Everyone who first heard the concept of 24 (that each of the 24 episodes would represent one hour in a single day, told real-time) thought it would either be the coolest damned thing ever or a ridiculous gimmick. Where normal dramas like House have a new story line (or patient) every week, each season of 24 would be like one 24-hour-long action movie, with one continuing story.
Plus as much torture as a major network will allow.
This of course made for quite a challenge on the writing end, since they'd need to carefully map out exactly what was going to happen during that season's "day," just as they would with a film. Otherwise you wind up with a confused mess with ridiculous plot turns they were forced to pull out of their ass when they wrote themselves into a corner.
But Actually ...
Early in Season 6 they had a nuclear bomb going off in Los Angeles and killing at least 12,000 people ... only to be forgotten a few episodes later. That is, a few hours later. In the world of 24, America gets over an attack four times the size of 9/11 before the emergency response even gets fully under way. Did the writers really plan it that way?
That's worth what, at least a half-dozen Toby Keith albums?
To quote writer David Fury, they were just "winging it." He says that worked out fine because they got good ratings doing it: "In the early seasons of 24, [the writers tried] to map out stories and arc out stories [beforehand] a little bit more than they did, say, in seasons four and five, and four and five turned out to be two of most successful seasons."
Though even during the seasons he claims they planned out, you have sequences that come completely out of left field, like the bit in Season 2 where Jack's daughter Kim "ended up lost in the middle of a forest, chased by a cougar, where she was taken in by a lonely man who she subsequently escaped from."
Cougar encounters are rarely the result of careful planning.
The problem with thinking of 24 as one long movie is that TV shows aren't shot like movies -- in terms of schedule, it's more like a series of movies or sequels that are all being made at once.
Remember that it takes months to make just a single episode of a show once all of the prep work is thrown in. An action show like 24 has to go through creating storyboards, securing locations, procuring gallons of fake blood, etc. But you can't spend five years making one season, so the production of the episodes has to overlap, and different episodes have different directors. In other words, Episode 1 will be shooting while Episode 5 is still just drunken notes on a cocktail napkin.
Actual DVD extra.
And not only do you not have time to write 24 complete scripts before shooting starts, but even a vague map of story specifics can be thrown off if an actor or location isn't available later on.
In reality, the first time the writers of 24 actually sat down to plan a whole "day" or season in advance was Season 7, according to Kiefer Sutherland. Why? Because a writers strike delayed production.
#2. Twin Peaks
"Who killed Laura Palmer?"
Twin Peaks was a massively influential, genre-defying series that made a lot of people realize you could still be original on TV. It became a national obsession 20 years ago, and half the shows on this list wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Twin Peaks. In fact, David Duchovny got his start there:
Odd thing is, Duchovny would totally do her.
At the center of Twin Peaks' two seasons and theatrical film was the mystery of the murder of Laura Palmer, which creators David Lynch and Mark Frost used as a springboard to explore the disturbing underbelly of a seemingly peaceful little town.
Also, they serve pretty damn good waffle fries.
But Actually ...
It was eventually revealed that Laura's killer was a demon by the unassuming name of Bob, who had possessed Laura's father and forced him to abuse and kill her. Bob (already a recurring character) went on to become the main antagonist of the second season -- he was so important that the series cliff-hanger focuses on him, hinting that he would have played an even larger role in the unrealized third season.
If you've read this far, you know you're about to find out that when the series kicked off, Lynch had no freaking clue that the killer was Bob. What is even more ridiculous is that Bob exists only because of this:
That scene is from the first episode, which ends when Laura's mom has a terrifying vision. We don't see what it is, but you can see a reflection in the upper-right corner -- the face of the killer.And it was an accident. That face is the set decorator.
Look at him vault that couch.
While looking at the footage for the scene, they noticed that set decorator Frank Silva was reflected in the mirror, even though Laura's mom is supposed to be completely alone. Instead of firing the guy for ruining the shot, David Lynch incorporated him into the story as Bob. The entire rest of the series centered on his murder of Laura. So, basically, Silva got cast as a major character in a popular show by being the most incompetent set decorator ever.
OK, people skipping ahead to see if Lost was #1: You can go back to the beginning of the list now. Of course it is.
Wasn't this show originally some sort of survival drama?
The plot: A bunch of people get stuck on an island, weird shit happens. Then the entire series involves unfolding the mystery of what exactly is the nature of the island, and about six dozen sub-mysteries. ("What is the nature of Hurley's numbers? What happened to Walt?")
But Actually ...
The thing with Lost is that fans didn't just assume all the mysteries had an answer -- they were explicitly told so by the creators.
In a 2005 interview, co-creator Damon Lindelof said: "Every mystery that we present on the show ... all of those are questions that we know the answers to." He also said that "nothing in the show is flat-out impossible" and that everything so far could be explained by science. Sure, he was talking in the present tense -- but the present tense included the Smoke Monster, who ended up being the ghost of a 2,000-year-old guy who can impersonate dead people, and Michael's 10-year-old son, Walt, displaying supernatural powers that turned out to be ... actually, we have no idea, because that was never explained.
Fortunately, some of the writers have been a little more up front. You know the sequence of numbers that kept recurring in the show? The numbers that seemed to have so many mysterious influences (from making one man win the lottery to causing a plane to crash) that an explanation seemed almost impossible?
Season 1 writer David Fury (there's that guy again) says he has no idea what "the numbers" meant, and he's the one who came up with them.
"I was too busy practicing my comb-over to pay attention to my writing."
Hey, what about the early episode where characters hear mysterious whispering in the jungle? Let's again hear what Fury said in an interview:
"I can't tell you what they are now, but I can tell you what they WERE. They were supposed to be the Others, lurking in the jungle. At that time, we hadn't yet settled on what the Others would be."
Well, what about that episode that implied Walt could summon animals, and even made a polar bear appear on the island after reading about one in a comic book? Fury says:"That was the intent. But then ... things have changed since my time."
OK. Well, how about that Smoke Monster then?
"There was no mythology to speak of in place during the early episodes of the series. We were building it as we went along, discussing possibilities. ... Some thought of it as a monster of the id, much like in Forbidden Planet -- that maybe it appeared differently to everyone who saw it. The most tangible thought, as explained later by Rousseau, was that it functioned as a security system set up by the island's creators/early residents ... whatever we later decided the answer was."
If you're ready for a tight, hole-free script watch Cracked's delightful parody of the Star Wars universe.
Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile, and when he isn't waiting for the next catastrophe, he likes to waste his time writing back to scammers or making stupid comics. Special thanks to Gishface, Ashe and Robinyj.
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For more television revelations you didn't want to hear, check out The 7 Most Soul-Crushing Series Finales in TV History. Or learn why, sometimes, you should let the fans write these things, in 6 Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better.
And stop by Linkstorm to see how LOLcats started out as a serious look at the sense of humor of cats.
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