Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bauer Power?

I finally succumbed to the hype and saw the first four hours of 24 last week. It is easy to see why the show is such an iconic, right-wing fantasy (it even has its own blog) show -- Jack Bauer doesn't let any sissy, Sullivanesque niceties get in the way of getting the truth out of the bad guys. In the first four hours, Bauer is trying to foil a plot by some Islamic (yes, Islamic) terrorists to set off a suitcase nuke in the Los Angeles area. The conventions of the detective/law enforcement tv show dictate that the plot be foiled at the last minute, but at about 9:59 a.m. (the season started at 6) a good portion of Southern California was obliterated.

The violence in 24 is over the top. At one point, Bauer escapes from some terrorists planning to torture and kill him by biting the jugular vein of a guard and taking his key. But the most implausible aspect of the show is the central importance of the main character. When the president says something like "get me Jack Bauer on the phone" it reminded me of Commisioner Gordon dialing the Batphone on the old Adam West/Batman series. When the President went against Bauer's advice, he was wrong and Bauer was right.

I may or may not continue watching. There were numerous compelling aspects of the show. Some liberal do-gooders came to the defense of young Ahmed (or was it Achmed?) only to find out that he actually was a terrorist. An Army sargeant helped a terrorist with critical knowledge escape. Bauer was forced to kill one of his own to keep him from killing a terrorist-gone-straight. All of the killing and torture that Bauer has perpetrated over the years seems to be taking its toll.

Compared to another highly praised series from the last few years -- The Sopranos -- 24 doesn't measure up. I saw LA go up in a mushroom cloud and thought I might tune in next week. On The Sopranos, I was hooked from the moment I saw Tony describing to his shrink having "coffee" with a man who owed him money (hint: they didn't really have coffee) and followed numerous story lines far more compelling that the future of the Free World: will Meadow get into Georgetown?; will Raphie get clipped?; will Paulie's mother get into the right clique at Green Grove?; will the Esplanade get built?; etc.

Lorie Byrd has a column up at Townhall making the case that the popularity of 24 and American Idol proves the viability of "conservatism" (whatever that means). 24 is "conservative" because it provides "politically incorrect terrorist-thumping entertainment" and American Idol fills the bill because some snotty Brit tells "hard truth as he sees it" and the program . . . "highlight[s] the American dream"(click the link if you think that is too dumb for Byrd to have actually written). I won't comment on American Idol because I haven't seen it; but the four hours of 24 that I have seen (along with the commercials that interrupt it) lead me to the conclusion that most of the audience of the show consists of the coveted 18-34, taco-burger-soft drink obsessed male demographic who tune it to see the explosions and killing, and for whom the subtle points about whatever Byrd et al. see in the show are lost.


Sean Scallon said...

Conservatives have long used pop culture as way of trying to make themselves feel popular, feel (dare I say it) hip.

Once upon a time David Brooks wrote an article in the Weekly Standard on the cultural relevance of Gilligan's Island.

Yeah, it can get that bad. American Idol nonewithstanding.

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