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A tired $8.00 ride that still has a little kick
What can we say that has not already been said about poor Jack Bauer, the most unfortuntate psychotic on the planet?
I guess what struck me most with the Sunday night premiere of season five was the incredible gall to assasinate David Palmer, the first black American president, on Martin Luther King's birthday. Was that supposed to take us back to the moment we learned Dr. King was dead? Most people weren't even alive then (I was) so rule that out. Is it bold and edgy? Or just plain tacky?
My vote is for tacky. Sometimes playing the shock card just misses. I suppose if the timing were different, if there was not the unfortunate linkage to the late Dr. King, I would be more forgiving. The murder is dramatically powerful. Palmer was one of the few really likeable characters in the series. Fox chose when to begin their run of "24". They knew the content. Hence I have to assume they understood and even planned the congruence betweeen the fictional world and our real one.
Then there are the larger questions about "24." While it was innovative in season one, it is pretty tired by now. Even in the first four episodes, "plate fatigue" is setting in.
"Plate fatigue" is the strain of watching the acrobat or juggler start all of the plates spinning on their sticks and keeping them going without losing any. For a few minutes, its a great trick. After a few minutes, it becomes a race between who is getting more tired, the juggler or the audience.
"24" has devolved into the a drinking game where you can predict what is going to go wrong next. Since it is, by definition 24 episodes long, fans of the show are familar with the wind-up, the setup of secondary characters,the inevitable betrayals and last minute rescues. The element of suprise, the show's greatest asset, is in decline. There are only so many beloved characters left to kill off.
The worst news for "24" is the world has caught up to the TV show. After the torture in the Iraqi prison camps, how can we applaud Jack Bauer shooting off someone's keepcap in the interrogation room? Part of the fun of "24" was that TV could do things that the real world would find unacceptable. While I am not naive enough to think the US never did such things prior to Abu Grabe, we reached a national moment where we all had to decide for ourselves whether the "ends justifies the means" scenario could be played out carte blanche. We end up with the question, "if we have to become evil to fight evil, what are we fighting for?"
In the end, one can only hope this is the last season for "24." It was a great idea. I still love the split screen format and the eloquence that the makers achieve with it. I loved the ride. But the party is over.
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