Tuesday, April 10, 2007

24: Shut it down, shut it down now!

"24" spoilers coming up just as soon as I crawl under this garbage truck...

"Homer and Apu," one of the all-time classic "Simpsons" episodes (which not only features "Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?" but also the definitive takedown of black guy vs. white guy stand-up hackery, the barking consumer watchdog, plus "That's a great price for 12 pounds of nutmeg," a quote that's always useful when you go to Costco) was on in the syndication rotation last night, and Homer's line at the act two break proved prophetic for tonight's "24" episode:

"Everything really wrapped up nicely. Ooh... much quicker than usual."

This season of "24" has had a lot of problems, not least of which is the lack of a unifying device like last year's Jack Vs. POTUS angle, but as always, I admire the producers' willingness to give up the ghost if a storyline isn't working. Clearly, the suitcase nuke storyline had long since run its course -- or, at least, the writers had failed to develop it enough to make it worth continuing -- so they pulled the plug on it and will spend the season's final seven hours on a completely new plot, with Jack trying to save the predictably non-dead Audrey. (And wasn't it nice of ABC to cancel "The Nine" so Kim Raver could come back to try to salvage her old show's season?)

I'll admit to having been suckered in by President Wayne's bluff, but his acknowledgement that Powers Boothe had a point with his threat to nuke The Unnamed Middle Eastern Nation makes me uncomfortable, in the same way that the reveal of Kal Penn (remember him from way back when?) as an actual terrorist instead of a victim of racial profiling and so many other storylines on this series illustrate the ends justifying the heinous means.

I was also briefly taken in by the ruse with Fayed, but mainly because I was so busy laughing at yet another "24" prisoner transfer going horribly awry, and yet another shootout where guys with machine guns can't hit the broad side of a barn, while Jack (and now Doyle) were doing damage with their pistols. So good on the writers for turning self-parody into a minor twist. Also good to see Jack singlehandedly kill all of Fayed's men, though his kiss-off line to Fayed shouldn't have been "Say hello to your brother," but "How does it feel to know you're dying for nothing?"

What did everybody else think? Does the return of Audrey (conveniently in LA so we won't have to spend the rest of the season with Jack on a trans-Pacific flight) and the abrupt storyline break give you renewed hope for the rest of the season, or do you expect this to be as big a dud as Jack's dad?


Jeff Vaca said...

In seven weeks I may regret saying this, but it seems to me that there is no place to go but up. In any event, I'm glad that they're trying it, although the ongoing stuff with Milo is reason enough for concern. Hopefully, Chloe will get something to do now that it looks as if Jack is back on the road to outlaw status.

Kenji Fujishima said...

"Say hello to your brother"---didn't John McClane say the same thing as he shot the telephone wire leading to the death of Simon Gruber & pals in Die Hard With a Vengeance?

Actually, Abu Fayed's death-by-hanging reminded me quite a bit of McClane trying to do the same to Karl in the original Die Hard.

Are there any other Die Hard references that I didn't catch?

Anonymous said...

Jack's dad needs to come back and help him rescue Audrey, heh.

I was hoping the "I'm single-handedly going to rescue Audrey from the Chinese" plot would be next season's arc so we could see Jack trying to skulk around China, but eh, I'll take it now. Do you think they planned to have her cameo all along, or did this come up solely because "The Nine" was axed?

I knew the prisoner break-out was a ruse because the terrorists didn't go over and pump Doyle, Jack, and the red shirts full of lead to ensure they were dead.

Jack's the baddest bad-ass to ever bad-ass around L.A. The way he killed Fayed was particularly brutal. All those years in the Chinese prison have made him even harder, yikes!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I liked the reveal that Wayne was bluffing. He may not be David, but he's definitely a Palmer.

Anonymous said...

When Jack found the bombs I thought to myself "What's the rest of the season going to be about? Oh, Audrey." And then 2 seconds later the phone rang. Frankly, I think it would have been a bigger surprise if they hadn't planted the "Audrey's dead" storyline a few episodes back since we probably wouldn't have all been expecting her to turn up again.

Meanwhile, I guess it's good for the 24 writers that The Nine was canceled, but if it wasn't I wonder what they would have ended up doing with this season. Do you think we would have gotten more of the Logans? Or more of Jack's dad? Because right now both of those storylines are (to quote Seinfeld) "a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do you think they planned to have her cameo all along, or did this come up solely because "The Nine" was axed?

Considering that "The Nine" was canceled months ago and the "24" writers don't plan anything anymore, I don't think it much matters.

Anonymous said...

Btw, am I the only one who think Ricky Schroder is TERRIBLE on this show? His delivery is consistenly awful and last night when he fell down after being shot I actually laughed out loud. He can't even fake fake die convincingly.

K J Gillenwater said...

My favorite part is when Doyle scanned the scene, took in all the dead bodies and the chained up Fayed, and gave his best "F**k!" look, acknowledging the animal that Jack can be when necessary.

Glad to have Jack back in the game. I am wondering if the schedule of being the focus of almost every single episode was starting to wear on Kiefer. I am thinking they tried to give him a bit of a break this year...the sad thing is, this show doesn't work as well, if Jack's not doing something. But if giving him a lighter schedule means he'll do the show a few more years, I'll live with it.

Very glad to see Audrey back. I really started to like her last season. She sounded so emotionless on the phone. I think she has been completely broken down by the Chinese. I think the last part of this season should be pretty dang good...

Anonymous said...

My favorite part was when Fayed threw his gun at Jack. I love the last ditch effort to thwart Jack before the real pounding began. Wooohooooo!

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching two weeks ago. It's just lame. I was willing to put up with the inherent silliness of it, but not when they are recylcing and regurgitating prior silliness that they already used.

How many times do the prisoners transfers fail? How many times does Jack torture? Petty politics at CTU? CTU traitors? Incomptent CTU employees? We've seen it all before.

The show needs to liberate itself from its too many conventions. Let Jack go to NYC or Chicago or DC. Get out of CTU. Let us see the actual consquences of a major disaster. I mean, they nuked Valencia and everyone basically went about their day.

Anonymous said...

I definitely noticed the Die Hard similarities. I believe John Mcclane said something like "You should have heard your brother squeal when I broke his F*&#'n neck!" But he was strangling Karl with a chain at the time.

The 24 folk were involved in a lot of pilots this year, I know Fox execs were not happy with a lot of the stuff they put out. Hopefully this reboot will put them back on track.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Now that you guys mention it, McClane did indeed make dead brother taunts in both movies, with "Say hello to your brother" being the line he used when waxing Jeremy Irons in the third movie.

Anonymous said...

Someone on the TWOP board described Cheng's call to CTU as, "Put me through to Jack Bauer the minute this nuke threat is over!" Heh.

I enjoyed Doyle's hilariously inept "interrogation" of Fayed. Was that supposed to be that funny?

I also snickered at Wayne's deep-voiced "No one can know!!" Doesn't he realize that if he dies, Powers Boothe becomes president? And that the best way to avoid that is to get medical attention? No way, that makes too much sense.

But those (and the Milo crap) were brief silly moments in an overall strong episode. Hopefully this episode won't be the exception...

TL said...

I watched half last night's episode, and I'll probably finish it off tonight, but I'm about to throw in the towel on this series. There's been absolutely nothing compelling about this season. When it's not totally stupid, I can't even remember what's happened from week to week. Jack goes somewhere and meets someone, tortures him. Jack goes somewhere else and meets someone else, tortures him too. Dumb bullshit goes on at CTU. Weak-on-national-security-liberal-pansy Wayne Palmer is undermined by the authoritarian thugs with whom he's improbably filled his senior staff and cabinet (almost as laughable as the idea that David Palmer's successor would also tap Mike Novak as his chief of staff). Who can keep it straight?

The topper was the idea that the Supreme Court would convene in the middle of the night to sort out a dispute in the cabinet. (I know for a fact that Justice Thomas doesn't answer his phone if people call after dark.) I don't demand realism, but to put something that dumb in an episode when it wasn't even a necessary plot point stretches it too far.

Based on what's here, it sounds like the writers are as sick of it as we are. Good, but honestly, looking for Audrey doesn't sound any more interesting, and sounds like we're going back to the "uber-patriot Jack who nonetheless puts his family above his country" well one more time. I've been along since Season 1. But the creative statis combined with my increasing ethical uncomfortability with watching people being tortured again, and again, and again has me doubting that I'll be back next year.

Anonymous said...

Amen, TL!

Anonymous said...

Well I never thought I'd see a cell phone conversation on 24 breaking up because someone goes through a tunnel .
That was hilarious !
I actually laughed out loud.
And then Jack trying to make a phone call from under the truck. Comic genius !

Anonymous said...

I agree, it's terrible that they're insinuating a Muslim (The Religion of Peace™) could be a terrorist. What about McVeigh? Etc.

As for the writers not planning anything anymore, did they ever?

"Damn, Jack..." was my favorite moment too.

"Are there any other Die Hard references that I didn't catch?"

Sutherland's hairline?

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I have been watching Dancing with the Stars and have not switched over to 24 at 9pm. Although I do tape it, I have been fast-forwarding most of the episodes, stopping when something exciting seemed to be happening. So I really never got into the President Wayne plot or the Milo thing, although that last one is because I just don't like Eric Balfour. He annoyed me on Six Feet Under and on Buffy and still bugs me now. I am glad that Audrey is back, if only for a return to the basics and not another damn nuke plot.

I know Fox wants to drag out any success 24 may still have, but the only way to go to keep this interesting is to kill Jack. Or send to Iraq to solve that war.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that really bugs me about this season is the lack of *anyone* being told about Logan's death. That's a huge thread to leave dangling.

I agree with the mouse upthread who found the cell phone probs hilarious. "Dammit, why can't they hear me from under here? WHO IS THIS GARBAGE TRUCK WORKING FOR?" Of course, I was more worried that whatever that whirring thing was would wing off half Jack's head, but still...I laughed :-D

Anonymous said...

I still love this show & I am willing to give it a chance for longer then most shows, but I can't watch "24" take criticisms from someone who wouild choose to watch something as insipid and dull as "Dancing with the Stars". You lose your CTU card on that one.

That aside, I thought last night's episode was fun but what the hell has happened to the Logan storyline? Why didn't they conclude that?

K J Gillenwater said...

I wish the '24' writers would stop trying to tie in every season to some shadowy group of people...are they a corporation? I don't quite get it.

I would rather have standalone seasons. One about something nasty with the Chinese, another involving something from South America, etc. They keep sticking with the same Middle Eastern/Russian thing year after year.

Think more broadly, writers! One season could be about purposeful food or water contamination. Another could be an anthrax thing, killing a bunch of people. Another could be a bunch of EMPs wreaking havoc. Another could be some sort of financial or banking debacle. I don't know...I just wish they would change it up a bit. Give them different enemies with different motives.

However, I still enjoy the show. I just miss the main characters that they felt they needed to get rid of over the last couple of seasons. I think everyone would like it more if Tony and Michelle were still around. But they aren't. All we have left is Chloe, and they haven't been using her so much lately.

TL said...

OK, I finished the episode and it was even dumber than I expected.

24, you're on notice.