Inching towards mediocrity.


Jackasswards. (Now with 30% more torture!)

Well.

“24” is great television. It’s ridiculous, contrived, right-leaning torture porn, but it is GREAT TELEVISION. I stand behind that.

But it can sometimes falter a bit. Often by utilizing the same hilarious cliches year after year, and occasionally by just completely missing the mark with a plotline, character, or totally weird “guh?” moment.

Today, I give you the Top Five 24 Cliches.

Tomorrow, tune in for the Five Worst 24 Moments.

It’s 48 hours of 24 madness. Better pack a lunch.

Also, some kind of anti-torture belt. Cuz Jack Bauer likes to torture.

A lot.

(Also, quick spoiler warning. This goes into quite a bit of detail if you haven’t seen the last seven seasons!)

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Five: The traffic report for Los Angeles today is: CONVENIENT.

This is one of those things that I can kind of understand for pacing purposes, but it’s still ridiculous. I have never been to Los Angeles, and probably will never visit. Having said that, I do live in a city and understand that in large metropolitan areas traffic can be…well…

HORRENDOUS.

Not so in the “24” universe…at least, not if the script dictates that it shouldn’t be. Like I said, I can totally understand the idea behind Jack driving across L.A. in a sixty-second commercial break. The show is in real-time, after all, and it would suck the excitement right out of the show if we had to watch Jack stuck in traffic, sipping his coffee and listening to talk radio for half an hour. It’s the inconsistency that bothers me. You want to cut out all the city driving to keep the pace moving at “24’s” regular break neck speed? Fine. But then don’t use L.A. traffic as an excuse when you need to fill time later on in the season.

Case in point:

Five minutes left in the episode, and Jack has to get across the city as fast as possible because he’s RUNNING OUT OF TIME. No problem. Traffic’s great. We’ll see you about thirty seconds before the end credits roll.

Half an hour left in the episode, and Jack needs to get across the city as fast as possible to ask some terrorist scum WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR but uh oh! Traffic is crazy Jack! Luckily CTU teams are all ready in position so we can hold him while you make your way to the airport to steal a helicopter but there might be some complications so I don’t know if you’ll make it there by episodes end, but at least that gives us something to do in the first half of next week’s episode, ok? SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

I guess after a while, it gets a bit difficult to fill “24” hours of television.

Four: The Counter Terrorist Unit enjoys countering terrorists by hiring them.

What the EFF, CTU? Is the job market so good in the “24” universe that you can just hire ANYBODY to work in a highly secretive government agency whose sole purpose is national freaking defense?!? Is your benefits plan THAT BAD?!? Are all of the trustworthy, non-double agent government employees out getting jobs in marketing or teaching night classes? Do you have ANY sort of screening process in place at all? This isn’t McDonald’s or Barnes and Noble…it’s the COUNTER TERRORIST UNIT.

SO STOP HIRING TERRORISTS. It’s in your name, for god’s sake!

I mean, when Nina Meyers was revealed to be the mole inside CTU at the end of Season One – leaking out important information, killing Jack’s loved ones, etc – we were cool with it. Sure, she had a high position within the organization and was one of Jack’s best lovers friends, and sure she wasn’t the only mole working within CTU that season so we kind of thought we’d already gotten that nonsense out-of-the-way, and hey, sure, if you go back and rewatch Season One with the foreknowledge that Nina is in fact the mole from the very beginning, the entire season doesn’t make any¬† sense and her motivations throughout are patently ridiculous…but whatever. It was a nice little surprise, and we honestly didn’t see it coming.

Then they did it again. And again. And again. Almost every season there is at least one person working at CTU, leaking important information and creating general havoc with gleeful abandon and shifty glances around the office, while the heads of CTU bumble around unknowingly, content there couldn’t POSSIBLY be another mole within the agency, because the first question on the CTU job application totally asks whether or not the potential employee has been compromised, and besides, it’s not like this has ever happened before.

Or, you know, CONSTANTLY.

They even semi-sent it up in the fifth season with a CTU mole employee leaking information left, right and center but OH HO! to the White House this time! See, he thought he was doing good! He wasn’t a double agent for evil…he was a double agent for his COUNTRY! SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?

Except by then the White House had been compromised, so he kind of was an agent for evil, albeit unknowingly.

Shortly after, the mole-riddled CTU was finally disbanded in favor of the F.B.I. in Season Seven

There was a mole there, too.

Three: You started off as kind of a dick, but now that you finally see things my way, I hope we can be friends and….OH SHIT YOU’RE DEAD NOW.

To be fair, this cliche isn’t entirely “24’s.” Honestly, you see this one a lot – though usually just in thriller/action shows/movies of this ilk/type. But “24” seems to have claimed a monopoly on it, especially lately. So it TOTALLY COUNTS.

First things first. Jack Bauer is not what we would call a “people” person. He was married once, sure, but we all remember how that turned out. It’s not that Jack’s a bad guy per se (minus the killing and the yelling and the rampant torturing) it’s just that people who get close to him tend to end up…well, dead.

A disturbing trend, to be sure, but what’s more disturbing is the number of people who have seemingly figured this out, yet still fall victim to the Curse of Bauer.

These are the characters who hate Jack on sight – or, in some cases, after having worked with/been investigating his methods for quite some time. These usually aren’t “bad” people. Perhaps “bad” in Jack’s universe of RIGHT and WRONG and THAT GRAY AREA BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG that you sometimes have to cross into to get to RIGHT and WRONG.

No, they’re not evil men. They just have different morales and methods than Jack that usually put them at odds with him. Whether they’re to “professional” or to “by the book” or to “unwilling to endanger innocent lives all the time” they usually end up clashing with Jack at some point or another, yelling at him, firing him, or in one case, putting him on trial for torture or treason or breaking amendments or something. Jerks!

And, regardless of how many rules he’s broken or how many lives he’s endangered or how many partners he’s shot in the neck, we, the audience, always end up on Jack’s side. Sure, he may be breaking international laws – as well as the laws of common sense – by raiding an embassy, but he’s Jack Bauer, dammit! HE KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING. And no shady bureaucrat is going to stand in his way! Boo to you, guy who’s just doing his job within the confines of the constitution! JACK BAUER’S ALWAYS RIGHT.

And, usually he is. As unorthodox as he may be, Jack always gets the job done, and he (and we) truly believe he’s on the side of right. He doesn’t do what he does because he’s a violent madman (though I’m sure that helps); he does what he does because no one else has the balls to do it, and sometimes you gotta get your hands a little dirty to stop a nuclear apocalypse.

Inevitably, those that doubted Jack in the beginning at some point come around to his side when they realize that he’s the only chance they’ve got, and he’s making progress where their red tape and legal methods were not. George Mason, Ryan Chapelle, Larry Moss, even that senator played by Red Foreman from “That 70’s Show” all eventually stood behind Jack and even began to trust him.

Not long after that happens, they usually get gunned down in some horrific and shocking way, and we the audience feel sympathy and sadness for these characters who we initially hated and thought of as Jack Bauer hating douchebags. Way to manufacture emotions, writers of “24.”

And, in a REALLY¬† shocking twist that proves that a) you shouldn’t learn to like Jack Bauer and b) he really WILL do whatever it takes and maybe you should have tried to stick to your guns on that one a bit more, Bauer ended up killing Chappelle himself, execution style.

But a terrorist who was holding a bunch of people hostage with some plot device nerve gas told him to, so it was totally okay.

WHATEVER IT TAKES.

Two: “WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?!?”

Once again I think I could probably chalk this one up to the writers having to fill twenty-four hours of programming, coupled with the difficulty of constantly trying to one-up each season over a period of SEVEN YEARS. Combine that with a seemingly last-minute and transparent attempt at some continuity in a series that wasn’t really big on season-to-season continuity, and you get the Russian Doll Bad Guy Syndrome, which is something I totally just made up now but think sounds really sweet.

Every season has Jack tracking down the main villain (or so he thinks!) only to dispatch him and find another antagonist waiting behind that one, the dude who’s really pulling the strings. It’s usually at least half a season’s worth of tearing apart a Russian Doll full of villains until he finally gets through all of the lackeys to the final “Big Bad.”

Season Five was a good example of that. The bad guys had just murdered ex-president David Palmer, and it was up to Jack to bring them to justice! He found the sniper, who was working for a dude in the white house, who was in cahoots with a Russian dude who was outsourced by a guy who secretly answered only to another guy, who was also the current President, who was only calling the shots as they were given to him by some other dude who was on a board of directors with some other guys, who all communicated with Bluetooth headsets and believed in chaos, or something.

Of course we find out in Season Seven that IT DIDN’T END THERE! There was another even SHADIER board of directors who communicated with computers and voice modulators, and who believed in patriotism, or something, and they had Jon Voight and, uh…

But that’s not where it ends! It CAN’T be where it ends! This conspiracy needs to go higher and higher, and deeper and deeper, until EVERYBODY is implicated in this grand conspiracy, the details of which have grown fuzzy and probably weren’t that important!

Everyone except Jack, of course.

We’ll need him to kill them.

One: Target: Los Angeles: AGAIN.

Again, I’ve never been to Los Angeles. But apparently, it’s the international hot spot for terrorism. Just ask Jack Bauer, and six seasons of impending doom.

It just seems awfully convenient that apparently all of the terror activity occurring in the USA just happens to occur in the city where the Counter Terrorism Unit is located.

I mean, it’s bad enough that half the “big bads” seem to know Jack personally from the past (you’d think that just knowing Jack personally, and knowing he resides in L.A., would be enough to keep you the hell out) but even the ones he didn’t at one time trust, are showing up on the Western coast.

Every year some dude shows up in California with a nuke, or a virus, or a nuke and a virus, and tries his luck at wiping Los Angeles off the face of the planet. And every time he fails MISERABLY.

Note to “24” villains: You wanna succeed? I mean, you really, really wanna succeed? TRY BLOWING UP SOMETHING SOMEWHERE WHERE JACK BAUER ISN’T.

But even then, we all know he’d somehow stop you anyways.

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