Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An A to Z of 24

One of my current obsessions, is, of course, the TV show 24. I had a few things about the show that I needed to get off my chest, so I created this handy A to Z guide, designed for beginners and aficionados alike.

A is for Anonymity
Fairly sensibly, 24 doesn’t like to actually name which countries are supposedly flooding America's shores with terrorists. However, when this comes to the script, it’s unintentionally hilarious. Witness the President addressing his cabinet with the ridiculously vague command: "We must retaliate against these three Middle Eastern countries."

B is for Bomb
Often pronounced "balm", the premise of the programmes is often to locate the bomb (for different series, just substitute bomb for the appropriate object that needs to be located - virus, override, etc). While the uninitiated viewer might think 24 hours of Kiefer Sutherland shouting, "TELL ME WHERE THE BALM IS!" would be of little interest, it is in fact gloriously entertaining.

C is for Confess
What you should do if you’re sitting in the Counter Terrorism Unit's (CTU) interrogation room and someone says, "Get Richards in." See also Torture.

D is for Division
Little is known about what Division actually do. One theory is that Division has been invented solely to give Tony Almeida something to say during the quiet moments. That something is usually: "GET ME DIVISION!"

E is for Edgar
24’s first fat character has been a huge success. He combines the grouchiness of Chloe with the computer wizardry of, er, Chloe, and throws in a charming lisp. What a legend.

F is for Food

Jack Bauer never eats anything. Why is there no trolley service at CTU?

G is for George Mason
Amusingly referred to as "Grumpybones Mason" by TV critic Charlie Brooker, and rightly so. Mason's excellent reaction upon finding out that he has radiation poisoning and will die within the next 12 hours is to look slightly irritated.

H is for Humour
It is illegal to crack a joke or raise a smile inside the CTU building, and so humour is very rare in 24. When it comes though, it's great:

Henry Powell: [being held at gunpoint by Jack and Tony] Who are you guys? Police? FBI?
Tony Almeida: Actually, I'm currently unemployed.

I is for Idiots
As Tony Almeida has pointed out, the people at Division (see D) are idiots. They occasionally pay CTU a visit to check up on their colleagues, but just end up looking even more like idiots.

J is for Jack
Obviously. There is something inherently satisfying about the name "Jack Bauer". Perhaps it is the successful "JB" combination of letters (James Bond, Jed Bartlett etc) – and some would say the popularity of the show itself depends upon this name. Which begs the question: how many shows are languishing in obscurity because of a poorly named hero?

K is for Kim
Jack’s daughter, constantly getting into all kinds of dangerous scrapes. For the viewer to complain about the fact that she has been kidnapped and attacked more times than is strictly probable is to miss the point. That’s what Kim does.

L is for Lear complex
The relationship between Jack and his daughter Kim has always been at the emotional core of the series, but they aren't the only lovey-dovey father-daughter pairing to feature. In fact, there are so many others, you do start to get a bit concerned about what's going on in the writers' heads.

M is for Millions
As in, "Tell us where the bomb is, or millions of innocent people will die!" Previously hardened terrorists obviously cave in under this sort of threat – and it’s the word 'millions' that does it.

N is for "NOW"
Used by Jack Bauer to great effect. When yelled correctly, this one word can triple the power of any command. For example:

"Put down your weapon and place your hands above your head." [Terrorist hesitates]
"NOW!" [Terrorist obeys]

O is for "Okaythankyou"
One of Jack’s many tics. Despite being a hugely aggressive action man, what gives Jack true hero status (apart from his name, see J), is his politeness. This is often manifested in the phrase "Okaythankyou", which Bauer endearingly delivers in the style of Dustin Hoffman's Rainman character, Charlie Babbitt.

P is for Palmer
That’s President Palmer to you. At the end of series two, one terrorist managed to render him unconscious using a lethal reimagining of the old buzzer in the hand trick. The deadly poison (or whatever it was) was absorbed through the palm of the President's hand, giving his surname an added poignancy.

Q is for Quarter to
Roughly the time each episode when the tension gets hiked up.

R is for Ringtone
Or "uh-uh eeh-err". Never has a television show had more distinctive office ringtones. Well done to the sound effects department.

S is for Short-staffed
The HR department at CTU should be ashamed of themselves. Whenever there’s a bomb (see B) threatening to kill millions of innocent people (see M), there are never enough computer experts or top field agents to go round. So it’s normally left to Jack (in the field) and a hardy bunch of geeks to get the job done. And one of those is normally a mole.

T is for Time / Torture
Of course, 24 is all about time. ("I'm running out of time!" screams Jack on an hourly basis.) But the lack of time is often used as a justification for horrible torture, with many agents claiming they don’t have time to interrogate a suspect properly before reaching for the pliers and crocodile clips. Why? "Because millions of innocent people will die!" (see M)

NB It is part of 24 rules that most characters (even the good ones) will undergo some kind of torture. Think of it as an initiation thing.

U is for Unbelievable
How did Kim go from being an au pair to a top CTU computer expert in a year an a half? Well, if you had Jack Bauer’s genes, you’d expect no less. How can Tony Almeida be given his job back despite being fired, spending time in prison and becoming an alcoholic? Jack Bauer puts in a request, that’s how. How does Jack manage to conduct a high speed chase 'n' shoot on foot when his heart had stopped only hours before? He's Jack Bauer, that's how. In such a way, all suspect plot points can easily be explained away.

V is for Villains
All the characters in 24 have excellent names, but those of the villains are particularly great. Ramon Salazar, Victor Drazen and Ira Gaines, take a bow.

W is for Women, black
Three out of the four black women with major roles in 24 are deeply manipulative and unpleasant. To cap it all, three of them die from a bullet in the chest. What's going on there?

X is for Ex-Girlfriends
Jack doesn’t have much luck with the ladies. His wife Terri got kidnapped. Then she was killed by his ex-girlfriend Nina, who turned out to be an international terrorist. Next up was Kate, but this didn’t last – presumably Jack was bored with her two facial expressions. Claudia, Jack’s South American girlfriend, was shot and killed. Audiences were introduced to his current squeeze Audrey when she was kidnapped. On the plus side, she is still alive, though she must be wondering how much longer she’s got.

Y is for Yusuf
An Arab who actually wants to stop the terrorists? What's going on?

Z is for Zzzz
If you take one message away from the many hours spent watching 24, it should be this: sleep deprivation is good for you. Never sleep.

More Electric Goose 24-related garbage:
Apocalypse Bau(er)
Jack Joke
Absolute Bauer corrupts absolutely


Sue Ellen Mischke said...

You forgot . . .

D is for "Delicious": Jack Bauer is the most delicious sleep-deprived starving man ever to save the world 5 times.

Anonymous said...

CTU stands for "Counter-Terrorism Unit" not "Central Terrorism Unit".

Will said...

[Lying] What do you mean? That's what I put!

duke said...

excellent post!

how about T for Trust as in Jack Bauer's "You have to trust me on this" lines...