Friday, April 9, 2010
When movies ruin TV
It's been very hard at times, but over the eight seasons 24 has been on television, I've missed only one or two episodes. I say it's been hard because the show has gone to preposterous and back, not only stretching the amount of violence and trauma one man can endure in a lifetime without going crazy, but stretching the amount of possible activity/travel that could be squeezed into one day, let alone one hour.
Numerous times I have thought of giving up, and numerous times I have continued out of habit, knowing that the show would eventually end, at which point, I could stop watching.
And what will my reward be, when the show finally (mercifully) comes to an end this May?
My reward will be zero suspense about whether Jack Bauer, the Energizer Bunny who takes a licking and keeps on ticking (to mix advertising tag lines), lives or dies.
Why will there be no suspense?
Because in their eagerness to assuage fans supposedly grieving the end of the show, star Kiefer Sutherland and the show's creators have already announced plans for a movie. A movie, one would assume, that stars Kiefer Sutherland.
Who, naturally, will not die in the last hour of the show this May.
While I take some comfort in knowing that Bauer's reward for all this hard work will not be taking a bullet to the head, it bums me out that the show's creators have removed that as a possible source of dramatic tension for the remainder of the season. By announcing that the show would end, they essentially juiced the show with a new potential excitement. For the first time ever, the show's loyal viewers -- and I've been among the loyalest -- would truly not know whether Jack Bauer would survive the day.
But that uncertainty lasted all of about two paragraphs in whatever story you were reading about 24's cancellation. Because two paragraphs later, they mentioned the movie. They mentioned Sutherland's excitement about the prospect of Bauer getting to travel great distances across the planet, because his world didn't need to be turned upside down once an hour, all day long. In a two-hour movie, Jack can spend five hours on a plane if need be, and it will only be five minutes of screen time.
I guess another bummer is that you'd like to think the end of the show could mean the end of troubles for Bauer, but the movie removes that possibility as well. You'd like to think that if Kim Bauer survives this season -- she hasn't been in it since the first two hours, but something tells me she'll be in harm's way again before all is said and done -- she and Jack can finally relax, and Jack can settle into being a grandfather, without worrying about more of his family, biological or otherwise, coming to an untimely end. (And don't think we won't see his father, played by James Cromwell, reappear sometime in the next couple months, after disappearing at the end of season whatever-it-was.) Of course, the existence of the movie means that he'll have at least one more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Nothing is really secret in Hollywood. We often hear about movies years before they hit the screen. If you know, for example, that Avatar 3 is planned for after Avatar 2, you can be pretty sure that Jake Sully won't die in Avatar 2, though you probably could have guessed that anyway.
But the cancellation of 24 was just announced. They really had the chance to keep us in the dark about their ideas for a movie, and keep us in suspense for the rest of this season. It seems the only reason to tell us about the movie was to reclaim power from Fox, to suggest that it was as much a creative choice to end the show as a reality dictated by the network's decision to cancel. NBC had supposedly mulled over the idea of picking up the show, but these stories also made sure to mention how Sutherland wasn't sure he wanted to do another season. At the very least, the show's creators told us about the movie so we wouldn't feel bad for them. "Don't cry for me, American television audience."
Oh well. I guess either way, I'm glad I won't be forced to slog through another season of 24, always four episodes behind on my DVR, just because I can never quite pull the plug.