’24’: Bumblefest Nears Climax

MK emails a link to a very serious piece of prose on Salon that tries to answer the not-very-tough question: “How real is ’24’?” It’s an over-serious piece that seemingly misses what’s in plain sight: That ’24’ is a prime-time soap with high-explosive props and a main character with major anger-management issues. The writer refers to the show’s Counterterrorism Unit (CTU) and its “ridiculously capable agents.” No! Most of the agents, walk-on types who never get names, are on screen only to provide targets for terrorists. Faithful viewers know they can count on CTU (and everyone else in the U.S. government) to make the wrong choice every time: “Lunch break or try to figure out where that nuclear warhead is?” “Lunch — I could use a bellyful of Wendy’s chili right about now.”

The lone exception is the anger-management-problem guy, Jack Bauer, who has a faultless ability to overcome the bumblers and see through all terrorist machinations. He even died and came back to life one season in his quest to see the bad guys get theirs. But what can one man do against all those evil-doers? Plenty. But Jack’s personal life is much more difficult. As his Cubs-fan sidekick, Tony Almeida, said last night of Jack and his current love interest: “Funny … Yesterday Jack and Audrey were talking about their future together. Now he’s responsible for her husband’s death, and he might have to torture her brother.”

This season’s ending in the next week or two. Last night’s episode ended with a nuclear-armed cruise missile headed for some big city from Iowa. It’s been in the air for more than an hour, so I think Chicago is safe. The rest of the country — watch out.

’24’: Totally Sensitive

During tonight’s broadcast of “24,” Fox ran a short public-service announcement from Kiefer Sutherland. The message, in essence: ” ’24’ depicts a group of really evil Muslims. But you, Mr. and Mrs. American Television Connoisseur and your extended families, should bear in mind that not all Muslims are bad people. Please keep that in mind as you watch me, as agent Jack Bauer, kick some evil Muslim butt.”

In case you need a translation, that’s America being real sensitive to minority sensibilities. Actually, it should be noted that on tonight’s episode, Kiefer/Jack didn’t confront any evil Muslims directly. But just wait. Their hour of reckoning approaches.

Even more significantly, it should also be noted that Tony Almeida’s Chicago Cubs mug made another appearance on tonight’s show — the first time it has been seen since the first season of “24,” I believe. Unlike its first supporting role, when it likely contained a brewed hot caffeinated beverage, the Cubs mug tonight served as receptacle for a brewed cold alcoholic beverage. Yeah, the actor who plays Tony (Carlos Bernard, aka Carlos Bernard Papierski) is a Chicago-area native who apparently advertises his roots with his Cubs mug. From which he now drinks beer.

(January 15, 2006 update: Tony and the mug are back — check out the details — for the new season.)