ON CALLING FOR BACKUPComplications Ensue
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Monday, February 28, 2005

Watched tonight's 24. This series is beginning to irritate again.


One principle of an action suspense show is that the characters, who are experts, should be cleverer than the audience. The forensics people on the various CSI shows are very, very smart, and know way, way more than you or I -- or almost any real forensics expert, as they tend to specialize.

The CTU people on 24 are not so smart. They keep forgetting to call for backup.

They are faced with nuclear reactors that are melting down and it occurs to no one to shut them down by means of pulling the plug. (Almost all modern reactors are fail-safe: power is required to keep the damping rods out of the reactor core, and therefore in the absence of power, the damping rods take the reaction down to nothing.)

It occurs to no one to bury the reactors in concrete.

It occurs to no one, when the override is located in a building, to cut all power and phone lines to the building.

It occurs to no one, when the traitor in CTU is leading an agent into what may likely be a trap, to send him in with, oh, say, ten or twelve SWAT guys instead of two.

They are, however, really good at torturing people. Jack Bauer could definitely work with Andy Sipowicz.

Then there's the CTU director's schizo daughter. She's freaking out. Normally, you'd put a patient like that in a straitjacket. Or, at a minimum, keep her away from sharp objects. But no, she's apparently left alone so that she can commit suicide by cutting her veins open -- a method which normally takes a fair amount of time, since you have to actually bleed to death -- just so we can prove that the CTU director is a Bad Mom Because She Has A Job.

And here I was hoping, hoping against hope that the schizo daughter would turn out to belong to the story after all because she, somehow, had an answer or a clue to the crisis locked up in her crazy mind, idiot savant style. Nope, she was just decoration.

It's exciting to watch things unfold in real time. But honestly, I shouldn't be smarter than Jack Bauer about counter-terrorism, and neither should my wife.

Coming up: obviously, Marwan has other cells... and there's something they're going to do with Paul Raines... the hits just keep on coming.

"I said mutant sharks with fricken lasers... somebody throw me a bone, here."


As a general rule please, please please don't have a plot twist that depends on a cop or semi-cop failing to call for backup. Honestly, it's the first thing they do.


All of which is why we don't watch 24. And while you're on the subject... When did science fiction become so pretentious? Just wonderin'.

By Blogger Harrison, at 1:35 AM  

Dude! You nailed it about 24! But I think that letting the audience feel waaay smarter then those gov g-men (and women)is their secret weapon (that -- and the ole' pull out the lamp cord wire and make an improtumtu shockometer trick!) My suggestion? We play a drinking game to 24. We start with a bottle of wine, and every time someone grabs a phone (land line or cell, it's all good) -- you kick back a a swig! The show gets better by the minute!! And we are always smashed by the end!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 AM  

Caveats ensue.

1. I think it's okay if its properly foreshadowed and used sparingly. e.g. Radio is set up early on to be on the fritz, then goes out when Sue & Sam try to call for backup. This of course can add to the tension because if they don't go in--someone may die, if they go in w/o backup they may die, if they split up who knows what happens...

2. Otherwise, yeah. I hate that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:45 PM  

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