Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Catching Up with Jack Bauer

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When 24 was first announced in early 2001, I remember thinking it would last maybe a year, and if it worked, perhaps the creators could revisit the concept every now and then.  Kiefer Sutherland had already established himself in film, and the career renovating move to television was something film actors had yet to embrace.  Six years later, the show has become a veritable phenomenon. 

Each season of 24, if you don’t already know, follows one day in the life of CTU agent Jack Bauer and his efforts to combat international terrorism.  In real time.  Each hour of television follows an actual hour of the story. 

The constraints required for developing such a show proved challenging at first.  After the first season, executives had toyed with changing the format – like centering each episode on a 24 hour event.  However, the creative minds propelling this series have managed to perfect their efforts, some of which do strain credibility (for instance, in the world of 24, you can get anywhere in Los Angeles in under thirty minutes), but after a while, you stop caring.  The narrative drive is too swift.  It recalls what I imagine the old matinee cliffhanger serials were like. 

In order to maintain the event-like advent of the show every year, Fox does not air re-runs.  Starting with season five, two years ago, Fox began airing episodes in January to allow for 24 unbroken weeks of all-new episodes.  Fortunately, with the advent of boxed-set DVDs, I am able to enjoy each hour back to back. 

After watching four seasons (or days), I have to believe that Jack Bauer is the quintessential post-modern warrior.  Fierce, intelligent, determined, noble, and courageous.  He can make the tough calls. 

The first season of the show began just after 9/11.  Since, 24 has become a kind of fictionalized rendering of the threats posed by those who would exact their evil intent on the United States.  One of Jack’s defining characteristics is his ability to extract information through somewhat brutal means (torture).  This, of course, has drawn its share of criticism, everywhere from members of Congress to even Stephen King.  For me, it’s a bit of a dilemma.  Jack faces moments upon which the very fate of the country depend.  Make no mistake; this is a man you want at your side when you go to war.  Wars are made up of many conflicts, some of which involve only two individuals, and their actions can shape whole continents.  The strength with which noble men meet evil should not fall under such simplistic scrutiny. 

One admirable facet of the show’s development is the tragic nobility in some of the characters, most notably CTU director George Mason.  Mason comes across as a worm when we meet him in season one, and by season two, little has changed.  The events of the second day eventually catapult this man into a mode of sheer courage and fidelity.  However mired his intent may be in light of his circumstances, his sacrifice takes on a kind of heroic martyrdom. 

As I begin season five, I feel a strong sense of anticipation.  I even have the CTU ring tone on my phone at work.  Some have called the latter half of day 5 some of the best television 24 has ever delivered and I am anxious to see what develops.  President Logan inspires anything but confidence.  And I never thought I could hate Sean Astin.  By now, everyone else is comfortable in their roles, and I am quite comfortable watching them play.


Written by taj

August 23, 2007 at 1:58 pm

One Response

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  1. If you’re still working your way through Dark Tower, can you see some SERIOUS similarities between Roland and Jack Bauer?


    August 24, 2007 at 7:36 am

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