Disappointed By "24" So Far?

Steven M. Warshawsky
As William Shatner famously once said on Saturday Night Live in reference to Star Trek, "It's just a TV show."  (HT:  Debbie Schlussel.)

Yes, 24 is just a TV show.  But for the millions of Americans who cannot abide the pervasive liberalism of contemporary TV, 24 has been a breath of fresh air.  For five seasons, we have been entertained by the daring and politically incorrect exploits of counterterrorism super-agent Jack Bauer.  Bauer's ability to get out of jams, track down the bad guys, and pursue his own brand of Wild West justice, has prompted the now-classic 24 joke:  Superman wears Jack Bauer underwear. 

Most importantly, 24 has been refreshingly direct about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, and has been unafraid to cast Islamic extremists in the bad guy role.  In contrast, when Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears was made into a movie in 2002, the Muslim terrorists of the book somehow morphed into a band of "white supremacists."  The Hollywood establishment was raked over the coals by the conservative community for this craven act of artistic and historical revisionism, but such "whitewashing" of terrorism is par for the course these days.

Unfortunately, already there are rumblings that "24" is moving in a more PC direction.  Debbie Schlussel, for example, is quite outspoken on this point.  On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh counsels  his listeners not to overreact to the dramatic interplay going on this season between the civil libertarian and law-and-order themes.

While I share some of the concerns of the anti-PC crowd, 24 has disappointed me this season for other reasons:

First, the decision to make Wayne Palmer the President strikes me as a really bad choice, logically and dramatically.  Nothing in previous seasons suggested that WP was a national-level political figure.  We're to believe that in a couple years' time, he was able to win the White House?  Besides, his character comes across as much too weak and immature to be a believable President.  And his hipster facial hair?  C'mon.  At this point in the series, having WP as the President seems like a wasted opportunity.  If the writers and producers wanted to portray an irresolute Democratic President (as Rush suggests), they could have done much better than this.

Then there is the decision to have the President's sister be a crusading civil rights lawyer who works for an Islamic-American organization.  Maybe I missed references to the sister in previous seasons, but it seems like we would have known something about her before.  After all, her other brother, David, also was President and also had to take stern measures against Islamic terrorists.  Having yet another Palmer family member in the series strikes me as a needless and uninspired distraction.  Are the writers and producers trying to make a point about nepotism or the influence of "first" families in America, like the Kennedys and Bushes?  Who knows?  Having a character modeled after, say, lefty lawyer Lynne Stewart or one of the white shoe lawyers who represent the Gitmo prisoners would have been more interesting.

Third, like the great CTU agent Curtis (RIP), I am very troubled by Jack's alliance with a vicious terrorist, who now claims he wants to pursue his goals through peaceful, political means.  And what goals might those be?  The eradication of Israel?  The expulsion of American forces from the Middle East?  And what political means does he have in mind?  Persuading the UN to impose sanctions on Israel?  Trying to turn the "international community" against the United States?  The message being sent by this season's "24" -- that America can be brought to its knees by a few terrorist bombings, and that we must ally ourselves with our worst enemies in order to save ourselves from further violence -- is strikingly different from previous seasons.  We'll see what happens, of course, but this isn't the kind of "entertainment" I expected.

Lastly, I think the killing of Curtis by Jack, to save the terrorist Assad, was one of the most cynical examples of audience manipulation I have ever seen in a movie or TV show.  I admit it upset me a lot.  Curtis was a great character, and a great sidekick for Jack.  Frankly, I expected him to get killed this season.  But to have Jack kill him was just plain wrong.  Frankly, I think the writers and producers betrayed their characters and betrayed their audience with this particular scenario.  It is enough to make me think twice about continuing to watch the series. 

But let's end on a cheerier note -- wasn't Jack's taking a bite out of that guy's neck one of the highlights of the entire franchise?

Steven M. Warshawsky  smwarshawsky@hotmail.com 

As William Shatner famously once said on Saturday Night Live in reference to Star Trek, "It's just a TV show."  (HT:  Debbie Schlussel.)

Yes, 24 is just a TV show.  But for the millions of Americans who cannot abide the pervasive liberalism of contemporary TV, 24 has been a breath of fresh air.  For five seasons, we have been entertained by the daring and politically incorrect exploits of counterterrorism super-agent Jack Bauer.  Bauer's ability to get out of jams, track down the bad guys, and pursue his own brand of Wild West justice, has prompted the now-classic 24 joke:  Superman wears Jack Bauer underwear. 

Most importantly, 24 has been refreshingly direct about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, and has been unafraid to cast Islamic extremists in the bad guy role.  In contrast, when Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears was made into a movie in 2002, the Muslim terrorists of the book somehow morphed into a band of "white supremacists."  The Hollywood establishment was raked over the coals by the conservative community for this craven act of artistic and historical revisionism, but such "whitewashing" of terrorism is par for the course these days.

Unfortunately, already there are rumblings that "24" is moving in a more PC direction.  Debbie Schlussel, for example, is quite outspoken on this point.  On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh counsels  his listeners not to overreact to the dramatic interplay going on this season between the civil libertarian and law-and-order themes.

While I share some of the concerns of the anti-PC crowd, 24 has disappointed me this season for other reasons:

First, the decision to make Wayne Palmer the President strikes me as a really bad choice, logically and dramatically.  Nothing in previous seasons suggested that WP was a national-level political figure.  We're to believe that in a couple years' time, he was able to win the White House?  Besides, his character comes across as much too weak and immature to be a believable President.  And his hipster facial hair?  C'mon.  At this point in the series, having WP as the President seems like a wasted opportunity.  If the writers and producers wanted to portray an irresolute Democratic President (as Rush suggests), they could have done much better than this.

Then there is the decision to have the President's sister be a crusading civil rights lawyer who works for an Islamic-American organization.  Maybe I missed references to the sister in previous seasons, but it seems like we would have known something about her before.  After all, her other brother, David, also was President and also had to take stern measures against Islamic terrorists.  Having yet another Palmer family member in the series strikes me as a needless and uninspired distraction.  Are the writers and producers trying to make a point about nepotism or the influence of "first" families in America, like the Kennedys and Bushes?  Who knows?  Having a character modeled after, say, lefty lawyer Lynne Stewart or one of the white shoe lawyers who represent the Gitmo prisoners would have been more interesting.

Third, like the great CTU agent Curtis (RIP), I am very troubled by Jack's alliance with a vicious terrorist, who now claims he wants to pursue his goals through peaceful, political means.  And what goals might those be?  The eradication of Israel?  The expulsion of American forces from the Middle East?  And what political means does he have in mind?  Persuading the UN to impose sanctions on Israel?  Trying to turn the "international community" against the United States?  The message being sent by this season's "24" -- that America can be brought to its knees by a few terrorist bombings, and that we must ally ourselves with our worst enemies in order to save ourselves from further violence -- is strikingly different from previous seasons.  We'll see what happens, of course, but this isn't the kind of "entertainment" I expected.

Lastly, I think the killing of Curtis by Jack, to save the terrorist Assad, was one of the most cynical examples of audience manipulation I have ever seen in a movie or TV show.  I admit it upset me a lot.  Curtis was a great character, and a great sidekick for Jack.  Frankly, I expected him to get killed this season.  But to have Jack kill him was just plain wrong.  Frankly, I think the writers and producers betrayed their characters and betrayed their audience with this particular scenario.  It is enough to make me think twice about continuing to watch the series. 

But let's end on a cheerier note -- wasn't Jack's taking a bite out of that guy's neck one of the highlights of the entire franchise?

Steven M. Warshawsky  smwarshawsky@hotmail.com