February 4, 2008
POP CULTURE: Department of Narrowly Averted Disasters
Season 7 of 24, if it ever arrives, will be missing this thrilling plot:
Come spring, the show's writers and their Fox bosses began having informal telephone conversations about how to recover for next season. By the May 21 season finale, the audience had dropped to just over 11 million. Fox gave the writers carte blanche to "reimagine" the show. One of the team's chief considerations was how to address the controversy surrounding Jack's use of torture. Should Jack be feeling the guilt the media would have him feel?
On May 31, the show's head writers went in for a meeting at the studio to present their first big idea: sending Jack to Africa. In various incarnations, Jack would begin the season digging ditches, building houses, tending to orphans, providing security for an embassy or escorting around a visiting dignitary. "One of the themes we discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek some kind of penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things he's done in his life," Mr. Gordon says.
Ms. Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen of 20th Century Fox Television, were receptive but believed it was too much of a departure. "It felt like we were throwing the baby out with the bathwater," says Ms. Walden. The Africa plot also had several glaring problems, the first of which was that at some point Jack would have to fly back to the U.S. The writers proposed that for the first time ever, "24" would break from its real-time conceit; the show would skip the period when Jack was on his 14-hour flight.
The writers agreed to work on the plot. Just three weeks before they were due to start shooting the first episodes, Messrs. Gordon and Surnow joined fellow head writers Bob Cochran and Manny Coto for a pancake breakfast at an IHOP to talk through the elements of Jack-in-Africa that still weren't working. Jack was too far away, they felt, both from the immediacy of domestic terror and from the character he had been in prior seasons.
As Dave Barry would say: 24 has writers?
Why should Jack feel remorse? Torture works...ask John McCain.
The concept could only have worked if Jack was only in Africa for the first episode. And it's not a great idea even then.
The premise of that article - that viewership was down because of the torture elements, etc. - is preposterous.
Viewership was down last season because the plot had become contrived and, ultimately, unexciting.
They don't need to reinvent the show, they need to make it exciting again.