Monday, November 24, 2008

Time's Up

So I watched the 24 movie on Fox last night, and now I can't help but wonder something.

After the Bush administration came to power nearly eight years ago -- and certainly following the 9/11 attacks -- the popularity of The West Wing began to plummet. Some thought it was simply too depressing to watch a show which offered a noble, Capra-esque vision of government after the controversy of the 2000 election and the fact that the new ruling party preached the gospel of government as the ultimate unnecessary evil. Some just figured that the show suddenly seemed hopelessly dated. Either way, the direction of the political winds in this country, as they so often do, had a profound effect on the pop culture zeitgeist.

Now we're left to wonder: What will become of 24?

With the arrival of Barack Obama and the seismic shift in America's political landscape, I can't help but wonder if torture and terrorist threats and underhanded governmental skulduggery isn't so -- Bush years.

Really, is Jack Bauer still relevant?

I ask this while acknowledging that 24 has been one of my favorite shows since its debut in 2001 (timing which ironically helped to inextricably link it to the Bush era). I'm sure it will still be exciting and dramatic -- a blast to watch week to week -- and that there remains a large audience out there for it. But as a cultural phenomenon -- can it hold up?

It's already got the year-and-a-half-long break to contend with (which, on the plus side, might have provided enough time to get the rancid taste of last season out of the public's mouth), but is it now, like The West Wing before it, hopelessly dated?

Only time will tell.


Pants said...

Let's hope so!

Mr. Controversy said...

Glad to see someone else bringing up this point, Chez. I've actually been thinking about this myself, and I would posit the theory that it's not outdated. Whether we like it or not, terrorists will still be a threat, whether it's in reality or in our imaginations. Also, from the looks of this season's preview, as well as the beginning of last season, they're starting to bring about the recurrent theme of atonement and "should I really be doing this?" i.e. Jack's torturous behavior.

That having been said, I don't think it'll only be hurt by the writing quality and not by popular culture because even with an Obama administration, you'd still want a Jack Bauer. (Also, Obama is the closest thing to David Palmer we have, so you've got a link there.)

That having been said, Jack Bauer can always shift his line of work...I'm intent on hiring him as a vampire hunter to take out all of those glittery Twilight bitches.

Chez said...

I considered the Palmer link -- and the fact that it's only as the show's progressed that it and Bauer have really gone off the reservation.

Vermillion said...

Damn, that is a good question. I would say that The West Wing was more a victim of the depressing optimism that being dated. But seeing the government get worse and worse compared to the show, it had to frustrate folks. With 24, the government was constantly screwed up, with plenty of a-holes making a mess of things.

Then again, I like the bang bang shoot em up as much as anyone, so who knows how this is going to go?

All said, this will be an interesting season, both on and off screen.

And I made the Palmer/Obama connection as well. It kinda would put an interesting twist on Obama's Lincolnian desire to fill his staff with idealogical opponents.

it's only as the show's progressed that it and Bauer have really gone off the reservation.

Definitely. In fact, one could argue that Palmer was pretty much the stabilizing point for Jack, and his death sent him right over the edge. Of course, I would never accuse Fox of being that deep, just that the argument could be made.

idiosynchronic said...

Just a moment - just because America thinks that the West Wing is no longer relevant, doesn't mean it isn't.

I've been watching the seasons back-to-back for the last couple of months. Just finished the sequence concerning Zoey's kidnapping and the administration's assassination of a Qumari intelligence minister. Not freaking relevant??

It's also apparent that Sorkin lost his touch as the world-shaking events were written into the story and his personal problems overwhelmed him. That Capra-esque quality evaporated in the 4th season. If anything, the show became more relevant, and suffered because of it post-Sorkin.

I'd rather be water-boarded than watch the torture-lite violence porn that is 24.

Anonymous said...

From season 4 on, the West Wing was being run by John "ER" Wells, who has a knack for creating drama in shows for the sake of drama. That's also when a lot of people believed the show went off the rails, compounding issues and making it not a hopeful political dramedy but a drama set against the DC backdrop.

Michael said...

I love Sorkin, West Wing and Studio 60 were fantastic shows, that did not get enough credit, and were too smart for %75 of the people watching.

Chez said...

Idisynchronic --

I think it's possible to like both The West Wing and 24 at the same time.

They stimulate different centers of my brain.

votar said...

Sorkin is a photophobic vampire.

No other reason why those poor cast members would be portrayed talking so intensely while power-walking from one pitch-black darkened chamber to another. I seriously doubt the White House is lit like a carnival haunted house on the inside.

drater said...

I gave up on 24 after the first season, I found it incredibly misogynistic. In case you missed it, these were the lead females in season 1:

Bauer's semi-estranged wife, who sported a terrible GI Jane haircut and propensity for never-ending whining.

The president's (or was he just a candidate?) wife, a cross between Hillary Clinton and Lady Macbeth. She sends a young staffer to seduce her husband so she can blackmail him to support her policies. But she's not smart enough to choose a seductress who's actually hot, so her scheme fails.

Bauer's best friend and fellow agent, who turns out to be a mole from a KGB-style intelligence agency. To her credit, she does try to kill Bauer's wife.

Bauer's daughter, a hot, blond 18-year-old. Smart, brave, and competent. Apparently only women who qualify to appear in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue are OK in 24's world.

Maybe a I read to much into the show, my daughter was majoring in gender studies at the time, could be some that rubbed off. But with the torture angle and Kiefer's politics, I had enough.

Robo said...

I am excited for 24 this year. Like you said the 1.5yr layoff has only stimulated my interest in the adventures of Jack Bauer.

I have to admit that I was getting a little tired of the CTU Bullshit. Where else could they have taken that plot? A nook-u-lar bomb [snickers to self] went off in L.A. for christ's sake. Not to mention that pretty much every ancillary CTU character turned out to be working for the enemy of the day. Who else was left to corrupt? Chloe? Of course they figured out some way to work it into the new season with the apparently Good Guy turned Mercenary - Tony Alemeda.

I'm glad to see a little different twist not related to terrorists but more so rogue Rebels in a Coup scenario.
Plus it will be interesting to see 24's take on Jack's testimony in front of the Congressional hearing as a commentary on the policies of the Bush Admin.

I think the torture of the last season was over the top but again I think they had reached the end of the rope on that plot so they threw it all in there for one big Ratings Grab Stew.

Anonymous said...

Au contraire, Chez my dear: 24 is repsonsible for the election of America's first black president. OK, they killed him off in Season Five. But it is the genius of American television politics that once we get used to seeing something on TV, we not only *accept* it in real life--we *expect* it. So our first African-American president was not Barack Obama, and it was not Bill Clinton. It was Dennis Haysbert.

Anonymous said...

Umm...did you just refer to Jack Bauer's daughter as smart, brave, and competent?
Is today opposite day?
I was totally with you up until then, but I thought she was the worst of the lot.
Unless you were being sarcastic, and I missed something. Which, you know, happens.

Cheryl Cato said...

My husband & I watched 24 - Redemption last night as well. I for one like both West Wing & 24. President Palmer was the "West Wing"-type president with Jack being the one who attempted to "watch over" his beloved president. I am in agreement with President-elect Obama that our country needs to hold dear the agreements of the Geneva Convention and shun torture. But... are there times when we may really need a "Jack"-type person who decides solely on merit whether torture is necessary? It is an interesting philosophy that I wrestle with ... if we "had" to torture one person to find out the way to avoid thousands being killed would it be worth going against our moral compass? As a blanket policy I abhor the thoughts of torture, but is it ever necessary?

Ref said...

Sorkin has some gifts that are evident in Sports Night, West Wing, and even Studio 60, but he lives in some alternative universe where Democratic politicians get rewarded for "Bipartisanship" instead of knifed in the back and fundamentalist homophobes are actually good-hearted people who respect their opponents.