Ellen Gray: '24' not too far off from the real world
24. 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Channel 29. THE zeitgeist is a fickle mistress. So fickle, in fact, that the word itself would seem to be on the way out. We are paying billions to bail out U.S. banks and automakers: Do we really need to be importing words from Germany to describe the sagging spirit of our uncertain age?
24. 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday,
THE zeitgeist is a fickle mistress.
So fickle, in fact, that the word itself would seem to be on the way out. We are paying billions to bail out U.S. banks and automakers: Do we really need to be importing words from Germany to describe the sagging spirit of our uncertain age?
Yet it's probably not a good sign that as Fox's "24" returns Sunday, the action drama whose fall 2001 premiere was almost eerily in step with a radically altered world view, the show that gave us two black presidents before most people considered even one possible in this decade, appears to be less than onboard with the whole hope thing.
It's possible that the show's producers, given more time than usual between seasons, thanks to last year's writers strike, became a little too invested in the inevitability of a Hillary Clinton presidency and in the opportunities presented by casting the formidable Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor and moving the whole enterprise east to Washington, D.C.
Or that they got tired of listening to people like me opine that the show's approach to torture - excuse me, "extreme interrogation techniques" - might be oversimplifying a complicated issue while desensitizing viewers to the acts themselves.
Or even that they've acknowledged that a 24-hour season requires more than 17 hours of plot.
I'm thinking, though, that they might just have a few things they want to get off their chests before Guantanamo Bay is reinvented as an offshore day-care center, and that they figure Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is the man to deliver their message.
Because, let's face it, he's one great communicator.
Here he is on Sunday, in the beginning of the two-night, four-hour season premiere of "Day 7," responding, under subpoena, to questions from a self-righteous senator played by the perfectly cast Kurtwood Smith ("That '70s Show"), who wants to know if Jack tortured a guy named Ibrahim Haddad way back in 2002.
"According to the definition set forth by the Geneva Convention, yes, I did," Jack replies.
"I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent," he then tells the senator.
"I will let them decide the price I should pay. But please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made.
"Because, sir, the truth is, I don't."
If there's good news here, it's that the first four hours of "24" will not resemble a similar period on C-SPAN, since the committee hearing is interrupted almost immediately by an urgent request from the FBI for Jack's help.
Yes, CTU's still dead, but the market for its most out-there operative's very special interrogation methods hasn't dried up altogether, it seems.
Still not dead is Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), whose improbable resurrection has already been widely reported and merely begs the question: Could poor Edgar (Louis Lombardi) possibly be next?
"24," which, some of my readers remind me every season, is just a fun show about a guy who manhandles nearly everyone he meets, has long wrestled with the question of whether the ends justify the means, generally concluding, "Heck, yes!"
Don't expect that to change.
President Taylor appears to be a woman of high ideals - I'm not sure what they are, exactly, but she's against genocide and doesn't think we should negotiate with terrorists - and keeping those ideals in the face of one of Jack's Very Bad Days will prove tricky, if not impossible.
When the going gets tough, the tough (and not-so-tough) call Jack.
Fortunately, for those of us still squeamish about the show's traditionally high body count, there's other fun to be had in "Day 7," as we discover that CTU isn't so much a slick, dark office space as a state of mind, that Jack has an admirer inside the FBI who's interested in something beyond the set of his manly jaw and that there's even a Bizarro World version of the counterterrorism unit within the bureau where Janeane Garofalo plays a character so much like Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) that you'll be counting the minutes until they don't exactly meet.
There's also a nod to the economy as some former CTUers find that it's easier to hold on to their principles than to their paychecks and that just because jobs go away doesn't mean the work disappears.
Which suggests "24's" clock might be set to the correct time, after all. *
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