Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2011-01-02 Entry: "24 - "12:00 A.M. - 1:00 A.M.""

Onward with a Fox actiony drama thing that started airing in 2001.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Stereo

Jack Bauer - Kiefer Sutherland
Teri Bauer - Leslie Hope
Kim Bauer - Elisha Cuthbert
David Palmer - Dennis Haysbert
Sherry Palmer - Penny Johnson
Nina Myers - Sarah Clarke
Tony Almeida - Carlos Bernard
Richard Walsh - Michael O'Neill
George Mason - Xander Berkeley
Mandy - Mia Kirshner
Alan York - Richard Burgi

Okay, so the schtick here is that "events occur in real time" in Los Angeles. So why do we open in Kuala Lumpur? Okay, split screen stuff clearly important here. Lots of high-tech spy stuff - satellites, screens full of code, and then back in LA, the hook: an attempt will be made to assassinate Senator David Palmer some time in the next 24 hours.

Our introduction to the star, Jack Bauer, shows that his home life is rocky - he'd previously moved out, he's just moved back in, and his teenage daughter is glad of that even though she doesn't like her mother... more mother/teenage daughter angst? Except this teenage daughter who's supposed to be going to bed has just snuck out... and Jack can't look for her as he's got to go into the office. The daughter, Kim, is meeting two older boys at a furniture store at midnight... yeah, nothing can go wrong there!

This is pretty fast moving. Lots of characters thrown at the screen. Jack's colleagues are Nina Myers and Tony Almeida, and the actual hierarchy here is hard to tell at first glance. Richard Walsh appears to outrank them all, and he's the one who brings them the news on the assassination. And there's also the "there's a mole in the agency" bit that Jack has to keep under his hat. Wow, Kiefer Sutherland looks young here. I guess 9 years of crazy action stuff is hard work!

As an aside, what's "Division" anyway? They keep sending people over from "Division", but in the whole of the show, they don't really explain who they are or how CTU relates to them. In this instance, it's George Mason who's being sent over to brief Jack. And the secrets start - Mason pretends to call his boss but calls the speaking clock, so Jack shoots him with a tranquiliser dart, and then persuades Nina to help blackmail him.

Ah, creepy Mia Kirshner goodness. Does she ever play normal? Is it the roles she chooses, or does she only get offered the parts where they need "slightly creepy young woman"? And Richard Burgi (The Sentinel) shows up as the father of the girl Kim's out with, Alan York.

What's with the guitar-strumming background music? It sounds like I'm watching an episode of Deadwood rather than a modern spy show!

Ah, there's the reason for Jack's family tension - he was sleeping with Nina. He clearly has a type - stick-thin and sneaky looking. Or am I just reading too much into Teri and Nina's parts considering I've seen the show before?

Finally to David and Sherry Palmer, and Patty, who's their... what? Secretary? Ah, and another mystery - the media have some allegation about the Senator that he's trying to quash, and he's not telling his wife about it.

K-thunk, k-thunk, ooh, ticking clock... must be an ad-break (so no, this isn't really in real time as I haven't got the same ad-breaks as when it originally aired). For all the fast moving character introductions, there's a lot of standing around emoting. At least the split-screen stuff is used effectively to keep several threads running at once - both sides of a phone call as well as a shot of Kim, who the phone call is about.

Creepy Mia Kirshner (who's character may or may not be called Mandy) is the sort of girl who has sex in aircraft bathrooms. She also drugs stewardesses, steals ID cards from photographers she's just slept with, and carries plastic explosive and a parachute in her luggage! Hey, there's a bomb on the plane and Mia Kirshner's going to jump out before it goes off! She's lucky to avoid getting hit by exploding debris. But I guess that's a nicely explosive end to the episode... except it isn't the end of the episode, there's more Jack family emergency stuff going on and he tries to duck out to help look for Kim but gets word of the plane before he makes it out the door and has to stay.

Oh, and those creepy guys Kim's out with don't want to take her home. Tick, tick, tick, splitscreen, end of show.

So, what's to like? It's nicely fast moving, so even if one of the storylines (Alan York and Teri Bauer) is painfully dull, you only have to wait 4 or 5 seconds before they'll split-screen it with something you might actually want to watch. The split-screen stuff is mostly used in sensible ways here unlike in later seasons where it feels like the director sits around afterwards going "Did we have a split-screen moment in this episode? Better put one in... how about we splitscreen Jack Bauer on the phone with this other shot of Jack Bauer on the phone?"

However, for all its fast movement, they don't really introduce many of the characters. The Palmers get almost no screen time, so its hard to care much about them at the moment, even though we're expecting an assassination attempt on one of them in the next 23 hours! Jack gets lots of screen time, obviously, but the rest of CTU haven't really had a lot to do. Tony's mostly been sat at a computer doing other people's bidding. Nina's there to question whether Jack really should be trying to blackmail George Mason. George is there to keep a secret for most of the episode (where the tip-off came from) just to give Jack something to do.

And really, they should have ended the episode with the exploding plane. The next 2 minutes of Kim and the creepy boys and Teri and Alan and Jack trying to leave is just padding that should have been put in before the exploding plane so we don't leave the episode on such a downer.

Of course, any show with creepy Mia Kirshner in it is liable to get me to keep watching, but I'm not sure that's enough of a hook for most of the audience!

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