The dirty secret in the world of television, one that very few viewers ever fully pick up on, is TV’s reliance on formula. With very few exceptions (Lost is a major one), almost every episode in a specific series is built like all the others. The same amount of story beats, the same amount of story-lines, the same set-up, the same pay-off, etc. Four hours in to season of 24, the formula is readily apparent to anyone paying close attention. As redundant as it can seem, it is, unfortunately, a necessity. 24 basically produces twelve feature length films per season – the writers wouldn’t be able to fill out a season if their wasn’t a tried and true formula available. However, as enjoyable as the first four episodes of 24 have been, it’s a tad bit galling when new characters are introduced who encompass such similar roles to previous characters.
A story formula can inhabit any type of character. Janis Gold and Sean Hillinger are played by very capable actors (Janeane Garofalo and Rhys Coiro, respectively), and it’s somewhat disappointing that they are pretty much playing very similar characters to the CTU personnel we’ve seen over the first six 24 seasons. Janis is another Chloe, just a little softer around the edges. Sean is an amalgam of all of Chloe’s former assistants/co-workers. He’s the “Guy with a Personal Investment in the Terrorist Plot Who Will Take Rash Actions with Likely Disastrous Results.” We’ve seen that guy countless times before.
Story-wise, there’s something comforting about adhering to formula. We already have CTU back together, in a much leaner form. The latter half of hour 4 felt like it was something right out of the first few seasons. Jack and Tony, back together again, back undercover. For all the talk of 24 changing directions, with help from a change of scenery, this season feels like vintage 24. Of course, for 24 fans, there’s nothing wrong with this. The biggest change this year from season 6 is that the plot feels more based in reality and isn’t as ridiculously over-the-top as the stink bomb that was season 6. It’s still not realistic by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s just 24 for you.
I don’t want to give off the impression that I’ve been disappointed by the first four hours. I’ve been anything but. The episodes have been exciting. It’s vintage 24. Tony Almeida’s return from the dead was handled as well as it possibly could have been, and I hope he and Jack will be working together for the remainder of the season (though I suspect this will not be the case). It’s an encouraging start.
Best in Show
Best Quote: “You looked good, though.” – Chloe, placing a silver lining on Jack’s appearance in front of the senate hearing.
Best Moment: Jack and Tony’s escape from FBI headquarters. It was an excellent action set piece, culminating with Jack’s preposterous move of hot-wiring a car and accelerating it out of the third floor of a parking garage.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)