“You are gonna tell me what I want to know. It’s just a question of how much you want it to hurt.” — Jack Bauer, Season 5
Last Christmas (2015), I received a copy of the book Secrets of 24: The Unauthorized Guide to the Political & Moral Issues Behind TV’s Most Riveting Drama as a gift. (Note: It was published prior to the debut of Season 7.) It’s a great choice for me, since it mixes the subjects of my two blogs. I haven’t yet worked it into my reading schedule, but I was recently skimming it and got an idea for a blogpost. This one, in fact.
Interspersed throughout the book’s text — which includes articles by and interviews with various journalists, writers, actors, experts of different kinds, etc. — are little sidebars, “quick takes on the facts, humor, and breadth of voices and ideas generated by ’24′”. So, I have chosen 24 of my favorites to share with you. A few are funny or merely informative, but most give insight into the show, the central character of Jack Bauer, and their influence by and on American culture. Hope you like…
“We do want democratic process, but we also want justice. And the show allows us to have both, and that’s why we love it.” — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Among the boldface names who are fans of the show: Dave Barry, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Jim Cramer, Billy Crystal, Tony Danza, Trent Dilfer, Geena Davis, Bill Gates, Laura Ingraham, Stephen King, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, Jim McMahon, Donald Rumsfeld, Seal, Barbra Streisand, Clarence Thomas, and Tina Turner.
“We always had the idea of this King Lear story, of Jack being the prodigal son, the guy who was his father’s favorite but turned against his dad, and the less favorite son took over the empire. In some ways, you get to see that his family is his destiny.” — ’24’ executive producer Howard Gordon on the plan to give Jack Bauer “genetic responsibility for a lot of the misery by association” in Season six, when he duels with both his brother and his father
“An America that looks to Bauer rather than Batman is an altered nation indeed.” — Ezra Klein, blogger and writing fellow, The American Prospect
o Jack Bauer has been to Mars. That’s why there’s no life on Mars.
o Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
o How many CTU special agents does it take to change a lightbulb? Twenty. Nineteen to set up a perimeter, while Jack Bauer tortures the lightbulb into revealing the whereabouts of the socket. [Ed. Note: I think the better answer is, of course, twenty-four.]
— sampling of Internet humor about ’24’
“The show reflects where we are in the culture at this moment in time. Every generation has it. There’s social transformation going now in the way we see the world, domestic policy, foreign policy, domestic intelligence, and foreign intelligence. All these things are becoming blurred, as are the questions that we have to face on morality. And the show does a really great job of trying to put those questions on a personal level for all of us. We’re all Jack Bauer in our hearts.” — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies
“I have fallen in love with another man. For the past five months we have been meeting in a dark room every Sunday night, while the children are tucked up in bed and my husband snores upstairs. It is crazy because I know he would love him too, but he lacks the stamina that this relationship requires. So it’s just me… and Jack Bauer…. His sense of duty is unbreakable. His idea of a hot date is to bundle you into the boot of a mercenary’s car and he is more interested in speed-dialing the office than sex. Yet there is a vulnerability about Jack where women are concerned. Tenderness even. He would lay down his life to get you home safely and maybe, just maybe, this time you could make him stay.” — Sheila McClennan, The Guardian (UK)
“Characters that push things over the limit are interesting characters. It’s very natural to create a character like that in the world of terrorism because there are so many difficult moral, ethical and legal dilemmas, political dilemmas, that constantly arise. You want a character that’s over the edge a little.” — Robert Cochran, co-creator, ’24’
“When men watch Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer they enter into a contract with the characters. They watch and savor the brutality but recognize how pathetic these heroes are. Guys watch TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ’24’ and see all the horror, humiliations and complications of being male. Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer are not role models to emulate. They are case studies to brood upon. They are a warning. Every man knows that.” — John Doyle, Globe and Mail (Toronto)
According to co-creator Joel Surnow, the first few episodes of ’24’ were heavily influenced by the movies Three Days of the Condor, La Femme Nikita, and The Day of the Jackal. But these episodes were “in the can” before 9/11. Afterward, and in fact for every season after the first, Surnow says the plots were influenced by “real events.”
“While we don’t try to represent any kind of real truth — obviously 24 hours in the format makes it impossible — we try to, I think, present an essential truth, or an essential problem. So when Jack Bauer tortures, it’s in a compressed reality… We try to compress these arguments and these issues and dramatize them in obviously very unreal ways, but hopefully in dramatic and compelling ways. And that’s really ultimately our master… making a compelling, ‘adrenalized’ TV show.” — Howard Gordon, executive producer of ’24’
“’24’ dispenses with the politically correct evasions that pervade prime time episodic television…. It identifies the terrorist enemy without flinching and lets the good guys fight to win — without apologies.” — Christian Toto, The Washington Times
“In this age of terror and worldwide insecurity, ’24’ created the illusion of an all-American superagent on whose watch the bad guys, whether Muslims or Russians or shady white men, would inevitably blow off their sorry behinds. It was political comfort food.” — Andrea Peyser, the New York Post
“’24’ was well into production when the terrorist attacks on September 11 happened. The effect on the show was that Fox’s legal department reviewed the first few episodes and made us recut the sequence where the 747 blows up at 36,000 feet (11,000m). Fox did not want to show the actual plane exploding in the air. It also meant that an extensive aerial sequence which was to have been shot by a second unit downtown was shut down and we had to substitute Glendale for downtown.” — Jon Cassar, director and producer of ’24’
Over six seasons, the enemies depicted on ’24’ have included mercenaries, Serbian nationalists, Arab terrorists, American oil executives, Mexican drug lords, corrupt British businessmen, the Chinese, pseudo-Chechen terrorists, a vast right-wing conspiracy based in the White House, more Arab terrorists, rogue Russian officials, and, of course, Jack Bauer’s own father and brother.
By inflicting beatings, injections, and the electric shock delivered by a taser gun during an episode in Season 2, the show earned the Parents’ Television Council’s Least Family-Friendly Program citation for the week. The PTC also calculates that out of the 624 instances of torture on TV from 2002 to 2005, ’24’ accounted for more than 67 such scenes, making it no. 1 in torture depictions.
Former president Bill Clinton has said he is a big fan of ’24’, even though the show is run by “an über right-wing guy” (referring to Joel Surnow). He thinks the show is fair in making both Democrats and Republicans look equally evil.
“Bauer keeps fighting, of course, but for people, not politics. “24”‘s ideology — Jack Bauerism, if you will — is not so much in between left and right as it is outside them, impatient with both ACLU niceties and Bushian moral absolutes.” — James Poniewozik, Time magazine
“What the show tries to do is capture an emotional and psychological reality of living in a world where terrorism is a threat. If you are looking to us for realistic advice on how to fight terrorism, we’re all in real trouble.” — Robert Cochran, co-creator, writer, and producer of ’24’
“The show may even work as a kind of inoculation, jolting us with a little dose of manageable terrorism or nuclear threat or biological warfare as a balm to our deeper, unspoken anxieties.” — Charles McGrath, the New York Times
“You don’t need to watch ’24’ as a kind of primer on moral philosophy, but you probably should.” — Brian M. Carney, the Wall Street Journal
“On ’24’, there are a few very good people, a few very bad ones, and in between a lot of question marks who can upend the plot (and the political analogies). That may be the biggest lesson of ’24’ in the Iraq era: don’t stubbornly hang on to your preconceptions when the facts on the ground change.” — Time magazine
“I would agree that ’24’ is a genuine New Thing Under the Sun, not really a serial at all, but the world’s first überseries.” — Stephen King, best-selling novelist and ’24’ fan
“We certainly can’t say with any certainty that cyberterrorism doesn’t exist, and can’t say it didn’t occur… but there is little doubt in my mind that, years from now, this will be a primary method of attack, a primary theater of operations, if you will.” — Amit Yoran, vice president of managed security services operations, Symantec Corporation
And,… I’ll leave you with a bonus quote (not in a sidebar) from Leslie Hope, who played Teri Bauer in Season 1:
“I may be having the best time of my life…. Kiefer is gracious and generous, has the patience of a saint, is a good listener, and his butt looks awesome in his Wranglers!”
I think I’m gonna move this book up a few notches in my to-read list. Now that I’m in the mood for it, I may have to add the show to my re-watch (again) list, too….