Missed Chance

The show on television called “24” has an interesting format. It is sort of meant to be in real time, and so each episode – roughly an hour long, including advertisements – charts what took place in an hour of a particular day. A whole season is one day. A very harrowing day for the characters in the show, particularly agent Jack Bauer. They are part of an counter-terrorist unit (CTU) trying to save the America from various highly complicated terrorist plots. The terrorists are obsessed with Los Angeles, it seems, which is convenient given that the unit is based in Los Angeles. Having watched two or three seasons of the show now, I’ve also come to appreciate the fact that the terrorist plots hand over to more and more complex and dastardly ones as the show goes along through the day. And the “controlling mind” bad guy earlier in the day is hardly ever the worst and most dastardly person our heroes will meet. There’ll be a really really bad guy along later on with an even worse plan than the one before lunchtime, and so forth. Another reason that it’s lucky that they’re obsessed with Los Angeles, since there’s an excellent supply of theatre and television actors here to be cast in various partsa.

What I’ve really been hoping to see is an episode of the show when Jack Bauer is not saving America/LA. Instead, he’s just… chillin’. Imagine it now:

  • 21:03 Jack Bauer, dressed in dressing-gown and slippers, unwraps and bite into the burrito he got on the way home at that really good burrito stand.
  • 21:10 Jack Bauer, sitting on sofa, burrito in one hand, tv remote in the other, flips channels for a while.
  • 21:23 Jack Bauer decides to settle on a tv show to watch …. a rerun of an episode of last season’s Alias, say.
  • 21:48 Jack Bauer checks his phone for messages from CTU. Nothing.
  • 22:05 Jack Bauer goes and stands with the fridge door open trying to decide what to eat and drink next. He finds only a beer, some mouldy cheese, and half an old lime.

And so on…

But there’s never an hour like that. Never. Last night I decided to catch up on the new season. I’d missed the first two hours but had the next two recorded. Somewhere in hour four, Jack has to do something terrible (I won’t say what, in case you plan on seeing it) that pretty much brings him to the brink of giving it all up. For a moment there, I thought we’d get to see an episode of the above form. But no. Moments later, the terrorists do some terrible act (of which I will not speak) and the episode ends. We know for sure that Jack will be resolved to rejoin the fight, and our chance to see him vegging in front of the tv is lost, at least for this season… Oh well.


aAs a parenthetical remark, I should also mention that since some of the actors playing the bad guys end up doing public readings of the play that Oliver Mayer and I are writing (see here, and since that post we had Gregory Itzin (24’s President Logan) and Tony Plana (a shadowy bad guy – Omar- from season 4 at the readings done at the Pasadena Playhouse last Summer), I find I’m getting clues as to who the cast of future readings might be by watching the show.

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12 Responses to Missed Chance

  1. Jude says:

    I don’t watch 24 because I have a low suspense threshold. My ex-husband calls me about 45 minutes into every episode during the last commercial break because he gets stressed out by it and needs to talk to someone (his wife works nights). My plan is to watch all of the seasons in one long marathon some day after it’s cancelled.

    I love this post. A friend pointed out that he often wonders when Jack goes to the bathroom–maybe it’s when they’re showing a bad guy on screen. I worked until midnight the other night at my online job, the cat awakened me at 5 a.m., I got up at 6 a.m., drove to a school to substitute teach, drove home, supervised my son’s Destination Imagination group for two hours, drove to my teaching job, taught until 9 p.m., arrived home at 9:30, and went to bed at 11 p.m. I seldom have a day that long with that little sleep, and I was tired. As a non-24-watcher, I wonder how Jack does it.

  2. Pingback: Los Angeles | Missed Chance

  3. As a person who likes this show as a guilty pleasure, I can tell you the answer to:
    As a non-24-watcher, I wonder how Jack does it.
    Because he’s Jack Bauer, that’s why! Come on – this guy can come back from cardiac arrest to kicking badguy butt in the space of an hour. The real suspension of disbelief problem comes from his ability to drive across LA in 10 minutes.

  4. alfons says:

    22:05 Jack Bauer goes and stands with the fridge door open trying to decide what to eat and drink next. He finds only a beer, some mouldy cheese, and half an old lime.


  5. Clifford says:

    Really? How so?


  6. Aaron F. says:

    LOL! I was just thinking that about House. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a gag episode that ended halfway into the show?

    Foreman: We removed her appendix.
    House: And?
    Foreman: She’s fine. No complications, no relapse. Completely stable. We sent her home an hour ago.
    House: Huh.
    House: I guess you were right, then.
    Chase: Anybody up for Chinese food?

    p.s. I can’t bring myself to watch 24. Every time I turn it on, Jack Bauer is breaking someone’s fingers.

  7. Blake Stacey says:

    You know that brain-teaser problem about the airplane on the conveyor belt?

    A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of band conveyer). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same (but in the opposite direction). Can the plane take off?

    Last night, my friends were arguing about this. Will it take off? Won’t it take off? Let’s apply our mechanical engineering expertise and draw a free-body diagram. . . .

    “The plane takes off,” I said.

    “Are we sure that the no-slip condition applies? . . .”

    “The plane takes off,” I said again, some minutes later.

    “So this part of the wheel moves with velocity v . . .”

    “The plane takes off,” I bellowed, “because Chuck Norris is pushing and Jack Bauer is at the controls.”

  8. spyder says:

    Interesting that Blake Stacey links “Walker” with “Bauer.” Prior to 24, Walker Texas Ranger was the lead in most incidents of violence per 48 minutes of episode time. Now, thanks to the stunt folks and writers aided by a director who just loves spending the dollars on action stunts, 24 is the new master of our 21st century Clockwork Orange droogies doing a bit of the old ultra. Personally, i can’t stand the show.

  9. Supernova says:

    Aaron: hilarious! I always think that about Star Trek too. “This week: the starship Enterprise discovers an idyllic civilization where everything is exactly what it seems!”

  10. Clifford says:

    Aaron F:- I’ve not really watched House, but I can see how that would work…. excellent!

    Blake Stacey: I must remember to use that as a solution to a mechanics problem in one of my lectures!!

    Supernova:- I suppose those often tedious holodeck adventures were episodes where there obviously was not enough to do on the ship.


  11. Anon says:

    In the first couple of episodes, Jack and the good bad terrorist were able to trivially find parking in Downtown LA, AS WAS the bad bad terrorists (parked in a litte side street out of the view of most Los Angelenos). I was unable to get over this for the rest of the episode, which must have softened me up for the

  12. Mary Cole says:

    The latest episode of Dr Who, which aired this weekend in the UK was entitled ’42’ and was a real time adventure of a freight spacecraft which had been set on a collision course with a star (42 minutes until impact). It was great! It amused me that the real time format had been adopted for Dr Who, because when you wrote this post suggesting a real time episode of 24 which focussed on a completely mundane hour, I can remember thinking at the time that the equivalent episode for Dr Who would be funny. I mean there must be days when he’s not saving the universe! Dr Who mends the sonic screwdriver, Dr Who goes to the supermarket and so on.