Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jack Bauer Is The New John McClane

It's official - "24" is back. And not only is it back, it's better than ever. Sure, Dennis Haysbert will go down as the Best...President...Ever in the "24" universe (though Cherry Jones is doing a damn fine job) and Gregory Itzin will be hard to beat as the show's all-time best villain (hard to top the Prez being the heavy - a sure sign of it's pre-Obama-ness) but this season has been so action-packed and suspenseful, that it's almost as if the movie "Die Hard" has been cut up into hour-long episodes and stretched over an entire season. It's that good. Lord knows the same could not be said for last season. Boy, did that blow.

Kiefer Sutherland's reluctant, and, yes, weary, hero (does he ever get any sleep?) is very much cut from the John McClane cloth, just without the sense of humor and Jersey smart-aleck 'tude. Would it kill Jack to indulge in even the smallest amount of gallow's humor once in a while? I guess that's what tech-head Chloe O' Brien (Mr. Show's Mary Lynn Rajskub) is for.

This season, African terrorists (who knew?) have not only invaded American soil but they have found their way into the White House, forcing the current President, Allison Taylor (Jones) to nearly surrender. But this being a "24" episode, this isn't a cliffhanger that will be drawn out over Sweep's Week - it's just one of a hundred plot twists to unfold during a very unnerving Season 7. And there's signs aplenty that the President's daughter Olivia, who has just been appointed as a member of her mother's cabinet, might very well be in league with the mole who allowed the terrorists into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the first place. The only plot twist left that I can imagine is that Jack Bauer is actually a terrorist. Now that would really be something!

For my money, "Die Hard" is the best action movie ever made. Bruce Willis' everyman hero John McClane came along just as Schwarzenegger and Stallone's silly superheros were starting to show their bones. Combined with John McTiernan's taut direction, Jan de Bont's superb cinematography, the late Michael Kamen's immortal, sleighbell-tinged, score, and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) the greatest movie villain since Darth Vader, "Die Hard" came out of left field and just owned the modern action movie genre. And it's a damn good Christmas movie to boot.

Though Jack Bauer's near-indestructibility has already passed the point of ridiculousness, "24" still has a lot of the same elements that makes "Die Hard" such an enduring classic. Bauer, like McClane, is exactly the guy you want in a crisis situation: tough, no-nonsense, and not afraid to cross the lines of political incorrectness to get the job done, the job usually being saving lots of U.S. citizens from certain doom. And talk about villains - this season alone has already had three (one of them being Tony "The Candyman" Todd!)

The females characters on the show...ok, maybe they're not the most three-dimensional characters ever written, though Rajskub's Chloe is a pretty genius creation. Her awkard social graces and blunt demeanor never fail to get a laugh. Jack's sidekick this season is FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) and so far, she's been a good match for him, though there are signs that she may very well be turning into a female version of Jack, which is really kinda neat-o.

It's just so cool to have a TV show that piles on so many action scenes but never really goes into "MacGuyver" territory (though the bit with Kim Bauer and that cougar in Season 2 - oy vey - came closest.) The "real-time" ticking-clock gimmick - well, it isn't really a gimmick. It's the heartbeat of the show - and it doesn't so much tick as it pounds. Creators Robert Cochran and Joe Surnow have created a show that has not only not overstayed it's welcome but has miraculously been resurrected into the top-notch entertainment it has been for at least five of it's seasons now. That's not too bad of a track record.

So if you're one of the unconverted and you like shows that keep you on the edge of your seat (literally) then get on the "24" bus, stat. 'Cuz unlike Jack Bauer, not all TV shows are indestructible and this season - possibly the best one yet - could very well be it's ride off into the sunset.

Tick...tock...tick...tock...

1 comment:

Staci Layne Wilson said...

I agree! "24" is back. And so is LOST, finally. I'm really liking this season (the next-to-last one -- obviously, it's been good for the makers to know there is an end-point.)