500 Words Per Day

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

24, 24/7

So I've been sitting in front of the TV a lot these past few days watching the first season of "24" on DVD. I do wish I caught on to this series when it actually aired on television, if only because I would be forced to watch only 1 hour a week. With the whole season at my fingertips, I've been devouring two or three episodes in one sitting, to the detriment of my personal and professional life.

"24" is a deadly little time sink. The writing is incredibly strong and they have clearly mastered the art of the serial cliffhanger. Unlike the new TV hit, "Lost", every installment of "24" is fast-paced and jam-packed with suspense and concludes with a dizzying confluence of subplot cliffhangers. Character development is also top-notch and the dialogue skirts that fine line between high-tech jargon, hammyness and realism. The only reason I'm not glued to the tube now is because I've reached the halfway point of the season and a couple of the major plot threads have been resolved. It's provided a bit of a breather for me.

Another feature about "24" that keeps me watching is the way it's filmed. It actually looks like it could be a movie. I don't know what sort of camera technology TV producers use but most hour-long drama series have the same look. The all look "TV". Although this is especially noticeable with sitcoms and daytime soaps, serious stuff like legal or police procedurals are often prone to looking cheap and distinctively "TV quality". Not "24". The geniuses behind that show have gone a step further and employ snazzy comic book-style frames to show multiple scenes or a single scene from different character perspectives. The effect is reminiscent of Mike Figgis' "Time Code" movie from a few years back, except it (thankfully) isn't over-used in "24".

Please stop reading this tripe and dig up this series to watch. I've heard that, three seasons in, "24" has already begun to "jump the shark". Whatever. All you need to know is that seasons 1 and 2 have been universally lauded as excellent television viewing. Season 3 might be more questionable, but I was privy to a few disjointed episodes last year and could see nothing to find fault with.

One last note: Kiefer Sutherland really holds everything together. I've sometimes mocked his movie career, using his snivelly scientist role in "Dark City" as the centerpiece of my ridicule. I take a lot of that back now, because Kiefy is in fine form here. In fact, a lot of Hollywood stars who have sputtering film careers are finding new life on the small screen. Denis Hopper, Benjamin Bratt, Martin Sheen, Gina Davis and Kira Sedgewick (ok I wouldn't consider Kira Sedgewick a Hollywood star but she is married to Kevin Bacon) are some big screen talent that come to mind. What's the deal with that? Doesn't matter. If the migration means better TV for the masses, then bring us those washed-up actors by the truckloads. Whatever you do, just don't stick them in a sitcom with Ted Danson.

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