Thursday, June 20, 2019
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

More Observations on "24"

APRIL 1, 2009 --

First, LPR was sad to learn of the heroic death of Bill Buchanan, leader of the disbanded counter-terrorism unit. He was a
unique government official: guided by dedication to the country within a moral framework. He will be missed.

Perhaps, next season's "24" could include flashbacks --consisting of new scenes -- deriving from conversations about Bill as Jack Bauer et al. refer to their memories of him as they deal with the latest threat to the country.

(LPR will not, however, suggest what that threat might be --- although a complex conspiracy to destroy confidence in our financial institutions does come to mind.)

Now this might seem a trivial thought -- but LPR will take it out of the closet nevertheless: When, during the 24 hours, do people get the chance to sleep? Or do the principals work a 24/24?

LPR did some rough tracking of commercial time on the March 23 episode. Its findings: approximately the first 12 minutes was plot, followed by some five minutes of commercials. Then nine minutes of plot, and the rest of the program alternated approximately five minutes of commercials and five minutes of plot.

The program's "real time" device is a great help in approximating plot time and commercial time per each "24" episode. (It is, however, not clear to LPR how cramming seven commercial announcements, including Fox promos -- with competing products sometimes in the bundle -- is a superior marketing tool.) Roughly, then, "24" provides 40 minutes of plot and 20 minutes of a great many commercials.

For LPR, the success of "24" derives from its central premise: the greatest obstacles to dedicated public servants are the self-interest and ignorance of others in position to discredit the good guys.

There was a time when Hollywood made this theme the keystone of many films, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Ox-Bow Incident," "High Noon," "The Fountainhead," to name just a few.

For LPR, "24" indicates that this theme continues to glow -- if not burn as bright as it should. In turn, the spectacle of current muddling in Washington is not yet convincing evidence that common sense in the cause of the common good has become a lost cause in our country. Jack Bauer offers proof that we have not lost our ability to distinguish right from wrong, and proof, too, that the struggle in our country to maintain this distinction continues.