Tuesday, April 04, 2006

President evil?

Um, okay. So I finally got through "24" and... um... now I'm kind of regretting coming back for this season.

There are good twists, there are bad twists, and then there are mind-bogglingly wrong-headed, middle finger to the audience, la-la-la-I-can't-hear-your-complaints twists, and making President Logan the mastermind behind all the shit that's gone down is the latter.

Look, I know they're making this up as they go along, and I know that you have to check your disbelief at the door to watch, and I know that they've abandoned all pretense of the real time gimmick, or even of reality, but come fucking on! Logan, the spineless twerp who's been crapping in his pants for a season and a half, is really Keyser Soze? Uh-huh. So you can explain away all the dithering and whining he's done in the last two years? So you can even explain why, when we've seen glimpses of him alone -- when he has no earthly reason whatsoever to be pretending to be a wuss -- he still looks like he wants his mommy and his wubby? Uh-huh. I look forward to how far the writers have to bend over backwards to pull this one out of their own rears.

I'm already committed to this season, and maybe they'll surprise me and find some way to make this match up with all the previous stuff, but I doubt it. Methinks someone's been watching this "SNL" sketch a few too many times.

20 comments:

Ellen said...

What I find sort of amazing -- even in the context of "24" -- is that a development like this would come from a supposedly "out" conservative, or that the Bush White House would (reportedly) be full of "24" fans, given how badly this thing seems to reflect on what doesn't exactly look like, say, the Clinton presidency.

Though he does have a strong-minded blonde wife...

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I read it more as a sign of how politically canny 24 is than anything else. Last season seemed to be the ultimate conservative nightmare (Give the terrorists an inch, they'll take a mile! Liberals will stop us from getting information!). Now that the political winds have shifted, it presents the ultimate LIBERAL nightmare (militaristic vice president! president with terrorist ties!). As others have said, I'm not sure the President Logan twist makes any SENSE, but as political commentary, it WORKS on some weird, below-the-skin level.

It could prove to be the stupidest thing the show has ever done, but, honestly, I found the weird, out-of-nowhere sexual harrassment thing even worse. And for it to be the stupidest would require a LOT of work. Okay. . .Logan COULD be in cahoots with season 2's cougar. That could put it over the top.

I think what appeals to so many about the show is that Jack Bauer is the ultra-American we THINK we are (the other characters represent the basic American "types" we probably actually come closer to). Jack is going to do the RIGHT THING and take out the EVIL PEOPLE, corrupt White House, liberal lawyers and nuclear weapons be damned.

Love your blog, btw. Read it every day.

Pete said...

I don't watch _24_, but all this talk about a politician secretly masterminding something no one expects reminds me of the scene in _My Fellow Americans_ when John Heard, playing the dumb-as-a-rock current veep, turns to ex-presidents Jack Lemmon and Jim Garner and says, "All this time, everyone's thought I was this big idiot, and it turns out it was all just a big facade. Who's the idiot now?"

...only he pronounces it "fakade." Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at "The West Wing" at all recently? Do you plan on watching any specific episodes (e.g., Leo's funeral) as the show closes out?

Kenji Fujishima said...

Alan:

Like you, I'm a little skeptical about this latest plot twist from the writers of 24. It nearly reminded me of some of the really far-from-credible plot twists during the first half of Season 3 (yeah, did we ever get an explanation as to why Michael Amador wasted his own and everyone's time in Mexico anyway?). In spite of Season 4's problems, one of the things I think it did better than most of the other seasons was to emphasize telling overarcing storylines without relying on big twists to change it into different directions. Season 5 seemed to be going the same direction at first, but it's started to get back to some of its older habits.

Personally, though, I'm going to wait and see how they proceed from it and how they explain things before I decide on whether it's a brilliant plot twist or a strictly-from-hunger one. (I mean, perhaps it was really Logan who killed Walt Cummings earlier in the season. And certainly one can understand why Christopher Henderson would be so damn reluctant to divulge anything. Or maybe it turns out that the twist isn't what it looks like...?) Maybe I shouldn't expect too much; maybe I should just suspend disbelief just a little more than usual. But what can I say? I guess I'm an optimist about some things.

I like todd's comment, too; didn't think of that, but I think it makes sense in a strange way.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Todd, interesting, but I'm not sure the "24" writers are thinking about this as deeply as you are. For one thing, Joel Surnow's one of the TV business's few unabashed conservatives, and I don't think he'd deliberately do some kind of Bush and Cheney are evil allegory. For another, I think the writers' one and only concern is keeping the story moving, no matter what. Even though I call bullshit, Logan as the mastermind is going to give them a lot of fuel for the rest of the season -- or, at least, until they get bored with it three episodes from now.

(The best thing about the twist? Aaron -- the show's second-biggest badass and its only completely decent and selfless character -- finding out who his boss really is and unleashing some holy hell upon him.)

Anonymous, I've been watching "West Wing" for most of this year, but I'm still not used to the new timeslot and just forget to record it sometimes. I wrote about it two weeks ago, but then missed it this week -- which is probably just as well, because I understand the entire thing was a giant tease about both the election results and how people will respond to the death of Leo.

But I'll be there this Sunday, just to see if they can avoid screwing up the farewell to the show's most beloved actor/character. I'm already certain Santos is going to win, because Leo's death becomes less dramatically interesting if Santos doesn't have to scramble to replace him.

Louis said...

"I call 'bullshit!'" is exactly what I said to my wife when Logan took that call from Robocop. Hours and hours of sweaty, stammering, Barney Fife ineptitude, and suddenly he's an evil mastermind?

24 has nowhere left to go, and it's showing.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Alan, I don't think the 24 writers do any of this CONSCIOUSLY. I don't think they sit around like the Lost writers and say, "This season, we will talk about SCIENCE vs. FAITH" or anything like that (and much as I like Lost, that's going to get tiresome for me, as it has for others already).

I think they're simply tuned in to the zeitgeist. They didn't WANT to create a Bush analogue, but there wasn't any way AROUND it.

And I'm sure the Cheney character will end up saving the day.

Rhine said...

As a fan of 24 since day one, I have been able to make some pretty good predictions involving the show. My ability to do so is not a good sign, since it means 24 is becoming more and more predictable. One of my biggest problems with 24 has been how the writers just make it up as they go along, they don't plan out the entire day's events at once. (The writers/producers have stated this fact on more than one occasion.

A few weeks ago I started watching a few of this season's episodes again, but this time I watched under my theory that Logan was behind it all. And you know something? It fits really well. It's obvious to me that Logan has been in control of the entire situation the whole time. Does that mean the writers actually planned ahead? It sure seems like that to me...

As a hardcore 24 fan, I will not abandon the show this season. I will watch it through the last hour and then decide if I'll be back next year. For the first time since the first half of season 3, I'm skeptical. This season started out so strong and then it became one cliché after another. This Logan twist could be brilliant or it could be the last desperate attempt to shock the audience. Only time will tell.

PS: I found your blog through a link at tvtattle.com.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Rhine, can you give me some examples you saw in the early episodes that jibe with the idea that Logan was pulling all the strings? The hardest part for me are those shots we would get from time to time of Logan in a room by himself, with no one to fool, still acting like a frightened doofus.

I've been arguing on the blog earlier this season that the make it up as you go along approach has actually been working for the show this year, since they don't waste any more time than they need to on a specific story or character. (Both the amnesia and the cougar were the result of having a plan but screwing up the timing of it.) But if you're flying by the seat of your pants, it's really hard to pull the Everything You Knew Is Wrong! trick with a character who's been this prominent for this long.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Maybe Logan's a method actor, always in character. :)

Actually, there may be some truth to that, ridiculous as it would sound. In the show's fiction, Logan came to power after the president was incapacitated in season four (presumably, he died between seasons four and five unless there's a bigger twist coming). I think it makes more sense that Logan was a terrorist dupe, positioned by them to the vice presidency (since he could probably never win an election). And then they took out Air Force One, presumably for the nuclear codes, but also with the added motive of installing their man in the White House.

Therefore, Logan would have been in "position" a LONG time. At LEAST five years, but since the show intimates he's a longtime politician, probably much longer than that. I would think someone like that would be "in character" much of the time to prevent slip-ups (indeed, leaving character only when absolutely necessary lest someone accidentally see him).

This, of course, is WAY too much justification for a random plot twist, which probably means it's a stupid one, but at least I can "fan-wank" it (as TWOP would have it).

Fascistic and conservative-leaning as 24 can be, it doesn't share the belief of many on the right that the terrorists are uneducated evildoers. It presupposes that the terrorists are pretty f***ing smart, and only the machismo of Jack Bauer and the genius of Chloe can save us.

ljg said...

I swear my first thought after the "reveal" of Logan as the mastermind was that SNL sketch with the late and much missed Phil Hartman.

"24" is a terrific all stops-out show that keeps me entertained and on the edge of my seat. I buy it mostly because Kiefer Sutherland makes Jack Bauer a believable character at his core. However, by that same standard, Jack should be at the end of his run. Every season has taken a chunk of his heart and soul and the end of this season should either see him snapping or walking away from the business to save whatever's left of his integrity.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've been banging the "Jack must die -- preferably in the middle of the day" drum for a few seasons now, since that would be the ultimate No One Is Safe! message, and it would spare us from laughing the next time he yells out "TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS!"

But it's hard to envision this show with anyone but Kiefer Sutherland in the lead role. Like you say, ljg, Kiefer makes you believe in Jack, which makes it possible to buy all the ludicrous things happening around him. He's blended the crazy intensity of some of his movie heel roles (Lt. Kendrick in "A Few Good Men," Ace in "Stand by Me") with some traditional action-hero moves so that you believe this is one crazy motherfucker who will do anything to finish the task at hand. There aren't a lot of actors who could plausibly step into those shoes -- even less once you cross of the names of people whose careers aren't at the "Maybe it's time to do a pilot" stage yet.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

They should, somehow, do a female Jack Bauer to take over for the Kief.

I don't know who they would cast.

But it would be cool.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, Sydney Bristow was always kind of a female Jack Bauer, at least in terms of ass-kicking super-competence. On the other hand, Jennifer Garner's never been remotely as scary as Kiefer.

Lucy Lawless? Tricia Helfer? Anyone else from Battlestar Galactica? (Well, maybe not Mary McDonnell.)

If we're talking a movie person who might be willing to "slum," my wife suggested Uma Thurman, who certainly kicked much tail in Kill Bill. Also, Rebecca Romijn has shown a willingness to do TV, she was great in the X-Men movies (and, I hear, that Brian DePalma film), and "Pepper Dennis" ain't gonna be around too long.

Scott said...

This is the first and only season of '24' that I've ever watched, so maybe I'm inured to the shock of this week's Logan reveal simply because, to me, the year's storyline seems like nothing but pedal-to-the-metal bubblegum absurdism, and I've been alternately dumbfounded and entertained by every scene. Having the POTUS be a secret super-villain, well - in a weird way, it's the appropriate icing on the cake.

I do agree though there's now a strong need to recast the context of those earlier episodes' scenes of the whimpering Logan, and it'll be too bad if that doesn't or can't happen, but this show is some kind of quantum weirdie, slowing down 24 hours of TV to 24 real hours. I'm willing to forgive it for what happened ten hours ago - that's ancient history!

If anything, I'm more distracted by the puzzle of what the show's creators could possibly do next season to top themselves. A multi-national conspiracy of world leaders? An Al-Qaida takeover of the country, Amerika-style? Aliens from space? A roiling crescendo of all three and more? '24' has taught me to redefine what I thought was narratively possible on a TV show...

Also, something I've been wondering -- wouldn't you think '24's success would inspire a DVD release of one of my favorite underrated '90s movies, John Badham's real-time thriller Nick of Time with Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken? (Perhaps if they renamed it '1.5'...)

Todd VanDerWerff said...

How about Angela Lansbury?

And she could FINALLY win the Emmy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, there always was a high bodycount in that "Murder She Wrote" town... maybe we need some kind of Logan-like reveal where it turns out she was a serial killer.

And Scott, if you ever get around to watching the previous seasons on DVD, you'll be as amazed as we are that they've managed to keep this ship afloat as long as they have.

Lara said...

I can believe he is the mastermind. In the first episode this season they made Logan look as if he were the bad guy. At the end of the episode they took a turn and made it seem more that he was inept rather than the bad guy, but all throughout that episode they were making it look like he was up to no goo.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late comment, just watched "24" on tape. Sure, Joel Surnow is known to be "conservative". Yet even last season, when Surnow was supposedly the creative force, you found a defense contractor with a private army willing to forestall a counterterrorist effort so as to protect their reputation.

Remember, Kiefer is the star and co-Executive Producer. He is a subtle but strong leftist. We all know about his father, but his mother is the noted antiwar activist Shirley Douglas. Kiefer's maternal grandfather is Tommy Douglas, the father of socialized medicine in Canada. A couple of years ago when there was a move to privatize elements of Canadian health care, Kiefer made PSAs imploring Canadians to reject "American-style" privatization efforts to harm such a distinctly Canadian legacy.

So now this actor is going to partake in a show that boosts REPUBLICANS? Please. "24" underlines the threat of terrorists, but at root the show is leftist in nature. At the end of the day you wonder about the powers that be, be they corporate or governmental, interfering in the safety of all of us.