Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In Awe of '24'

Look, I know it's fiction. I know it can stretch credibility at times. There are even times this season--even last night's episode--when I shook my head and said "No way."

But, holy cow! Did '24' deliver last night. For those who don't know, last night was a special 2-hour event. The bad guys (I'm not going to bother with the recap) stormed the White House. I have to admit that it was hard watching the bad guys take over America's House. It's ours, dammit. It's inviolate. It's sacred. It' not for some tinpot dictator to capture.

The attack, of course, took place in the second hour so we viewers were treated to sixty minutes of hot anticipation. The attack was silent and pretty swift. But the tension was extremely high. I haven't had my heart racing, pulse pounding, palms sweaty over a TV show or movie in a long time. That's the beauty of a show like '24': you don't really know what's going to happen next.

Take "Air Force One": you *knew* going in Harrison Ford was going to win in the end. How about "The Dark Knight." No matter what, Joker was going down, one way or another. Any random episode of "CSI" or "Lost" or just about anything and you stand a better-than-average chance that you know what's coming.

Starting with Season 1 of '24' they tried to break some of those preconceptions. The last episode of Season 1 was heart breaking but it set a tone. The opening moments of Season 5 (gunshots anyone?) took your breath away. Sure, '24' has had some slips (Seasons 2, 3, 6) but this season, they have learned from their mistakes. And they know how to write thrilling, provocative, highly entertaining television.

I think we writers can stand to learn a few lessons from '24'. For starters, I think we ought to be willing to take a course of action that our readers don't expect. It'll turn off some readers but those that stay will thank us for our boldness. I thank '24' for its boldness.

And I canNOT wait until next week!

(Isn't that the point?)


John D. said...

Totally agreed...best episode evar!

The more I slam other shows for unbelievability while brushing aside 24's infractions make me realizing that the most important aspect of books/tv/film is storytelling. It'll trump everything else every time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I gave up on this when he broke a woman's knee to get her husband to talk. It does a great job of keeping the story moving, if you can stomach it.

Scott Parker said...

Patti, what's good about this season, so far, is the ongoing discussion about torture and its effectiveness. It's nice that they're trying to show both sides without coming down on one or the other.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Let me know what you think at the end and I'll DVD it.

Chris said...

Interesting about the lack of predictable outcomes with 24. I often think about that when I'm, reading Louis L'Amour. Sometimes you can tell he was going for an unpredictable ending, but the element of surprise is never included at the expense of a more or less pat ending where the good guys win. Sometimes, I've noted in my reviews that I actually wanted the predictable ending—but that was in cases where such an ending was what it appeared to be building up to, and L'Amour didn't so much pull the rug out as use a different, less satisfying ending. I think it's cool 24 is going for more innovation in its narrative—seems like the kind of medium that could pull that off well.

Ray said...

Series I was great tv - series 2 started well then seemed to become a series 1 repeat. Series 3 - I just lost interest - so never bothered with '24' since. Here in the UK unless you subscribe to the Sky network we folks on cable won't get to see the current series.

Barrie said...

Oh, I should've watched this!