Four Things 24 Would Like You to Believe

Four Things 24 Would Like You to Believe
By now, we’ve come to expect certain things from 24. Jack Bauer is going to thwart some terrorist activity and he’s going to do it in a no-nonsense way. He’s going to steal some cars and shoot some bad guys and, oh yes—there’s going to be torture. Oh, glorious torture, how we missed you in the off-season.

The first four episodes of the sixth season of
24 air over the long weekend. And while all TV shows require a certain suspension of disbelief (Studio 60 asks us to believe that SNL's staff spend their days bantering 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 Six here are four things that you’re going to have to be willing to believe.

1. Los Angeles is a hub for political activity and an extremely popular terrorist target
That’s 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 five seasons of 24, no less than three near-apocalyptic terror attacks targeting or involving the executive branch and the CIA (that’s 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. If so, what do they do all day? Use wire taps to leak the new Enrique Iglesias album?

24 is set in LA for the same reason that most great action movies (
Die Hard, Terminator, T:2, Crocodile Dundee 3) are set there: directors, writers and producers live in LA and it’s easy to come up with stories about the town you drive through on your way to work each morning. Also, people like to imagine that their hometown is important enough to get bombed by terrorists. It’s why residents of Columbia, Missouri buy out Wal-Mart when the terror alert level goes from yellow to orange. Fortunately for Angelinos and unfortunately for
24 writers, 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 six straight terror plots focussed on LA?

Imagine for a moment that this season’s 24 was set in Manhattan, with subway chases, Jack Bauer repelling down skyscrapers and saving the Brooklyn Bridge from destruction. It could have completely reinvigorated the franchise. Instead, we’re stuck with a sixth helping of highways, airports and the desert. We're not saying we won't be watching, but we'll be watching with our arms crossed and a pout on our face.

And while we’re on LA, 24 also asks you to believe that…

2. 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 six 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’s house: if we’re being realistic, there’s 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’s superior fast food, you would be seeing Bauer take more than one dump a day.

3. 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’s Jaws 2 or Die Harder, people in power—especially police chiefs and mayors—tend to live by the mantra: “You may have saved the world 10 months ago, but 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. These guys save Manhattan from a 137-story marshmallow monster and now everyone regards them as a bunch of washed-up frauds. That's Michael Keaton territory.

But 24 takes this conceit to a new level by asking us to believe that Jack Bauer is distrusted at the outset of each of the first six seasons, disregarding the fact that he SAVED THE WORLD FROM IMMINENT NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION. After a while, you’d think they’d start giving him the benefit of the doubt. But, as last night's first two episodes proved, you would be wrong. David Palmer's kid brother, who couldn't be any less Presidential than the real President Palmer, decides to go with the word of some woman who is in her 60s and the art dealer who channeled Vigo in
Ghostbusters 2 over Jack Bauer's urgent warning that they were making a mistake. And then of course he acts surprised when it turns out Bauer was right.

4. People like Jack Bauer could actually exist in the real world
We know how bad you want to believe that guys like this exist in the real world. He’s so grizzled, and sounds so cool snarling through clenched teeth, you figure that you could be that sort of no-nonsense loner if you just talked and acted like him. Here’s how it turned out when we tried the Bauer persona on for size:

Blind Date: “So, I had a really nice time tonight.”

CRACKED : “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 : “I need you to go to the address on this card. Yes, the Counter Terrorism Unit. Look Monty, there’s 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’s 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.
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