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’24’: The Drinking Game

Redoubtable Chicagoan (or is that redundant?) MK points out a Slate feature on “24.” It’s an interview with one of the show’s writers on the many TV story-telling envelopes the series is pushing. All fine. The show’s central conceit, that the story is taking place in real time during the course of a single day (divided into two dozen advertiser-friendly weekly episodes) is unique. But that’s not news. What is noteworthy, Slate writer James Surowiecki suggests, is the staying power of “24” long after the audience has gotten used to the show’s terrorist spectaculars and remorselessly pounding clock. The explanation, Surowiecki says, lies in factors like the “political and even moral depth” that world events have lent the production. And of course we shouldn’t overlook “Kiefer Sutherland’s exceptional work as Jack Bauer.”

It’s perplexing. On one hand, you wonder if Surowiecki’s ever watched the show. If he has, where did he spot all the excellent acting and writing he’s talking about? But he has watched the show — the interview he conducts comes off as the work of a “24” junkie. He asks the writer Michael Loceff, with an apparently straight face, “How much work do you put into making the show realistic? There seem to be times when realism and drama inevitably come into conflict.”

There seem to be times? Yes, whenever a character says or does just anything more complex than start a car. The only reason I can imagine that anyone would suggest that “24” has anything serious to say about the world we live in is that produces high ratings. But the Nielsen numbers don’t make the show deep or serious any more than Bush getting re-elected transforms him smart or wise.

As for Kiefer Sutherland’s “exceptional” acting — if you’re looking for an unregenerate hard-ass, I’ll take R. Lee Ermey any day — here’s a Jack Bauer drinking game (don’t blame me for the cirrhosis): Down a shot (whatever you prefer to guzzle) every time Jack screams, “No-o-o-o-o!” A shot every time he shouts. “Do it!” or some variation on that. A shot every time he threatens to rough up someone who’s not fully cooperatng with him; a double-shot every time he follows through on the threat.

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