As a teenager, 24 was one of the first television shows to really draw me in. I’ve been revisiting it, and it’s spurred a lot of thoughts about how television has evolved and why the show held such wide appeal during its run. It was an intense and tightly edited series. It told multiple stories in parallel, the drama was generally compelling, and the main character was an uncompromising badass. Kiefer Sutherland really knows how to look good running around with a drawn pistol. Now that I’m a bit older and wiser, the show seems almost crass in the simplicity of its dialogue, character construction, plotline, and the absurd quantity of cultural and gender stereotyping that fuels the conflicts and interactions across the show. But it’s an interesting case study in how network television channels managed to escape the mire of episodic sitcoms that dominated the 90’s.
In 24, characters frequently behave in ways that are clearly motivated by the writers’ need to create drama and increase tension, lest the show drift into that most dangerous territory of the mundane. The writers are frequently shameless in how they generate character interactions, making heavy use of techno-babble simply to provide an excuse for characters to walk from one desk to another. What these characters actually do at their jobs is hilariously difficult to define. With all their talk of protocols, encryptions, and sockets, you might imagine that they’re in IT, but at no other point do these characters profess any expertise in the realm of technology or computers.