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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

24 and counting (down)

Guilty Pleasure Admission #2 (I promise that these will end sometime before they get too guilty or too pleasurable).
I like 24.

That's right, the Fox show with Kiefer Sutherland as a cel phone toting kick-ass anti-terrorist government man who Gets Things Done because he Doesn't Play By The Rules.

My friend, the composer Richard Einhorn has correctly pointed out that there is a very Cheney-esque streak of authoritarianism in the show, in which the only way to Get Things Done is to kick someone's ass and let the Bill of Rights be damned. I can't say that I disagree with that. The show certainly promotes the fact that it is only the strong who survive. It is more than fascistic in places, it is a combination of Darwin and Machiavelli.

So I'm not really down with the politics of the show.

But here's the guilty pleasure part -- I like the energy of the show, and a comparison to Sydney's Pollock THE INTERPRETER might clue you in as to why. Sure, there's a completely unreal sense to the plot -- everything happens in one day (in the first season Sutherland's character introduced the show every week by saying "This is the longest day of my life." I want to add now, "except for the days in the next three seasons"). Sutherland's character, Jack Bauer, has a superhuman sense of when something is wrong. He's like an anti-terrorist bloodhound. He can walk into a room where every other agent sees normalcy. Jack will stop and look around, with an angry quizzical look on his face, not unlike a dog when it enters a room where someone has peed three days before. "Watch out for that closet!!!" he'll yell, and (sure enough) three seconds later a large explosion rocks the room.

There's also a rather strong smelly sense of Big Brother throughout the show. If Jack needs to get into a building all he needs to do it call up the Counter Terrorism Unit on his handy cel phone (doesn't he ever run out of batteries with all of his usage?; mine would have died in episode five) and say "Michelle. Give the passcode combinataion to the office building garage at 1234 Wilshire Blvd." Within seconds he's got it.

I'll tell you. If the government were this organized and together in real life, I'd REALLY be scared.

So it's fantasy. I got it. (Perhaps it's George Bush's fantasy, I'm not sure). But shit gets taken care of on this show.

Contrast this with THE INTERPRETER, the remarkably predictable feature that took the box office by small rainstorm two weeks ago. Sure, it's more realistic than 24. Sean Penn (who is, by the way, fantastic in the film; I'd fall down on my knees to beg him to keep making movies if I really thought he was going to retire) spends a lot of time in a car, at one point, watching the rear lights of cars and trucks ahead of him in New York. Those red lights are pretty much as real as it gets.

But there's no sizzle or energy in this by-the-numbers remake of every sorry political thriller you've ever seen and some that you aren't sure if you've seen or if you've just imagined them. There is an absolutely bogus resolution to the film and a gaping plot hole that is so egregious that you end up screaming at people you don't even know next to you that you will absolutely never ever go to see a movie like this again. NOT EVEN IF THEY PAY ME!!! I SWEAR ON A STACK OF UTNE READERS!!

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest. I feel ten pounds lighter.

In any case, though there are adsurdities in 24's plot lines, they are rarely insulting to the audience. And, besides, it's not as much fun jumping up and down at home and screaming at the dog that you will absolutely never ever go to see a movie like this again. NOT EVEN IF THEY PAY ME!!! I SWEAR ON A STACK OF UTNE READERS!! Television just doesn't have the power to make large assholes of people who are watching it. Notice that I'm not talking about the people who become contestants on I MARRIED A BIG STUPID SPOUSE or the like. Just the people watching it. And, while everyone who is watching STUPID SPOUSE may be stupid, the only people who will ever know it are the families and the dog watching the program along with you.

Who ever coined the term "mass media" for television surely wasn't thinking of this at the time.