Quick Hits: “24″ Season 8 — 16:00 to 20:00
Well, wow. Four hours of classic 24 trainwreck. The writing and acting was awful as always, but the big picture is that you can’t look away. I watch it together with the rest of my family every Monday night and we doubled up, doing all four episodes of the two night premiere last night. It was an arduous task, but aided by my Mom’s home cooking, we made it through.
The great thing we love about 24 is that, no matter how bad the show actually is and regardless of how many times they jump the shark, we love watching and shooting off a peanut gallery complaint on how ridiculous the show is this year (which comment has been repeated for every year since the first. In any regard, let me recap my thoughts on the first four hours….
As always, AFTER THE JUMP [Spoilers Included].
We’ve got a good deal of the core back this year. Kiefer Sutherland as Jack is obviously back and he’s finally settled into post-saving the world life as a Grandpa. But, of course, he gets brought back into the game (Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III had nothing on Jack with respect to the “They keep on pulling me back” comment). Jack is reengaged by an old informant who can turn to no one else with information on an assassination plot (more on that later).
The tipster provides a theme in this season: casting great actors from other great shows in pretty crummy characters this year. The first we meet is Benito Martinez as informant Victor Aruz. People better remember Martinez as Capt. David Aceveda on The Shield. He rocked in that. In 24, well, he fared better than most.
The second similar addition is the beloved Starbuck: Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica. Katee Sackhoff plays Senior Data Analyst Dana Walsh who apparently escaped her Appalachian past by assuming another’s identity and has now been tracked down by an old, abusive boyfriend. It’s not like CTU has been infiltrated in 6 of the prior 7 seasons, so I wouldn’t imagine background checks would be that important. That said, at least her background offered the producers the opportunity to present a perfectly and ridiculously stereotypical cutaway to her coal miner home — it was solid enough to make Don Draper of Mad Men‘s home life perfectly Cosmopolitan.
But the producers weren’t done digging with Martinez and Sackoff. A bit later in the episode, we’re treated to Jack getting tortured by none other than Domenick Lombardozzi, better known and typecast as Dt. Thomas “Herk” Hauk from The Wire. Herk always was a badass, so to see him go all Bauer on Jack was surprisingly fun… and amazingly typecast.
The producers also hinted at a return of another favorite character with photos of one of the mob suspects played by Callum Keith Rennie, who was skinjob Leoben on Battlestar. Though I somewhat doubt that we’ll see him interact with Sackoff, with whom he had such phenomenal chemistry in BSG, it’s still good to see him get a role and he should be solid as the evil Vladimir. But the ultimate avatara may be Alias star David Anders reprising the evil nature of Sark as Russian mobster Josef Bazhaez. Remains to be seen how big a role either Rennie or Anders plays.
Returning from prior seasons are the amazingly and tragically horrible actress Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O’Brien. Rajskub is so bad as Chloe with her awful facial ticks, horrible dialogue and ridiculous secret agent bent (nothing beats Chloe in all-black in Season 7 operating outside of CTU), that you can’t help but have her be your favorite non-Bauer character. This season, Chloe is back at CTU because Morris lost his job and Chloe has to play breadwinner. Except this time she’s not the smartest bee in the room and is considered anything but a hotshot.
Also back is Hillary Clinton stand-in President Allison Taylor, played by bloated, squirrel-faced actress Cherry Jones. Taylor is in NYC signing a deal with a Muslim leader, seemingly unfazed after a messy, between seasons divorce of husband Henry and imprisonment of daughter Olivia for treason. At her side is fellow returnee Bob Gunton, as senior advisor Ethan Kanin.
The final key returnee is Annie Wersching as anorexic, psychologically unstable and now-emo cutter former FBI agent Renee Walker (who apparently was fired after torturing a traitorous Senate aide in order to avert a major catastrophe. When Jack Bauer doubts if someone is stable enough to come back into the game from forced retirement, you know something is off — though Jack may just be pissed that she’s stealing his “thing.”
New characters which draw my ire include the ridiculous Freddie Prinze Jr. who has no business having a career. The guy hasn’t aged well and his acting hasn’t improved with it. I would have rather seen Saved by the Bell alum Dustin Diamond as the new CTU field agent head, Cole Ortiz. Ortiz’ boss is Mykelti Williamson who, my father argues, is right-wing Fox’ Obama surrogate and means of attacking our sitting president. Williamson’s character is the consummate incompetent boss. He screams “douche” with his constant use of the bluetooth headset and preposterous presumption to demand to speak with foreign heads of state. He’s always in CYA mode and tries to minimize Jack and Chloe’s theories.
The foreign head of state Williamson’s CTU head Brian Hastings beckons is Omar Hassan, the President of the IRK (which stands for the Islamic Republic of something). Hassan is played by Anil Kapoor, who’s a great actor but has been forever ruined for me by Slumdog Millionaire, in which he plays the game show host. Seeing him on screen, I keep on thinking of him teasing the poor chai-wallah in front of him.
This Plot is Fantastically Awful
Even in the glory days of season one, 24 excelled most in being so over the top with twists that it is just amazingly bad and entertaining (in a good way). In season one, I believe Terry and Kim Bauer were separately or jointly kidnapped every single time they took a car ride. Kim now only gets kidnapped every other season, but 24 has always managed to jump the shark in new and inventive ways. This season, they’ve started off by accomplishing that with ridiculousness:
Adapting to New York Ain’t Easy. OK, so the new CTU headquarters is a subterranean fortress on the south tip of Roosevelt Island (AKA, they built a subterranean fortress on a river bank on an island that’s about 100 feet wide at that point)…. riiiight. And said subterranean fortress has glass for walls in all central rooms (because it’s not like there’s ever sensitive meetings or information and it’s not like CTU hasn’t been attacked, bombed and/or hit with chemical weapons every other season). And where the walls aren’t glass, they mahogany paneled and/or high tech polymers. It’s like the set designer on CSI-Miami had a wet dream and came up with this.
Yearning for LA. Perhaps the worst way to travel in midtown Manhattan is by helicopter. Unfortunately, the script writers have never lived in NYC but really have a hardon for shooting helos with Stinger missiles. Oh well, let’s make CTU travel by helicopter. Sure. This ain’t Los Angeles any more. Hopefully we’ll actually see public transit.
Were the Ministers from Qumar not Available? Can we just call it Iran already? We know Pakistan has nukes already and despite the fact that they’ve decided to use Pakistani and/or ethnic Indian Muslims as actors, we can only surmise that IRK is Iran. But because we dare not actually name an Islamic state, let’s just call it IRK… much as Aaron Sorkin couldn’t bear to name Saudi Arabia on The West Wing and just ended up creating Qumar.
Did we not Learn from Billy Carter? The worst decision a politician can make is hiring a family member, but 24 leaders never learn. From Sherry Palmer to David Palmer to Olivia Taylor, family has always ended up screwing it all up for the President. The only successful family member was Henry Taylor, who divorced the President in disgust between last season and this. Well, Hassan learned none of this from watching prior seasons. His brother Farhad is his senior advisor and is the ultimate bad guy traitor. What makes it worse is that the actor portraying Farhad (Akbar Kurtha) is about four feet tall and looks like an Pakistani Jason Schwartzman.
Let’s Blow Shit Up. 24 loves a good explosion and the first four hours gave us two biggies. First, we have the aforementioned Stinger attack on a helicopter and we have a massive manhole bomb of a motorcade (because it’s not like the manholes outside Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza would be checked for explosives). Ah, Fox. Where Michael Bey might be deemed to overdo it a bit… but where Jerry Bruckheimer will always be topped.
It’s Jack Bauer. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Jack is known. The dropping of his name to the last four presidents has instantly lent credence to a crisis. I imagine he’s probably the last Federale to be so well known since Elliot Ness. That said, we had several lovely ridiculousness this week:
1) Somehow Freddie Prinze Jr. had no clue who Jack Bauer was… despite being a CTU agent, which agency was both disbanded and reconstituted solely because of Bauer.
2) Somehow everyone conveniently forgot that Bauer was the subject of a very public congressional hearing. It seems like no one outside of the White House and CTU knows who Jack is. The NYPD sure is clueless and everyone assumes Russian mobsters are too, because Hastings decides to send Jack undercover.
Just Listen to Chloe Already. It’s apparent that Chloe has psychic friends because she sniffs out every plot twist — no matter how obvious, bizarre or far fetched. She’s the only one who figures it out. And yet no one listens to her… except Jack.
Anyways, it’s getting late and this sufficed for a quick hitter. The thing I think I like most about 24 is that despite doing nothing but bitch about it, my family is always gathered together to watch it every Monday. We love it for all of its ridiculousness. Now just find a way to bring back Nina and Sherry.
Can’t wait for next Monday.