Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"I don't eat red food, Mark!": 24

The producers of 24, apparently just now realizing they couldn't completely coast off of prior seasons greatest hits, whipped out the Rainman homage we have to assume they've been dying to use for a while, turning tonight's episode into the story of two brothers (who would be played by Ben Affleck and Andy Richter in the movie version) who find their very ordinary lives as computer hackers disrupted by the whirlwind that is Jack Bauer. This being 24, the brother who got them into this mess isn't really the good hacker. His brother, Brady, is, and Brady is also autistic, which means that we get to see lots of scenes full of Hollywood shorthand for autism, followed by Jack staring pensively at these kids and seeing that, yes, sometimes a hard life does mean the easiest thing to do is get in bed with the terrorists. Because, dammit, all caretaker brother wanted to do was provide a red pepper-free environment for autistic brother. Is that so hard to do?

I don't mean to make it sound as though I'm making light of autism, because I assure you I'm not. What I'm making light of is the rather bizarre decision by the show to turn much of the episode over to Jack's adventures with Brady and his attempts to coach Brady through a tense terrorist standoff. I could actually foresee an episode where Jack coming in contact with someone who is physically incapable of following all of his orders RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT! could both frustrate him and give him an opportunity to show off his ingenuity in the clutch, but the Jack and Brady scenes felt too much like something out of a really bad buddy cop movie starring Steve Guttenberg. Everyone would learn a lesson at the end of that movie, and while 24 didn't come right out and say it, you could tell Jack was impressed to learn that Autistics Are People Too.

Still, that was probably the episode's highlight. For as weird and contrived as the plot was, at least 24 hadn't really done anything REMOTELY like it in the past. The rest of the episode was made up of bits of episodes past, the show apparently trying to cash in on its glory days.

I have a friend named Luke, who loves 24 more than almost anyone I know (even more than David, who used to be a huge 24 nut before he got too cool and British for the adventures of Bauer and Co.). Even more than 24, Luke loves Tony and Michelle. I think if the U.S. allowed polygamous relationships with fictional characters (and if his wife was, like, totally cool with it), Luke would marry Tony and Michelle and then just sit around their house, grinning happily while they bantered or argued about whose turn it was to take out the trash or paid the electric bill or something. Of all of my 24-crazy friends, though, Luke has been most frustrated with this season, and particularly with its attempts to ape old storylines, because, you see, the characters 24 tried those storylines with first (as Luke rightly points out) were so much better and so much more compelling than the characters 24 is trying the storylines with now.

As an example -- tonight, we saw Nadia and Milo hook up, even though Nadia had just been tortured by Doyle for crimes she didn't commit (SEE, KIDS? TORTURE DOESN'T ALWAYS PAY!). The problem with this was that Tony and Michelle had done the same thing in season two, shortly after a nuclear bomb went off (or shortly before -- something to do with a bomb at any rate). The idea that this would happen is sort of ridiculous, but 24 has always given its non-Jack relationships that "Love Among the Ruins" type feel, and Tony and Michelle's sudden consummation pointed to that. Milo and Nadia, two characters we care nothing about, can't spur the same feelings in us, so we just think about how much better Tony and Michelle were. Ditto with Wayne Palmer (who I still like thanks to retroactive love for Principal Wood), who now finds himself with a Vice President (WHO'S EVIL) who questions his ability to lead the country and seems poised to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip him of the office (just as happened to Wayne's brother David). When David was removed from the presidency, it was a chilling moment, echoing all sorts of feelings many had that they had no control over who was or wasn't president. This just felt sort of stupid because VP Evil (much as I like him) is clearly such a Snidely Whiplash stand-in.

So there you have it. 24 repeats old plotlines, does them with characters and actors you don't care about and calls it a sixth season. At this point, I'm mostly watching out of habit, and I doubt I'll buy the DVDs (OK, I know I won't buy the DVDs). 24, I kid because I love, but let's try harder to find that "one big idea" you talked about not finding this year in an EW interview in year seven, okay?

1 comment:

Luke said...

Oh my wife's cool with it.

She's veeerrry cool with it.