So Jack Bauer’s guaranteed to have three more of the worst days of his life. And the actor who plays him, Kiefer Sutherland, is locked in for one of the best deals of anyone’s life: three years, $40 million, or so the reports are saying.
But what does that mean for John and Jane 24 Fan? Does it bother us that we know our hero will survive for three more seasons? I’ll admit to feeling weirdly let down. Now, I’m not a complete moron. I know Jack isn’t going to die – not until the ratings plunge, anyway. But the prospect of three more seasons, three more bad days, three more grim, sweaty sprints to save America from ludicrously convoluted terrorist plots, it sort of makes me wish Jack would just pack it in and move to Ontario.
Now it’s no secret – indeed, it’s kind of a goofy thrill – that 24 becomes a little less suspenseful and a little more preposterous with each passing year. After all, we started out in Season 1 with a family man, ex-military, caught up in a web of events set in motion by actions he took years befpre, under orders, for the good of his country. Without fully realizing it, he’s been asked to choose between family and duty. And without fully realizing it – until he holds his dead wife in his arms – he’s chosen the latter. “My name is Jack Bauer,” he said in the first season’s opening voiceover, “And this is going to be the worst day of my life.” Apologies to TNT, but THAT, my friends, is drama.
Nowadays, Jack’s a more-or-less infallible superagent whose face-offs against terrorists and domestic traitor-conspirators have grown increasingly Rube Goldberg-ian. (This show tortures logic even more relentlessly than terror suspects.) The fact that Agent Bauer is having yet another Incredibly Bad Day fazes no one – not Jack, not the supporting cast, not us – because we all long ago departed from the realm of actual suspense and entered the TV writer’s version of a crash-test lab: You know the car is going to hit the test wall, but you stay to see exactly how it will absorb the impact, whether the bumper will fall off, whether the dummy will lose an arm or a head, etc. We’re here for the carnage now, not the drama, not the suspense.
And now, as a special treat for reading all the way to the bottom, I give you the minutes from the BEST day of Jack Bauer’s life, culled from CTU files:
6 a.m.: Wake up, calisthenics, Wheaties. Pitch day-old terrorists into compost, strangle a fresh terrorist for breakfast.
7 a.m.: Today show. Ask dog, “Where’s the newspaper, boy?” Dog does not answer. Torture dog. Obtain paper. Tearfully apologize to dog.
8 a.m.: Solve Sunday crossword in eight tense minutes with phone-help from groggy, annoyed Chloe.
What happens next? Choose your own adventure and post below.