Monday, February 04, 2008
Via Volokh Conspiracy, here's an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the future of the hit show "24" (a favorite of ours here at TWM.) The explanation for the show's declining popularity seems to rely mostly on the idea that viewers have tired of the show which has come to enjoy a substantial association with our current policies in the "war on terror", and torture specifically. And while producer Joel Surnow's political leanings did get some attention last year, it seems to me the show's decline is more fundamental than that. The biggest problem I have with the torture rampant in the show is that in later seasons, the writers would simply turn to torture to resolve a problem in the plot. Instead of Jack Bauer having to chase a lead down, he'd simply stumble across a terrorists safe house by sheer coincidence, and then torture vital information out of a terrorist who just so happened to be left alive after a shoot-out. Second, the Hobbesian choices Bauer faces, a hallfmark of the show, are too numerous and too incredulous. How many times does Bauer have to kill/let someone die to prevent an even worse horror from coming about? How much more horrible can the writers make this Hobbesian choice over episode five's Hobbesian choice? And lastly, and probably most crucially, there's just no one-upping nukes and biological weapons. I think those factors have more to do with fans turning away than any rejection of the 24's supposed politics. The show should ditch the over-reliance on clever plot devices, and just go back to its roots as a clever and engaging thriller.