I wish I had time to edit.
Occasionally I rent TV shows from netflix, and since I have been hearing a lot of people talk about “24” I decided to get it. I have to admit that on some animal level I was entertained by it, but that is not saying much. Aesthetically speaking, the lowest form of success a story can achieve is making you want to see what happens next. I say this because it is not different from playing a game with a child wherein you hold a box in front of him or her and you pull something out of it to excite the child. You can do this over and over again – what is in the box? THIS IS IN THE BOX!!!! Wanting to see what happens next appeals to our animal nature, but when the story is over we do not reflect upon ourselves or our world in a different way. We have just wasted some of our time on earth (necessary in small doses).
On another level “24” is bad because it is cliché ridden. I would like to go through the show sometime and catalog them all (I would actually like to do this with all movies and form a kind of genealogy of the cliché). One of the clichés that stood out to me was that of the girl from the nobility losing herself amongst the underclasses only to be rescued by her aristocratic father. I saw this at least once before in Traffic. In traffic the cliché was more egregious because there the girl not only loses herself among the underclasses but, of all things, the black underclass. I mean what could be more entertaining, pure light haired white girl is lost among the brutal underclasses only to be saved by her father. Part of the reason I believe that Americans have an instinctive respect toward nobility is because of this cliché. People can’t seem to get enough. See also The Virgin Spring to find this in an unadulterated and self conscious form.
The show also takes a cartoonish view of the criminal. When the young daughter is lost in the underworld the criminal characters she runs into while trying to escape her captors are all cold blooded people who refuse to help. In real life criminals are capable of kindness. Not in 24. In this and other senses 24 is extreme right wing propaganda.
24 also employs a cliché that is among my favorites (meaning in a sense my least favorite) – that of the government agent gone bad. I am amazed that the American public never tires of this character. One could probably find one hundred examples of this guy in a suit with a deep voice and no conscience (always made clear to the audience). People’s ability to watch cliché over and over again is disheartening. I think it speaks to the intellectual level of most of the American public. How is it that they never tire of seeing the same character over and over again? On some level cliché can be good – it can bring out a sense of nostalgia in us, but when a work of art is made up solely of clichés strung together, it is aesthetically indefensible.