Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Bill Buchanan Memorial '24' Mid-Season Review

‘24’s resident silver fox Bill Buchanan, played for four seasons by the brilliant James Morrison, met his maker in episode 13 of season 7 Monday night. It was the first truly shocking and emotionally resonating moment of the season so it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back at the first half of what promised to be an awesome return for ‘24’ and look forward to what the second half of the season may have in store, all in memory of Bill’s life of course.

While many people seem to think that season 7 has been a return to form for Jack and co. I’ve been left a little disappointed. Maybe it’s because I put the show on such a pedestal and only expect the best from what has become the highlight of my weekly TV viewing schedule but season 7 just hasn’t reached the upper echelons that previous seasons have.

Don’t get me wrong it’s had it’s moments: Tony’s return, The White House siege and Jon Voight hamming it up as the season’s main villain, but it just feels like there’s something missing.

The decision to ‘reboot’ the show could be the reason why I’ve been having a hard time getting as excited about season 7 as some quarters have. It’s good to have ‘24’ back on our screens after last year’s void, and it’s still better than 99% of the other risible wank populating our TV screens at the moment, but this season just hasn’t fired on all cylinders… yet.

We are, after all, only half way through the season and there’s been enough flashes of brilliance thus far to suggest that eventually season 7 might find it’s feet and put on a truly dazzling performance and become more Ray Quinn rather than Donal MacIntyre.

As this is a half term report in effect, school grade-wise I’d give the first half of season 7 a ‘B’ – it’s got the skills to get an ‘A’ or even an ‘A*’ but it just needs to apply itself more.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m appalled at how badly the return of the show’s cult hero Tony Almeida has been handled, the way the trailers and the teasers plugged this season, we were led to believe he’d be an integral part of the show upon it’s return, but several episodes in he was written out with a bogus storyline and has only been seen in a couple of fleeting appearances since.

That could all change, and with Jack now also a wanted man, the stage seems set for Tony to make his return and for fans to get the Bauer-Almeida tag-team they always wanted.

It isn’t just my unadulterated bias towards Tony that has left me feeling cold towards this season, the new recruits to the show, mainly those who hold FBI badges haven’t added anything and in fact, every time one of them appears on screen the pace of the show drops several levels.

Agent Walker has been a terrible sidekick to Jack, and news that she has been signed up for season 8 mean that my hopes of her death will not be becoming reality any time soon. Rumours that a romance with Jack may be on the cards can only spell disaster, as Jack’s numerous love interests over the years have invariably been extremely irritating, a trait Walker already has in spades. The thought of her becoming even more annoying is truly harrowing, on the plus side though, most of Jack’s love interests seem to die or leave the show rather abruptly… here’s hoping!

The intention seems to be to turn Walker into a female Jack Bauer, but Jack defying a government is not the same as Walker defying her by-the-book boss/lover Larry Moss. Moss sees everything in black and white and he is clearly the antithesis of Jack Bauer which as you can imagine makes him incredibly boring, but the contrast does make for interesting viewing and I’m holding out hope that by the end of the day Larry will have cracked and will be torturing people more violently than a Jack Bauer wet dream.

The only really engaging character added to the cast at the FBI was Sean Hillinger, played by Rhys ‘Billy Walsh’ Coiro, but it was so blatantly obvious that he was the mole that the reveal had no shock value at all. I still maintain that if the writers had been bold and made Janeane Garofalo’s character Janis the mole that would have had a serious wow factor; because other than being Chloe-lite, Janis seems to now serve no purpose whatsoever.

Speaking of Chloe, her screen time has been seriously limited this year, which has been somewhat of a shock because she’s normally featured almost as prominently as Jack. Not that I’m complaining, her surly shtick that everyone seems to love grew really old, really quick if you ask me.

But although they brought Almeida back, the producers’ manifesto for season 7 seems to have been out with the old and in with the new.

‘24’ has always had it’s share of new cast members each season; new villains, new people to find themselves in peril and usually new White House subplot players.

There was a line in one of the recent episodes from the President that Jack had served under three Presidents, yet I count: Palmer (David), Keeler, Logan, Palmer (Wayne), Daniels and now Taylor, and in addition to the new occupant of the Oval office we also get a new influx of staff each season, some good and predictably, some bad.

Yet this year with the abolition of CTU, we’ve been treated to even more new faces and while I may not be their biggest fan, sadly it seems that they’re here to stay.

The one new addition we can all get on board with is the man I’m hoping will save the season now all this African-Mugabe subtext has seemingly played out – Mr. Jon Voight.

Voight has only appeared a handful of times so far and has really only interacted with his right hand man, played by former ‘CSI: Miami’ star Rory Cochrane but he has well and truly chewed the scenery at every opportunity. The more Voight comes in to the day’s arc, we will hopefully finally have a worthy adversary for Jack after the disappointments that were Tony ‘Candyman’ Todd – whose role in the day’s events was shockingly short-lived and Colonel Dubaku - who managed to go from bad ass genocidal maniac to lovesick puppy in about an hour.

Whatever it is that Voight’s Jonas Hodges has planned with his ‘shipment’ from General Juma I think we can safely say that it’s going to make Jack say “damn it!” a lot, and Bauer’s always at his best when he’s angry.

So here’s to the remaining eleven episodes (ten if you’re reading across the Atlantic) and let’s hope that Bill Buchanan didn’t give his life for nothing.

‘24’ airs Mondays on Sky1 at 9pm. It goes out the same night in the States on FOX one episode in front of the UK also at 9pm/8pm C.

Other Tele-visual Musings This Week:

- The very lovely ‘Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World’ ended last week. I’m not usually one for travel shows but in a similar vein to ‘Long Way Round’, Connolly’s voyage through the North West Passage was more of an adventure series.

Episode two of the four was the weakest, when Connolly spent most of the episode with Inuits, but the remainder of the show that focussed on the vast landscapes of Canada far surpassed my expectations of what a feel for the great country and the quaint folk that occupy it the show would give.

So kudos Billy Connolly, that’s the second show of this ilk I have become hooked on in a matter of months after the rather brilliant ‘Stephen Fry in America’ which aired late last year.

- Hats off to BBC2 for securing all five seasons of ‘The Wire’ and having the balls to show them every night of the week, it’s a shame they’re about four years late getting on board with this hell of a show, but it’s better late than never I suppose.

Showing it every night of the week in the age of digital recorders will give viewers the opportunity to experience the more-ish sensation of watching an entire box set in one sitting, without the need to fork out money, sort of.

- Over on ‘American Idol’ last week, it was announced that they were introducing ‘the judge’s save’ which will allow the judges to veto the public’s vote once during the season, if they can reach a unanimous decision – which in itself would be a miracle.

‘X Factor’ fans will be up in arms that this procedure wasn’t in place during last year’s run, then maybe their beloved Laura White or Diana Vickers could have been spared the chop, they still wouldn’t have won though.

Cowell and the panel sprang a surprise on the thirteen hopefuls announcing two of them would be sent packing, weird Puerto Rican Jorge and bland teenager Jasmine Murray were the two unlucky ‘Idol’ contestants sent home. And for some inexplicable reason Ryan Seacrest inflicted the agony of defeat on them twice, by asking the judges after both eliminations if they were invoking the judge’s save to which they coldly, and rightly, said no. If that’s going to be the set-up every week I hope they save someone early on, because it was cringe-worthy TV.

- Monday night saw the BBC2 debut of ‘Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle’ which was very funny, given those involved though, that was hardly a surprise. The show which promises to look at a different topic each week, began with books and but for am awfully misjudged blip about rappers in the middle, the material and intercut sketches were inspired.

- And I know it’s been around a while and isn’t strictly TV, although I assume there will be a video kicking about somewhere, but I’m digging Asher Roth’s ‘I Love College’ right now.


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