Thursday, 30 April 2009

Et tu, Tony...? - Why the Writers and Producers of '24' Can Kiss My Ass

When I was planning this week’s blog another title I considered using was: This is Bullshit – The Story of ‘24’ Season 7, because let’s be honest Day 7 for Jack Bauer has been a completely disjointed mish-mash.

Is the Writer’s Strike to blame? Possibly, but it all seems to boil down to the fact that everyone involved in the show was so keen to avoid a repeat of the critically panned Season 6 that they’ve shoe-horned in as many plot twists and shocks as they can to try and keep people hooked and it just hasn’t been necessary.

Shows like ‘Mad Men’, ‘The Wire’ and ‘The West Wing’ never needed to rely on these implausible Shyamalan-esque swerves yet ‘24’ seems to be plowing the depths that shows like ‘Prison Break’ and ‘Heroes’ have already sunk to.

I’ve dissected Season 7 to death already on this blog and that’s because I care, I have loved this show through it’s many ups and recently it’s increasing lows but I’m struggling to feel anything but utter contempt for the show that I love at the moment.

Season 7 started with so much promise. The pace was blistering, the action frantic and of course we had the return of the show’s most beloved character who isn’t named Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida.

After the lightning paced opening, we soon learned, as we all suspected, that Tony was actually undercover with the bad guys and was still good – to which we all rejoiced. After a few excellent episodes in which it really seemed like ‘24’ was back to it’s best, Tony started to become an afterthought and the new characters like Larry, Renee and the impossibly irritating Janis were featured more and more prominently, even poor old Chloe got benched.

A few episodes back though Tony returned to the fore and with Jack quarantined at FBI HQ Tony finally got to take centre stage in the action hero stakes. It was what Almeida fans had always wanted to see. But then came the moment that shook the ‘24’ universe right off it’s axis…

After saving the day in a suitably last minute, heroic style Tony smothered an already dying Larry Moss to death and revealed an alliance with the rogue Starkwood agent who looks like Tracy Jordan on steroids…

…And this is why the writers and producers of ‘24’ can kiss my ass.

After bringing Tony back and making us feel like we were going to have to hate him, they pulled that rug out from under us and although he’d done some “bad things” and looked shifty for most of the day we were able to embrace the noble Almeida once again.

Yet now they’ve done a complete 360, sort of, and Tony’s bad again… Or is he?

I know that by discussing this I’m playing right into the producer’s hands, because they will surely use the defence that good writing generates buzz and discussion and that’s exactly what’s been happening since the Tony bait and switch went down.

But this buzz hasn’t been as a result of good writing, it’s been because they have manipulated their audience and taken an emotional investment that has been formed over eight years and used it to pop a ratings spike.

Anyone who goes into ‘24’ too attached to characters other than Jack is only going to be disappointed because people die, that’s the nature of the show. I didn’t like it when Tony died but I accepted it because that’s the show - no one’s safe.

But at least when Tony died he died in a way that remained true to his character: with honour, and we could look back at his great moments from seasons past with fondness; through this character assassination though his legacy is tarnished and that’s what is grating me the most. They could have turned anyone over to the dark side for the jaw-dropping moment they seemingly craved but instead they chose the show’s cult hero, and quite frankly it stinks.

I’d already begun writing this before I saw episode 19 in which ‘Bad Tony’ really starts to come out, and I almost hate to admit it, but I kind of enjoyed it. I still hate that they’ve made him a villain who we’re all supposed to hate because the character deserved better than that, but evil Tony is kind of a bad ass.

And I’m going out on a limb here and saying that if he is bad through and through and there isn’t some bigger picture we’re not privy to just yet, he’s just plain, straight up, in it for the money, evil then I’m sorry Jack but I’m supporting the bad guys from now on.

There has to be redemption for Tony though, there just has to be. If there’s no Darth Vader final scene “what have I done” moment and Tony goes down to a Jack Bauer bullet like the usual ‘24’ villain of the week then I’m done with this show.

I’m trying to stay positive at the moment and believe that there is more to come and we are going to get some answers and some sort of insight into what Tony is up to and how he came to be involved in it, but quite frankly I’m starting to get scared because they’re rapidly running out of time to tie up the numerous loose ends that are still flapping in the wind like a flasher’s cock.

Everyone involved with this show knows the popularity of the Chicago Cubs’ most famous fan so I can’t imagine them not giving him a moment of redemption but this is ‘24’ so you never do know.

If he is going to go out as the devil incarnate though, I’d have preferred him to stay dead or on the periphery as he was mid-season, if that had happened though we wouldn’t have got to see Carlos Bernard’s brilliant performance this season, so I guess it’s a double edged sword.

Bernard has brought so much more to this role than simply looking shifty as some pundits have suggested, his timing and delivery at times have been genius, both in terms of laughs and drama, and it’s been great to see him out in the field rather than holed up behind a CTU desk, it’s just a shame it’s all seemingly been for the bad guys.

This season of ‘24’ has felt more and more as we’ve gone along that they just threw as much shit against the wall as they could and waited to see what stuck. Can you even believe this is the same season that began with the African subplot?

‘24’ has always had the first half of the season villain and then the second half of the season villain but already this season we’ve had Tony, Dubaku, Juma, Hodges, Tony again and now this mysterious cartel seemingly run by Will Patton.

Season 6 sucked, that’s a fact, but at least it had focus. If I sit down and think about Tony’s role in the season it makes my head hurt trying to figure it all out. When did he make contact with Galvez? Will we ever find out?

Suspension of disbelief is imperative to be able to enjoy this show, but insulting out intelligence and lazy writing are completely unacceptable to a loyal and rabid fan base.

‘24’ has five episodes left to tie this season up into something that at least makes a drop of sense and give us some sort of justification for why Tony is doing what he’s doing beyond “we thought it would be cool for it to be Jack vs. Tony” and if they leave us shortchanged then I think they’ll have nothing short of desertion on their hands.

Sure we’ve had the thrills and shocks this year but in terms of writing, compared to the amazing first season, what we’ve seen so far this year is night and day. I remember watching season 2 and thinking that it didn’t live up to 1 and watching 3 and thinking it didn’t live up to 2, but now I’m reminiscing about them like they were the soothing antibiotics that cured a painful bout of V.D. crippling my genitalia.

If we get answers in these remaining five episodes and everything is brought together in a sort of Larry David penned ‘Seinfeld’ episode way, then there’s hope, and with time I may come to look back on season 7 with a less biased eye and actually appreciate it as a good season, but if we’re left scratching our heads into some sort of Zidane-esque bald patch then it could sadly be time to finally put Jack and the gang out to pasture.

In spite of all this negativity, ‘24’ at it’s worst is still a million miles ahead of most of the other dripping gash on TV at the moment, and I do want the show to pull this back and give us all some closure and hopefully end this season the way it began… On top of it’s game.

And in the meantime let’s try and remember Jack and Tony in happier times…

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 Televisual Musings this Week:

- Vernon Kay’s light-hearted ‘Beat the Star’ has returned to the TV schedules with considerably less fan fare than the first season but is equally as dumb and entertaining as it’s last run.

I can’t help feeling it would perform a lot better on a Saturday night as post-pub fodder because the challenges the ‘star’ and challenger have to undertake are some of the most ridiculously devised things I’ve ever seen.

I wouldn’t actually be surprised if next Sunday Vernon dropped his pants, bent over and invited the two competitors to see which one could throw a marble up his asshole first.

- I hadn’t seen it when the blog went up last week, but given it’s newsworthy nature I thought I’d give it a mention this week; Derek Reese’s death on ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’.

I’d read online that Derek bit it in the penultimate episode of the season, but that knowledge had no way of preparing me for just how sudden and anti-climactic it was. At first I was angry; Derek was my favourite character on the show and for him to be treated like such an afterthought pissed me off.

The more I thought about it though, the more I liked what they did. Too often on TV, deaths are glorious, heroic and dramatic when in reality death is far more sudden and cold. Derek dying like that reinforced just what being John Connor and being around John Connor means and in hindsight actually fits the tone of ‘TSCC’ a lot more than some heroic send-off would have.

And besides this is a show about time travel, so death is never permanent, Derek could easily and plausibly be back sooner or later.

- Sunday night’s BBC ‘News at Ten’ seemingly went out of it’s way to exhibit all the negative characteristics I’ve been harping on about our media having.

With the outbreak of Swine Flu the hot topic, the presenter did her utmost to use all the fear buzzwords and scaremonger like there would actually be no tomorrow. “Is it a pandemic?” she asked the expert they had in the studio.

When said expert calmly and rationally explained that it’s not that bad, yet, he was pushed and prodded, she may well have just yelled in his face “say it’s a pandemic!” It was the usual ‘don’t go outside the worlds going to end!’ reporting that seems to be all the rage at the moment.

The best part was, once she realized that the expert wouldn’t throw out some doom and gloom, she couldn’t get away from him quick enough!

- Three words to describe the most recent episode of ‘Prison Break’: lame, lame, lame.

- As a final aside, just to add a bitter cherry to what’s been a rather angry TV or not TV this week; I’ve developed yet another irrational irritant recently: people who use Facebook like Twitter.

Every time I log into my Facebook nowadays my news feed is full of inane babble that I couldn’t give a flying fuck about.

If you want to keep people apprised of your every daily move, like when you’re going for a shit, what colour it was and how much it fucking weighed, then use Twitter, that’s it’s whole concept, let’s keep Facebook sacred and remember what it’s actually meant for: snaking the opposite sex and spying on your exes…

…Or, in my case, to be used as a marketing tool to force your mediocre, self-important TV blog on your unsuspecting ‘friends’.


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