April 3, 2007

To America's Greatest

Print More

Dear Jack,

It pains me to write this, but I can’t hide my true feelings any longer. We’ve had a lot of good times over the years and I never thought I would ever feel this way, but I must confess what I know to be true: I’m bored by your show.

I know it seems ludicrous, right? What other series packs so much action into forty-two minutes? What other show confirms our worst fears of terrorism and yet calms those fears with reassurance that good will ultimately prevail over evil? No other show on TV does so with such panache and tension inducing clock ticks.

And yet I can’t help feeling like we’re just going through the motions in this, the show’s sixth season. With what seems like yet another renegade Eastern European radical trying to blow up the country along with a VP once again attempting to usurp power through the 25th Amendment, we’re starting to enter been-there, done-that territory. Granted there are only so many permutations of terrorist threats (both foreign and domestic), but it feels like the writers of 24 are grasping for straws. Even a new character this season, agent Mike Doyle seems like another retread of a familiar 24 character: the by-the-book, no nonsense outsider whose command style at CTU causes problems for everyone.

Let’s examine the major revelation this season: your family’s involvement in assassinating David Palmer, sending you to a Chinese prison and accidentally aiding terrorists in acquiring nuclear weapons. That’s got to be a bit upsetting to say the least. We also found out that your brother Graem was actually the nameless Bluetooth headset guy from last season who controlled President Logan. I was surprised, but felt it was an artistically justifiable direction for the show. In the past you’ve taken morally questionable actions to defend both your family and your country. It seems logical that your counterpart would be someone who similarly takes morally questionable actions to justify what he considers to be patriotic ends, even though those ends ultimately turn out to be evil. And then you discover your father Phillip to be the real evil mastermind and he nearly murders you and your nephew. Not to take your predicament lightly, but you got one f’d up family my friend. With Nina killing your wife Terri, Kim being estranged and believing your dead and you’re father killing your brother then making you believe you did it, you can not catch a break. Your family makes Hamlet’s look like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Thankfully however, this season has delved into the hard hitting social issues it does best: chemical dependency. Morris O’Brian, the poor chap who was forced by terrorists to program a nuclear device and got power drilled in the process, has had trouble staying sober throughout the day’s chaos. I know alcoholism is a serious problem, but do we really need to spend so much plot dealing with it? I felt at times 24 was doing a “very special episode” where Morris must tackle his alcohol dependency. Frankly, if terrorists stuck a drill in me, I think I’d come off the wagon too. The series should stick to you killing bad guys and saving us from ourselves, because that’s what it does best.

Maybe it’s not you Jack, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve just become too cynical or too hard to please. When I discovered 24 in its fourth season, it was new and exciting and unlike anything I had seen on television before. I obsessively watched past seasons on DVD, often unable to stop myself from viewing just one more episode. Maybe I’ve come to expect too much. Maybe after so many years of high quality, explosive drama, it’s unfair of me to expect consistently original programming.

That’s why Jack, I’m not going to quit you just yet. Despite all the shortcomings and inconsistencies that have cropped up this season, I’m still heavily invested and there’s still a good chunk of this season left to make for an exciting finish. It’s not been all bad. The Tom Lennox character’s been an interesting addition and that nuclear detonation in L.A. took the show to a new level. However, when you return next season, I think it would behoove you and your show to make some radical changes to get out of this rut. How about taking the series out of Los Angeles or making the stakes a little bit less globally catastrophic? How about beefing up CTU’s screening processes and not hiring so many bad guys? How about learning some words and phrases other than “now,” “damn it,” and “I don’t want to shoot you, but I will”? When that little punk Eric Cartman starts to make fun of you, it is time to reevaluate things.

Jack, there’s no question about it, you’re an American hero. You’ve stuck by this country even though it’s destroyed your life both professionally and personally. You’ve suffered for our sins on now six hellish days, so I think I can stick by you through an uneven season. A wise person once said “even heroes have the right to be bleed.” Well, I guess they also have to right to go through a creative draught.