Jack Bauer will take out President Logan before this season is over.  I suppose that’s only right, but I hope it doesn’t happen for a while.  The machinations of watery-eyed and unctuous Charles Logan make an old favorite much, much better.