Tonight marks the two-hour series finale of 24. I’m really sad to see it go.
I have watched the show from the beginning, intrigued by its gimmick: 24 one-hour episodes, ostensibly in “real time”. I was hooked immediately.
The suspense, the twists, the doublecrosses, the assassinations…I’ve seen them all. I’ve lived through both of the Palmer administrations. President
(Honestly, this last thing was probably the best thing they ever did with Elisha Cuthbert's character. The most common refrain among 24 fans was how dreadfully annoying Kim Bauer was.)
At its peak, the show became a huge hit. I was something analogous to the hipster who “discovered it first”, though I never abandoned the show when it became popular. There were just more people to discuss it with.
Interestingly, the writers of the show do not write the entire season at once. They write some storylines, shoot episodes, then make decisions from there. This stemmed from the first season, when the creators weren’t sure whether the show would catch on or if it would be cancelled at midseason. They had to have a contingency plan so they could tie the series up if Fox did not pick up more than the original 10 or 12 episodes.
Despite lukewarm ratings at first, Fox had faith in the show and its concept. It paid off in spades. Jack Bauer is now a pop culture icon; most everyone knows the name even if they’ve never seen a single episode of the show. Fox also figured out the best way to run a serial drama is nonstop: the last several seasons, the show has had a 4-hour Sunday/Monday kickoff with no shortage of action, thus getting people hooked. This was followed by a new episode every week without taking a break. No reruns, dammit.
To be fair, the show is a demanding one to follow. Like any serial drama, context and backstories are extremely important. Unlike Law & Order or CSI, an episode of 24 is not a story in and of itself. There is no beginning, middle and end wrapped up with a tidy bow at the end of an hour.
The show also requires a major suspension of disbelief. The world of Jack Bauer is a world where cell phones never die, one can get all the way across Los Angeles or New York in less than 10 minutes, big moments happen every hour on the hour, and there is nothing that a 5’-10”, 140lb. man can’t do; no one he can’t kill.
But damn, the stories are fascinating. My jaw still drops at least once an episode.
And although I will sincerely miss 24, I can’t wait to see how they go out tonight.