With only eight episodes left to shoot this season, 24 producers says they’re going to tone down the violence and “include fewer torture scenes.”
Howard Gordon, 24‘s lead writer & executive producer, says the torture is “starting to feel a little trite” and that they’d “like to find other ways for Jack to get information out of suspects. Our appetite has decreased. Personally, I think the audience may be tiring of it as well.”
While Gordon claims this is because the writers feel it’s become a cliché, we can’t help but notice the timing. Human rights groups and groups such as the Parents Television Council have been campaigning to get 24 to cut back on the torture and violence for years, and Gordon has said that he feel the idea that 24 is “affecting our soldiers in Iraq in their treatment of prisoners is being exaggerated…I think people can differentiate between a television show and reality.”
So what’s happened to change his tune?
Recently, producers of the show met with West Point Military Academy dean Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, retired military interrogators and Human Rights First representatives. The group had come to complain that 24 is affecting actual American soldiers by encouraging unethical behaviour.
“I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said. “They should do a show where torture backfires.” Finnegan claims that many of his students at West Point ask “If torture is wrong, what about 24?” and criticized the way that pain inflicted by Jack Bauer is always portrayed as the most patriotic course of action.
The group also brought a list of non-abusive interrogation techniques; Howard Gordon joked that he wanted to hire the veteran interrogators to write for the show.
Despite their seeming indifference to the criticism, it seems that the opinion of military officials has more of an influence on 24’s creators than other critics. Not too surprising, as 24 is very popular in the Bush administration.
“The military loves our show,” says Joel Surnow, 24’s right-wing creator and executive producer. “People in the Administration love the series, too. It’s a patriotic show. They should love it.”
Michael Chertoff, real-life homeland security secretary, is apparently a fan of the show, saying, “Frankly, it reflects real life.”
Regardless of where the torture-lessening decision comes from, Surnow’s own views on the matter are clear. “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done. America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He’s a patriot,” says Surnow.
-Mel, BuddyTV Staff Columnist