24: The Longest Dead Series Discussion of Our Lives – Season Six

“THERE IS NO GOD”

Title Card2.4 (two-point-four) is a mindnumbing and nauseating television series. Beyond the what?!, why?!, who?! and OH GOD DAMNIT GUYS is a show that reached a new level of terrible “story”telling and dropped the bar for action and suspense on network television. Lasting for only 1 full seasons–24 Episodes plus a lot of sadness–2.4 is one of the most infuriating shows of the past 15 years. Others, like Viva Laughlin, Heroes, Eli Stone, all twentyseven Survivors and three of four eps of Sean Saves the World, may have run longer, but the argument can be made that none of those shows are equally as worthy of contributing to the debatably labeled and vaguely-defined “Run of the American Television show 24” that began with Season 1 in 2001 and is now returning with the mini-series Live Another Day. Perhaps 2.4 doesn’t quite reach the painful heights of hammer blows to the head, or others like a kick to the testes and papercuts, or even stubbing your toe, the flu or Rob Schneider movies, but it was somehow a strong awards and ratings contender and it was, admittedly, fun to rip on.

Please join us—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—as we take a look back at this series, discussing the only season there was this month, in anticipation for the debatebly related premiere of the new 12-episode miniseries 24: Live Another Day in May 2014.

This month’s discussion is focused on Season 1 of 2.4 — sometimes referred to as Season 6 of 24 — which premiered in January of 2007.

It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 2.4 and 24, as well as more strong language than usual. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.

********************

Zach
This season sucks balls you didn’t even know existed.

When we (Patches, Jeff, MegaMix and myself) were discussing which seasons we wanted to take point on, I knew immediately which two needed to be mine: first, my favorite of ‘em all, S3; and second, the single most infuriating season of television I have ever had the misfortune of watching — this one. “Season 6.” Or as I have taken to calling it, Season 1 of that campy slapstick gem 2.4, a spinoff of 24 in which the world cares not for logic, and the writers are no longer bound to antiquated notions like consistency or motivation.

In this world, anything can happen — literally anything, even if it is in direct contradiction to established character traits. Family members of Jack Bauer can pop in and out of thin air and conveniently be mastermind terrorists. Morris O’Brian can be the most important person in the show. Episodes can be spent showing Jack’s ability to navigate the autism spectrum. Jack can overcome John-McCain-ian PTSD in about 10 minutes by killing one of his closest allies. The vice president can invoke the 25th amendment without anyone in the room having an opinion about whether or not this is a good idea. Singularly important White House staffers can disappear for an hour with a known terrorist hanging out with the president and no one thinks this needs further investigation. Lines like “it’s ACH-med!,” “Send medics to the basement I’m Mike Doyle,” “He was right all along and I… this is going to get much worse,” and “What are you smoking? // I’m here to blow away the smoke,” are said earnestly. A sitting president can give a sleepy speech calmly discussing that there was a nuclear attack on America.

Anything can happen, no matter how ridiculous. If you go into it with that mindset, it can actually be pretty fun to watch, in a Mystery Science Theater kind of way.

It’s hard to put into 800 words exactly what sucks most about this season. For my part, I have about 27 pages of notes collected during my rewatch of this season that begin to scratch the surface. At the very heart of it all, though, is the writing. Stilted, terrible, uncommitted and aimless writing. To be clear: there are some good storylines in this season, and some interesting premises. They are all, without fail, promptly abandoned by the writers in exchange for a cheap thrill or explosion, shelved permanently for another boring and idiotic CTU subplot, or botched from the get-go. New characters are introduced and they are almost all unlikable, uninteresting, unmemorable. If they are, they’re probably infuriatingly killed off ASAP. Beloved characters are made unrecognizable, even killed off for reasons that can only be described as shock-mongering. CTU hits its absolute nadir episode in and out. The White House Bunker is the dumbest room in America.

Case in point: I think the season is summed up best by a particular scene in which, after (yet again) breaking into a foreign nation’s consulate against the expressed wishes of every person on the show, Jack succeeds in torturing plot-sustaining-information X out of the Russian ambassador. The next course of action? Jack Bauer, the guy who never fails us, who always saves the day, the guy of whom everyone always asks “what’s the play here, Jack,” runs headlong into a doorway that he himself barred from “the bad guys” on the other side, and which has somehow been rigged with explosives. He does what I think is the most uncharacteristic JACKtion of the entire run of the series — he makes an inexplicable, stupid mistake. And why? It feels to me that the only possible reason is that it was the easiest path from story N to story N+1, and the writers ain’t go no qualms about that.

There are moments (such as the ending scenes of the series) that absolutely soar — in large part based on Kiefer’s execution — but whereas in previous seasons we forgave idiocy in the arc of excellence, now great scenes stick out as reminders of what we aren’t getting any more. As MegaMix mentioned in an off-line convo, some of these stories perhaps deserved to be told, but they HAD to be told better. The question of how Jack became Jack and his family’s influence in that process is really interesting, and one that I can’t object to a priori. In execution, however, it’s so mind-numbingly awful as to be offensive to the viewership that cared to ask the question in the first place.

That “relationship” — the one between the excited, all-in viewer and the probably-well-meaning-but-comically-bungling writers — is the real victim on S1 of 2.4. They shot our heroes in the neck. They nuked our trust. Why?

In the immortally terrible worlds of The Blind Mystic Baby-Face Mike Doyle, the writers may have found their answers, but I’m still looking for mine.

vlcsnap-2014-01-22-18h23m03s53Patches
Maybe the writers ran out of ideas. Or Ritalin. Maybe they forgot to clean “25th Amendment,” “mole,” “nukes,” “attack CTU?,” “consulate break-in,” “Morris for some reason,” and “surprise family” off the dry-erase board at the end of previous seasons. Maybe they threw darts at old scripts, integrating everything they hit. I don’t know.

I do know that this is a contender for the worst season of television I’ve ever finished watching. The list of horrible things about 2.4 was deftly (and hilariously) handled by Zach, so I’ll focus on patient zero of this debacle, the awful death of Curtis Manning.

Because I started watching during Season 5, Curtis was my favorite character. Our introduction to Manning in Season 4 includes a rescue of Jack Bauer and a terrorist neck snapping. He became one of Jack’s staunchest supporters, all while threatening to become 24’s Wedge Antilles, the guy who improbably survives despite his status as a supporting character.

I’m not upset that Curtis died. I’ve accepted that death is inevitable for all non-Jack Bauers. All I ask for is a good death, which I define as a death which serves a purpose and is in character.

Curtis’ death fulfilled neither of those requirements.

Jack killed Curtis because the “writers” felt the need to somehow outdo the shocks of Season 5’s premiere. “Oh, yeah? Well, this time Jack shoots his closest friend AND THEN A NUCLEAR BOMB GOES OFF! SQUIBBILY FLABBILY DOO!

And Jesus, was it out of character…

So let me get this straight? Curtis Manning lost his shit after seeing the reformed terrorist responsible for killing his old squad? The same Curtis Manning who kept his composure while preventing nuclear meltdowns, capturing prolific terrorists, getting shot twice, relieving his incompetent boss of command, and running with a canister of nerve gas as though it was a motherfucking football? That guy?

Fuck. That. Shit.

A couple of my colleagues noted that the first four episodes of Season 6 were actually pretty good. Then, Jack killed “Curtis.” Then, the rest of Season 6 happened.

I rest my case.

vlcsnap-2014-01-23-00h14m09s200MegaMix
For those of you reading this that actually know one or all of us writers, you might know that I’m a bit of a troublemaker when it comes to discussion and debate. So, for the sake of doing what (As Patches just pointed out) the writers of 2.4 didn’t do well, I’ll stay in character and play a bit of devil’s advocate. Let’s see how much I can get out before punching myself in the nuts.

How many shows actually make it through five full seasons or 120 hours of television? Not many. 24 created a LOT of good TV, but plenty of bad as well. So, why are we surprised that it took the producers that much TV to get it wrong? Sitcoms aside (mostly because I feel it’s incomparable), there are only a couple shows (mentioned in our usual introductory paragraph, and notably none of which were on basic cable like 24 was [is]) that were able to last this long.

My question is whose fault is S6? Is it the producers/writers or is it ours? Zach already argued that it’s the writer’s poor execution of a handful of good ideas, so I’ll explore the viewer’s responsibility when it comes to expectations after 120 hours spent with a good show.

The thought process of the average TV viewer is simple. They wonder, “How is the show going to be bigger/better episode-to-episode and season-to-season?” Is that a reasonable question? The number of shows that suck outnumber the shows that don’t, so why expect more from a show that hasn’t completely sucked? Is that fair to the show? I’d argue that most viewers aren’t fair or reasonable when it comes to the entertainment they consume. Most of them probably can’t even define what they like about any given show, and that’s why people love Netflix’s genre categories.

Viewers want what they want unless they don’t want it. So, why not have a nuclear bomb go off? Why not have Jack uncharacteristically kill one of his only remaining allies/friends? And, why wouldn’t Jack’s brother (that you’ve never heard of before) be the darkest timeline version of Jack? The writers/producers wouldn’t know those ideas weren’t going to work until they didn’t. And the viewer wouldn’t have either.

So, reader, I think S1 of 2.4 is mostly your (our) fault.

That being said, I think this was EASILY the worst season of 24. But how bad does that really make it? As bad as Zach described? Not in my opinion, even if it feels like it was exactly that bad.

vlcsnap-2014-01-23-17h29m31s213Jeff
MegaMix,

You’re right that 24 maintained a remarkable quality through 5 seasons. Plus, it’s the extreme in serialized storytelling, which makes its success more impressive. It can’t be easy to adjust story trajectory mid-season when the show is playing out over 24 consecutive hours.

You’re also right that viewers aren’t “fair” when it comes to TV. The discerning viewer has been spoiled by a recent glut of quality television. Sure, a lot of it comes from premium channels with shorter seasons. Still, DVD and streaming has diminished the idea of a TV “season” as such, so it’s not surprising that people are more critical. All of their TV, though made in different factories, comes in the same package.

It’s no surprise to me that 24 had a down year. I’d say that most long-running shows (comedy or drama, broadcast or cable) hit their peak in seasons 2-4 and then suffer a gradual decline (not without bright spots) until the end of the run.

Season 6 of 24 was a nosedive.

The show was coming off its highest-rated, most lauded and, some might say, its best season. The fact that the show couldn’t maintain that quality is the problem. I’m not going to blame myself for high expectations as I didn’t care for season 5 initially and was prepared for more of the same. Like Zach, I’m going to blame the writers/creative team.

Here’s the thing: abandoned plotlines and mishandled ideas aside, season 6 was more than capable of producing a decent episode, even in the middle of its worst stretch. This makes its overall awfulness so frustrating. With episode 17, it’s as if the production staff turned to David Fury—an alum of Buffy and Angel and writer of “Walkabout,” one of Lost’s finest hours—and said “everything we’ve been doing is shit. Fix it!” Then they gave him carte blanche for his only solo writing credit of the season.

“Now we’re gonna have some fun,” Jack tells Fayed at the beginning of the episode. He may as well have been talking to the audience, because the leap forward in quality is palpable. There’s the fake ambush, the Fayed-Jack battle, and the complete absence of Noah Daniels. It’s really pretty great (or maybe just better by association). You see, the writers could course-correct and deliver an entertaining product.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t maintain it. This episode concludes with an out-of-the-blue phone call from Cheng, setting the stage for the disappointing final push, including the weird Russia/US standoff, the (narratively necessary) return of Phillip Bauer and Tom Lennox listening to sex sounds for 40 minutes.

Is it “that bad”? It’s much worse than any previous season of 24 and it’s one of the worst individual seasons of any “good” TV show I’ve watched (there’s just something about those sixth seasons, huh Lost?). Still, I love 24. At least it doesn’t get worse than this.

vlcsnap-2014-01-29-17h02m07s118Zach
I happen to like changing my mind, and I would love to be wrong about this one, MegaMix, but I just don’t think I am. I may be unrelenting and hyperbolic about my distaste for S6, but frankly, it’s just sooooo much garbage. It sucks scientifically (trust me, I’m a scientist).

It wasn’t until you (MegaMix) mentioned the concept of the ideas being better than the execution that I considered what that must be like for the writers of the series. I actually feel bad for them, in that respect. They had to have looked at these storylines with so much promise, only (and I suppose it’s hopeful of me to think this) to have been deeply disappointed with the result. Once that had happened, I feel like there was all sorts of damage control. The overarching feel of the season is “reactionary,” and this can be seen especially in the incessant retro-writing of characters. It’s realized that Tom Lennox is the only person who can do thing X, and thing X must happen to get out of this current pit of despair, so Tom Lennox does X. Forgotten in this logic is that TL would never do thing X, and we (the viewers) wouldn’t like it one bit if he did. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I guess I should just be kinder to the writers. I couldn’t do their job. Buuuuuuuuuuuut neither could they sooooooo….

Anyway. I think now is the appropriate time to broach the subject of Morris O’Brian. Morris, see, is a funny guy. In season 5.

In season 6, I swear there is some contractual clause that requires that he appear in every single scene of the show, no matter how contrived. They make him a huge part of the show, taking away valuable screen time from the only character remaining in CTU the audience gives a shit about (Chloe) and in the process turning the only other character in CTU that ever made me laugh into a constant showstopper (and not in a good way).

Why do I bring it up? Well, I have a hunch that S6’s favorite time-suck may have returned to his homeland where (surprise!) the upcoming miniseries will be taking place. Here’s hoping… god. Anything else. Please. PLEASE.

vlcsnap-2014-01-22-23h56m16s239Patches
MegaMix brings up an interesting question: Are Season 6’s faults in our stars or in ourselves? Maybe he’s onto something here. Maybe if I reset my expectations, Season 6 will be better. Maybe if I evaluate this season as a season of 2.4 instead of a season of 24, things won’t seem so bad. After all, didn’t hate it when I watched it live…

The relationship between Milo Pressman and Nadia Yassir was pretty good, at least when not weighed down by the presence of Mike Doyle. Milo was inoffensive in Season 1 and was generally inoffensive again. Nadia was a good character, meaning “great for a woman on 24,” right from the start. She wasn’t anything because she was a woman. Or Muslim. She was just a smart, strong, reliable leader who happened to be a Muslim, Pakistani-American woman. Milo taking a bullet for his unrequited love during the Chinese invasion of CTU (ugh…) would have been moving in any season.

Alexander Siddig’s turn as a disillusioned terrorist was great, even if we can never forgive him for saving Wayne Palmer from that bomb.

Powers Boothe’s gravitas and general badassery deserved a far better fate than to be wasted on such an awful character in such an awful season.

Karen and Bill weren’t terrible, even if they both spent most of the season as Secretary of Exposition.

Bob Gunton shows up for the first time and that’s pretty cool, I suppose.

Ummm… Rena Sofer has pretty eyes and I bet she smells nice?

You know what? I can’t do this. If 165 words are all that’s needed to discuss the positives of any full season of television, you are dealing with shitty TV, high expectations or low. It’s pretty clear that I enjoyed Season 6 at the time simply because it was the first season I watched after getting caught up.

MegaMix is right about a couple things. The fact that it took so long for 24 to be this bad is actually really impressive. And even though Season 6 stinks by any objective metric, our expectations for bigger and better things probably backed the writers into some sort of corner.

Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t make a bag of feces smell any less like shit. Sorry 2.4, I’m going with “the stars” on this one.

vlcsnap-2014-01-22-18h00m04s46MegaMix
“You’re cursed, Jack. Everything you touch, one way or another, ends up dead.” – James Heller in Season 6 of 24

There aren’t a lot of things that you can fully trust about the world that 24 creates. At the same time, there are truths that exist and are proven over and over again throughout the series. One of those truths is that Jack is almost always right. Unfortunately, the most important word in that last sentence is “almost”. Yes, even Jack gets it wrong. Or, he doesn’t “fully” save the day. Or, he doesn’t “get” the girl. And, he definitely doesn’t “make” you laugh, but he could absolutely “make” you laugh. You get the idea.

My point (yes, there is one) is that season 1 of 2.4 is the fruition of that “almost.” There has never been (and never will be) a perfect show. Unfortunately for 24, S6 is the exception to their rule. Through all the highs and lows of the series, the sixth day found a way to be almost completely low. Sure, there were good (maybe great) ideas and concepts, but the execution just wasn’t there. We trusted the show, just like we trust Jack, to make everything better. To find ends that justify the means. To always be right. Sadly, the writers/producers aren’t the hero that is Jack Bauer.

Luckily for us, the writers/producers find a way to bounce back. We all clearly agree that season 6 has (to this point) been the low point of the series. That means that season 7 & 8 got much closer to the expectations that had been built over years of fan loyalty. But, we’ll get to that shortly.

It may not ever be (or get) as good as it once was, but few things ever do. All we can hope for is that Live Another Day learned from the mistakes made in S6 and grows upon the good from S7 & S8.

“I know that I promised to take care of you and protect you, but I’m at a crossroads. Right now the best way…the only way to do that is to let you go.” Jack Bauer to Audrey Raines in S6

So, team, let’s do as Jack says and let it go.

vlcsnap-2014-01-16-09h06m34s154Jeff

Look: at this point, more criticism of 2.4 is just piling on. Besides, I like a lot of what MegaMix had to say about understanding that nothing can be great (or even good) all of the time, particularly for 8 seasons (and counting). I’ve long since “let it go,” and I’ve relegated season 6 of 24 to its own faraway corner of my TV mind palace.

Still, I get the last word, so why not pick on the season a little bit more?

One major problem: for the first time ever, Jack Bauer was uninteresting. In seasons past, whenever we were hit with amnesia, a cougar, a CTU baby, Maya Driscoll or Miles Papazian, we always knew that JACKtion was just a couple minutes away. Jack is the heart, soul and fist of the show. If he ever had a down hour, usually the supporting stories were strong enough to carry us through.

In season 6, Jack is stuck with the Bauers, the Russians, the Chinese and most memorable of all, “a very special episode.” Had the supporting cast been good, they couldn’t have carried the load. When your lead character is consistently uninteresting, that’s a problem.

Now for the Airing of Grievances lightning round.

  • CTU.
  • Tom Lennox, history major.
  • ACH-med’s hick neighbors, who just happen to be right that he’s a terrorist. Racial profiling is bad, except when it isn’t.
  • Sandra Palmer, attorney at law.
  • The idea that Fayed’s multi-month plan to free his programmer is easier than McCarthy kidnapping Morris.
  • Darren McCarthy and his Palm-Springs-hating girlfriend, Rita.
  • Morris’ alcoholism.
  • Insane Noah Daniels.
  • Wayne Palmer’s cabinet, almost all of whom see nothing wrong with Daniels’ plan to nuke Nonameistan.
  • Reed Pollock.
  • “Martha Logan’s Bungalow.”
  • Mike Doyle.
  • Never mentioning the Charles “crashing in the back of an ambulance” Logan again…for 2 years.
  • The Bauer family.
  • Making the Russians threaten a US base we’ve never seen and don’t care about.
  • There’s something about Nadia. Doyle chokes her and she kinda likes him. Milo forces a kiss on her and she kinda likes him.

So, a consistently good/great show got really bad. But you know what? We’ve all been there. Zach, I know you’ve had days where you just need to walk into a heavily guarded explosive doorway like a Blind Mike Doyle. Patches, I’m sure there are one or two times you’ve thought the best course of action would be to nuke first and ask questions later. MegaMix, you’ve been kidnapped by your grandfather. And me? Well, some days I just won’t eat red food.

I think there’s a little 2.4 in all of us.

vlcsnap-2014-01-23-17h31m00s88KILL COUNT

Jack’s Season 6 Kill Count: 51 (Jack’s deadliest season)
Overall Kill Count: 187

PARTING SHOTS

Zach
Favorite Moment: Not Seriously: When the box blows up and The Baby Faced Blind Mystic finally earns his Blind. Semi-seriously: When Chloe plays the “you armed a nuclear bomb” card on Morris. It’s like middleschoolers bickering but Chloe just owns it. Meta-seriously: when Nadia claims there was only 1 casualty (Milo) after we clearly saw like 10 security guards get annihilated. Seriously: the final sequence with Audrey and Jack. I did a complete 180 on this scene. It’s excellent.
Parting Shot: In my notes for this season I dropped the F bomb 47 times. That’s about every 200th word. I enjoyed it that much.

vlcsnap-2014-01-29-22h46m10s219Patches
Best Moment: It has to be Milo telling the Chinese commandos he was in charge, taking a bullet for Nadia in the process. It’s the only thing from 2.4 that provokes an emotion other than befuddlement or anger.
Parting Shot: There’s nothing left to say. Let this empty parting shot be a monument to all of 2.4’s sins.

vlcsnap-2014-02-25-20h50m14s75MegaMix
Favorite Moment(s): For me, it’s a tie between Kiefer Sutherland performances. First, Jack’s reaction to having just shot Curtis and then the nuke going off was simply gut wrenching (even if out of character on the Curtis side). Second, the final moments with Jack being told off by James Heller (and vice versa x10) and deciding to let Audrey go for her own good. Kiefer is simply fantastic in both moments.
Parting Shot: While filming the infamous “chain scene” between Jack Bauer and Abu Fayed, Adoni Maropis was actually rendered unconscious and was taken to the hospital as a safety precaution. Luckily, he returned three days later to finish the scene.

vlcsnap-2014-01-30-00h01m45s13Jeff
Favorite Moment: Episode 17 (see above). With the exception of the re-introduction of Cheng, it is uniformly good.
Parting Shot: This was the first season not nominated for the Best Drama Series Emmy Award. Amazingly, Jean Smart wrangled a Best Guest Actress nomination. It was also the last season for which Kiefer Sutherland would be nominated for Best Actor. Current nonstop commercial travel listings for flights from LA to DC estimate no less than 5 hours and 10 minutes travel time. We saw awesome Bauer buddy cop partner turned scapegoat Hamri Al-Assad leave CTU at roughly 10:50AM. We are told that his plane landed in DC sometime before 1:16PM, less than 2.5 hours later. Hmmmmm, sounds fishy, but I have one explanation.

vlcsnap-2014-01-28-18h10m22s37********************

More 24:

Season 1 Season 2Season 3Season 4
Season 5Season 6Season 7Season 8
Live Another Day ReJacktions Live Another DaySuperlatives

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