- Constant action
- Not very believable
I started watching the television show 24 with high hopes. It was a favorite of my Uncle Jeff’s, and after he was killed in a tragic accident this year, I decided to keep him in my daily thoughts by diving into one of his favorite shows. So I had a predisposition toward liking the show.
And I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it.
The concept is actually great. I really like the concept that the whole show happens in real time over the span of 24 hours, with each hour-long episode representing an actual hour. The reality of such a premise, however, is that the writers almost necessarily have to pack an absolutely unbelievable number of events into extremely short time periods. Characters who have the absolute snot beat out of them three, four, or five times in the span of only a few hours, and who haven’t slept in more than a day are still somehow conditioned to not only outsmart, but physically outperform everyone else on the show.
With any work of fiction like 24, the creators must walk a fine line to make events and actions that are logically unbelievable seem believable, at least in the moment. The real failure of this show for me was simply that I was being asked to suspend disbelieve too far, and too often. A suicide takes place in the counter-terrorism unit, in a room with surveillance, and they don’t check the tapes for hours? That same CTU goes on lockdown twice in a single day, and in both cases the suspect escapes? And how many times did Jack Bauer bypass every known security protocol simply by making an earnest plea?
The characters themselves are problematic in the same way. From the unfathomably lucky and invincible warrior Jack Bauer, to the presidential candidate in David Palmer who allegedly made it this far in politics without noticing any of the corruption or twisted morals around him, I just couldn’t find someone I could relate to. None of them felt real to me.
That’s not to say that 24 doesn’t have its redeeming qualities. For those who are better able to suspend their sense of disbelief, the show does a great job of keeping the action and plot twists coming. Each episode ends with the type of cliff-hanger that makes the show ripe for binge-watching on Netflix (I can’t imagine the kind of angst people must have felt waiting for the next episode back in 2002). It doesn’t hold any punches, and is perfectly willing to let the good guys fall down every once in awhile.
At first, I struggled with not liking the show. I wanted to like it so badly for my uncle. With some time to reflect though, I realize that it’s okay to have different tastes — he was always into things like lacrosse, cross-fit, and management PhD mumbo-jumbo that didn’t resonate with me. Likewise, my work on websites wasn’t his “thing.” And that’s okay because we still enjoyed each others’ company.
And 24 was good enough that I’ll keep watching and imagining the goofy things Uncle Jeff would say at each new plot twist. I know he’d be thrilled that 24: Live Another Day is on its way this spring. I’m intrigued to see if maybe the show has matured over the past 12 years: