I have a strict rule about watching television. If I’m going to watch a show, it has to be in order from beginning to end. None of that starting on episode 7 or season 3 stuff. Sometimes it drives my friends crazy, but quit frankly, if you don’t watch a show from the first episode you’re missing something.
The perfect example of this is 24. For my Television and American Culture class at Brandeis, the professor told us we had to watch the current season of 24. I’d never watched the show before and it was in season seven (plus the 2 hour movie). My friends who did watch were excited that I’d start watching with them, but I told them I would only watch the current episodes once I caught up. They told me that you didn’t really need to watch from season to season to get the show, which is true, but I stood by my tv rule. It took me I think three weeks (I did have school, ultimate, all the other shows, and sleep to catch up on!) during which time my friends would bug me every time a new episode was on. (“Just watch with us” “just catch up on this season and do the rest later!”) I have to say I am so glad I refused.
While it’s true that each season is only marginally connected to the last (the show jumps months and years between seasons and the casts tend to be mostly new people) there are always things to be gained. For example one of the best (and underused) things about this past season was the Chloe-Janis rivalry. Why? Because Chloe is awesome. You can’t appreciate her, her brilliant awkwardness, and her resolute loyalty without watching her grow in previous seasons. You don’t get the full effect of Tony, Bill, and Chloe’s return if you don’t know who they are in the first place. And you certainly don’t feel the shock of Tony’s betrayal if you don’t watch Tony and Jack work together and see Michelle’s murder. Even his daughter Kim’s return is less spectacular if you don’t see all that they’ve gone through together (including the mother’s murder in season 1). Though, I’m not such a Kim fan so neither here nor there for me. So yes, I could have started with season seven, but I wouldn’t have appreciated the show the way I do if I had.
One of the things that’s so interesting about this show is the way they display morality and patriotism. For one thing, sometimes doing the right thing means doing the wrong thing. And while most Americans would balk at the idea of using torture as a legitimate method of interrogation, the show presents it in such a matter of fact light that while watching the torture happen, you can’t help but support Jack. You’re sort of like, “well, I don’t agree with torture but here…I guess it’s warranted.” They’ve finally addressed this issue somewhat in the most recent season but then the issue sort of ell by the wayside when one of the FBI agents who was opposed to torture comes to see things from Jack’s perspective.
The format of the show, having 24 episodes, each an hour long, the entire thing taking place in 24 hours, is both a smart gimmick and an unnecessary one. The thing is, unless you watch the entire show in one sitting (which I recommend because it’s WAY better that way), it doesn’t really feel like a single day, in which case you don’t really care much about it. Plus, the audience can’t help but watch and wonder “would it really take that long to get from point a to point b? When do they sleep? Don’t they eat or go to the bathroom ever? But, when the show started, it was this detail that got it a lot of attention. It probably makes the writer’s jobs a bit harder since they have to make a lot of events happen in transit, but they do a good enough job that while watching the show it doesn’t feel like things have been effected by it all.
24 is excellent and I can’t wait for the next season. I only hope that a) Chloe returns and b) budget cuts don’t ruin the quality of the show.
(Sidenote: if ever there were a show that was the embodiment of product placement, 24 is it. Sprint cells show up in virtually every scene and are used for more than imaginable. And somehow, the battery is never dead and the cell doesn’t break despite all the action.)