Friday, January 09, 2009

Sepinwall on TV: '24' season seven review

In today's column, I review the new season of "24," of which I've seen the first four episodes:
Jack Bauer's back, and he's tired of your whining.

Not counting November's "24: Redemption" TV movie, it's been 19 months since the last episode of "24." In that time, Jack and/or his writers have been reading their press clippings, and the blog posts, and the message board hate, and all the rest - and they're clearly fed up with all the complaints:

Wahhh, too much torture! Wahhh, CTU has no credibility! Wahhh, why is Jack always yelling? Wahhh, why is this all so boring? Wahhh! Torture! Wahhh! Did I mention wahhh?
To read the full thing, click here.

30 comments:

Bobman said...

I'm seriously debating just taking this show off my DVR this season. It's gotten to the point where it's almost a chore to watch, and I can't imagine anything that would prove to be "water cooler talk" anymore; it's all been done, hasn't it? I'll watch the premiere and see how I feel about it but I can't imagine watching all 24 episodes.

dez said...

Sounds like "24"'s gonna give me everything I want from it, so I should be happy all season :-) Well, except for the part where I feel a little exploited by Tony's "death," which made me cry, only to find out he's not dead after all (the producers saying it should have been obvious from the silent clock is hooey, I say--that silent clock made it all the more emotional, the bastards).

Pandyora said...

Funny column. IMO, this show jumped the cougar a loooooong time ago.

dez said...

Eh, all y'all are just a bunch o' hatahs :-D

shara says said...

Hmmm. although I'm very anti-torture and highly left-wing, 24 has always been one of my favorite shows. Until last season, anyway, when everything just fell apart. I had gone the entire run of the show without ever missing a SINGLE episode when it aired, and halfway through last season I just stopped watching because it was so painful. But, after several previous seasons that I seriously enjoyed, I'm willing to give it another chance this season.

I find a lot of the criticism of the show in general to be unfair (although bash away at last season). I see it as a show about people in high stakes situations seeking resourceful ways to operate in situations where they have very limited options. In order to maintain the suspense, characters have to be placed in danger; since there are a finite number of characters, they're gonna be put through the ringer (wringer?). I don't mind the torture, because its fictional. With fictional heroes, we get to witness their character development, moral code, and sense of honor - therefore, it is easier to trust a fictional character to make decisions (i.e., when torture is appropriate) that I would never consider trusting a real person to make. I trust Jack Bauer to make the right decisions, to protect us, and to find the real bad guys and stick it to them. Like Batman - I would trust Batman with the cell phone sonar technology thing in Dark Knight, but I would never trust a real person to do that. I guess that's how I can justify watching a show that glorifies something I would never condone (like most action movies, spy movies, and military movies that I also find myself able to enjoy).

Kelly said...

I feel about like shara does, so I won't re-enumerate anything there. But I also feel about like Bobman does. I'm still hopeful...he IS Jack Bauer after all. But I do yearn for the fire 24 had back in season 2, 2002-2003. Terrorist threats. War with the Middle East under false pretenses. The show seemed less silly back then, because it felt like we were a hop skip and jump from actually living it.

Anonymous said...

man I loved this show for the first five seasons it was on (even during those incomprehensible March/April stretches when the plot was clearly just circling the airport, burning off fuel) but I walked away from this show in the middle of the sixth season and I've never looked back. And I blame the fifth season. That fifth season was like 24's Greatest Hits Tour ... everything you liked about 24 but bigger, better and louder: all your favorites characters brought back; most of your favorite characters killed; CTU attacked; the greatest 24 villain ever, our own evil President Logan; Jean Smart chewing the scenery; Chloe going rogue; the First Lady bringing down the President; and the show's best season-ending cliffhanger, Jack being adbucted and shipped off to China. (plus a little Henry Ian Cusick thrown in for good measure) It was classic scorched-Earth policy. Everything else now just seems warmed over. Maybe this show needs to scale back and go acoustic for a season.

Dan said...

Pandyora: clearly you never truly enjoyed the show if you think it jumped the shark LONG ago. Season 6 was mediocre at best...but seasons 1-5 were stellar, in my opinion.

I'm very much looking forward to season 7. Even if Alan believes a lot of the same problems exist, at least it's not CTU and the same old storyline.

Dan Coyle said...

So, Jim Treacher joined the staff this season, along with John Nolte and Burt Prelutsky?

Anonymous said...

It started off well but went down hill when they started to pander to the right wing nuts that think it is a documentary. Please step away for the cage, do not feed the neocons, they are very dangerous!

Anonymous said...

Dan---good line.

Anonymous said...

I once adored this show to the point where I spent days figuring out how to get the CTU ringtone on my not-so-fancy cellphone.

Now? Sorry. That ringtone has been deleted. It just is more embarrassing now. And I hate feeling that way, but season 6 was so bad, and that Redemption TV movie was so boring, that I have taken 24 off my DVR. So long Jack Bauer. You were once the MAN, and I will miss you.

Anonymous said...

all the people "taking it off their dvr" are such phonies. they never watched in the first place. they are the bleedin g hearts the show rips

Number Five said...

On a tangent to some of the points Alan made, I think the execution of the show's structure vs. its real time thriller premise has always been its worst enemy.

1) The idea of a real time, 24 hour thriller works much better with an ensemble cast where you can cut to multiple storylines and have interlocking narratives. But with Jack Bauer as the central hero, he has to do too much and the other stories become B plots that end up being irrelevant, silly, or both. I wonder how much that was planned vs. responding to Kiefer Sutherland's excellent performance.

2) The desire to go for artificially constant action over a more realistic ebb and flow. It always has short term benefits for some episodes but weakens the show in the long run. To be fair, the network would have demanded this anyways, and who knows if most people would have watched without steady levels of action.

3) Most importantly, by never planning out a full season, strong starts always got wasted as the writers made random but drastic changes. Obviously doing so is hard, but plenty of other writers have mapped out full season arcs while building in trap doors to allow them to adapt to surprises and weak elements. The real time format practically demanded they do this, but they never did.

I say this as someone who found season 1 to be groundbreaking television, from the real time conceit to the legendary final scene. I also really liked season 2. Whether it was the reset button or the increasing tendency to cling to formula, seasons 3 and on have gotten weaker and weaker. But I watched through the first 5 episodes of season 6 hoping the show could live up to its promise, and I hope someday another show can put another take on the idea of a real time thriller.

Anonymous said...

I gave up sometime during the 3rd season, when they had Jack playing Russian roulette in some prison. They built up the music... what was going to happen??? But of course we knew Jack wouldn't shoot himself in the head, so there was absolutely no suspense.

I tried coming back but it's been impossible to stay long. The repetition of the plots and cliffhangers, Jack's never changing demeanor, and the spreading of the fiction that torture actually produces results were all too much.

That said, I would love an episode where Jack tortures someone like usual. They give him info. He goes off and follows it and like 99% of the information that obtained through the use of torture it turns out to be false. But because Jack was distracted by this fake info, a nuke goes off that he could have prevented simply by stronger law enforcement.

jim treacher said...

So, Jim Treacher joined the staff this season, along with John Nolte and Burt Prelutsky?

Have I done something to you personally?

Pamela Jaye said...

I've never ever watched 24. Not ever.
I've seen the take off on it that Conan did on the Emmys (was it the Emmys?)

The most 24 I've ever watched is a parody at CollegeHumor.com called something like 24: The unaired 1994 pilot, where Jack Bauer saved the world using AOL 2.0

never having watched anything but Conan passing thru, but having been on AOL since 1.5, I thought it was hysterical.
disclaimer: I got a real ISP account in 1995 and dropped AOL completely at least 6 years ago (there's still one chat on AOL that my friends won't move off to IRC or anywhere else, but that was the only reason I was there for so long as it was. Two of said friends recently married each other - finally, and I was only able to AIM them congrats, while they chatted with everyone else. (and I've tried AIM chat - doesn't work. people get kicked out, you have to start a new room to get them back. and i've been on IRC wth a 7 MINUTE netlag))

LoopyChew said...

Chalk me up with Shara. As long as Season Seven doesn't play out like Season Six's "Let's reheat all of our previous seasons' plots, plus throw in Rain Man vs. Russian Terrorist!" I'll be as happy as Jack Donaghy at a GOP convention.

I ask very little of 24 nowadays. While I agree about the Bauer Corollary to the Idiot Plot, I think so long as they throw a decent reason for the Bauer Corollary to exist (i.e. SOME DECENT ENEMY PLOTTING!) I should be satisfied.

Maura said...

I'm as bleeding heart as they get, but I'm with Shara on this. It's just outrageous, over the top fiction. The torture freaks me out a little, but I don't think it means anything, except that the showrunners want 24 to be as nuts as possible.

I'll be planted in front of the TV on Sunday, and will no doubt watch the entire season. The only thing that's bugging me is that I already know Tony is alive.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only thing that's bugging me is that I already know Tony is alive.

It's a fact that they reveal very early in the first episode. I think they realized once they leaked it that Tony would be back, they couldn't treat it like a huge surprise within the show.

Anonymous said...

I believe its wrong to torture terror suspects for information but I think its perfectly acceptable to torture 24 writers for craptastic sixth season.

Anonymous said...

To Maura and Shara,

24 is indeed fiction but there are cites that people in the Bush CIA and Defense department used 24 as justification for things that were done. As cuture it does have an impact. I remember reading that memos had to be cirulated with regard to the show and I think I even recall reading that the producors specifically filmed something for the government basically saying something like, "We're just TV; Don't do what we do!" I like the show but feel it peaked with season 2 but it isn't accurate to just dimiss its impact.

kenjfuj said...

The couple of reviews I've read of the first few hours of Season 7---including Alan's---have been disheartening, but I will probably watch with guarded optimism, "guarded" being the key word here. Is it just me, or has 24 already started to feel like a Bush-era relic? In the coming presidency of Obama, it already seemed impossibly retro to see, in "Redemption," Jack Bauer shooting up menacing Africans and carrying the white man's burden for a bunch of poor African kids. If this season's change of locale is merely cosmetic, as Alan seems to be suggesting, then I may have no more use for this show at all---though, really, since its great second season, it's long past having had anything fresh or substantive to say about torture, ends-versus-means, and other topical themes other than using them as grist for increasingly bigger (and lamer) shoot-'em-up scenarios---and may decide it's time to jump ship like I did with Heroes this past fall.

Maura said...

24 is indeed fiction but there are cites that people in the Bush CIA and Defense department used 24 as justification for things that were done.

Oh yes, I'm aware of that. But those people are crazy, and will find any justification they can for their behavior. I can't put the blame on 24 and more than I would blame Dexter if there were a rise in serial killers only murdering bad people.

As Shara said, viewers will accept behavior from television characters that we would never accept in real life. How else can you explain the popularity of Gregory House, Al Swearingen, Tony Soprano or Don Draper? Even Lorelai Gilmore did things that would make me want to smack a real life friend. I wouldn't want showrunners to make every character palatable and bland because of nutjobs who will misinterpret the behavior of fictional characters as proof that such behavior is acceptable.

jim treacher said...

Is it just me, or has 24 already started to feel like a Bush-era relic? In the coming presidency of Obama, it already seemed impossibly retro to see, in "Redemption," Jack Bauer shooting up menacing Africans and carrying the white man's burden for a bunch of poor African kids.

The two black presidents don't count?

kenjfuj said...

The two black presidents don't count?

Well okay, but in terms of the show, that was then, this is now (female president or no female president).

jim treacher said...

Meaning what? I realize George Bush is responsible for every single thing that's wrong with our lives, but is the employer of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and the son of the guy who appointed Clarence Thomas, really the epitome of racism in America? Just trying to get an idea of where you're coming from.

Kensington said...

Forget it, Jim. This is Liberaltown...

kenjfuj said...

Sorry, jim, I guess I wasn't quite clear about this (shows how much I should make political statements). I wasn't necessarily thinking in real-world political terms with my initial statement---thus, not even thinking about the show's previous two black presidents at the time---so much as thinking about just how '80s-action-flick-ish "Redemption" felt, even more so than usual, in the light of Obama's coming presidency. And I mean, if the show is going to continue with the torture scenarios, how is that going to look in the context of the presidency of someone as staunchly anti-torture as Barack Obama? I'm just saying, it might make [i]24[/i] as it is now look like a blast from the immediate (some would say unwelcome) past.

jim treacher said...

Well, it's now turning out that Obama isn't nearly as staunchly anti-torture as advertised. Presumably that went away after his first official security briefing. But I take your point.