The first four episodes of the fifth season of 24 aired over the long weekend. And while all TV shows require a certain suspension of disbelief (The West Wing asks us to believe that White House staff spend their days bantering back and forth like characters from The Hudsucker Proxy, The Simpsons asks us to believe that The Simpsons is still funny), 24 is growing especially far fetched with each new season. In order to enjoy 24: Day Five, here are some things that you're going to have to be willing to believe.
Los Angeles is a hub for political activity and an extremely popular terrorist target: That' right, forget about the UN headquarters in Manhattan, or the White House in Washington, DC. The real hub for political and terrorist activity is a town whose most prominent target is the Playboy Mansion.
Over the past four seasons of 24, no less than three near-apocalyptic terror attacks targeting or involving the executive branch and the CIA (that' CTU to you, 24 newbies) have been thwarted in the greater Los Angeles area. In the real world we're not even sure that the CIA has an office in LA, and if so, what they do all day. Keep an eye out for mudslides and earthquakes? Use wire taps to leak the new Enrique Iglesias album?
24 is set in LA for the same reason that most action movies (Die Hard, Terminator, T:2, Crocodile Dundee 3) are set there: directors, writers and producers live in LA and it' easier to imagine stories about the town in which you live than a town all the way across the country. Furthermore, people like to imagine that their hometown is important enough to get bombed by terrorists. It' why residents of Columbia, MO buy out Wal-Mart when the terror alert level goes from yellow to orange. Fortunately for residents of LA and unfortunately for the writers of 24, we're pretty sure Al-Qaeda doesn't give a shit about your beach house in Malibu.
With Die Hard or Terminator we'll play ball once or twice. But five straight terror plots focussed on LA?
Imagine for a moment that they had decided to set this season' 24 in Manhattan, with subway chases and Jack Bauer repelling down skyscrapers and saving the Brooklyn Bridge from destruction. It could have completely reinvigorated the franchise. Instead, we're stuck once again with highways, airports and the desert.
And while we're on LA, 24 also asks you to believe that"
Every corner of LA can be reached in the time it takes to return from a commercial break: Now granted this observation is a little warmed over, sort of like, "If the show is set in real time, why don't we ever see Jack Bauer take a dump?" But it does represent yet another reason not to set the show in LA for five straight seasons. LA is an enormous, sprawling tangle of clogged expressways and turnpikes.
Setting a "real time" show in LA makes about as much sense as setting a porno at Shawn Bradley' house: if we're being realistic, there' not going to be a lot of action going down. More likely, you're going to be watching Jack Bauer bitch about traffic and give a Starbucks barrista the finger for cutting him off on the PCH.
And yes, based on LA' superior fast food, you would be seeing the protagonist take more than one dump a day.
People in power have bad short-term memories: This is something you've been asked to believe by almost every movie sequel you've ever seen.
Whether it' Jaws 2 or Die Harder, people in power-especially police chiefs and mayors-tend to be bullheaded morons who live by the mantra: "Sure, we all know you saved the world 10 months ago. Big fucking deal, pal. Now you're in my jurisdiction and I'm going to assume that you're a loose cannon and not to be trusted."
This phenomenon reached its apotheosis in Ghostbusters 2, which opened with the Ghostbusters working as birthday-party clowns. The world has forgotten about watching these guys save Manhattan from a 137-story high marshmallow monster and now regard them as a bunch of washed-up frauds.
24 takes this conceit to a new level by asking us to believe that Jack Bauer is a distrusted renegade at the outset of four seasons in a row. At the beginning of each new season, the heads of CTU assume the Jack Bauer is a dangerous criminal and disregard the fact that he saved the world from imminent nuclear destruction a couple months ago. After a while, you'd think they'd start giving him the benefit of the doubt. You would be wrong.
Jack Bauer is a real person: If you're new to 24, we know how bad you want to believe that guys like this exist in the real world. He' so grizzled, and sounds so cool snarling those lines through clenched teeth, you figure that you could be that sort of no-nonsense loner if you just talked and acted like him. Here' how it turned out when we tried the Bauer persona on for size:
Blind Date: "So, I had a really nice time tonight."
CRACKED [using Jack Bauer line from Sunday's episode]: "Listen kid, the only reason that you're still conscious is because I don't feel like carrying you around."
Blind Date: Calling 911
CRACKED CEO, Monty Sarhan: "Where the hell have you been all morning, and why are you covered in blood?"
CRACKED [using Jack Bauer line from Sunday's episode]: "I need you to go to the address on this card. Yes, the Counter Terrorism Unit. Look Monty, there' no time to explain. If you tell anyone that you know I'm alive, your life is in danger."
CRACKED CEO, Monty Sarhan: "Please put some pants on and get back to work."
As you see, while 24 is a fine program for diversion seekers, it leaves a little to be desired when translated to the real world. Except for the torture part. Whether you're having a lover' spat or simply asking for directions, 24 is right to teach that torture is an effective way to get the information you're looking for.