Well being not exactly a tv person, I’m finally getting around to watching season 1 of the television series 24. I did catch one episode, the premier, nine years ago. And while I thought it was okay, I just wasn’t interested enough to try following the series.
Which is just as well, watching live I would have given up on the series well before the end. The DVD is the way to view this series.
That said onto my evaluation of the 6 DVD set of season # 1.
The season starts strong, the beginning half is pretty damn addictive, brilliant viewing. The only weakness is the plodding storyline about the presidential candidate’s family problems. Whenever the focus shifts to that storyline, all the life and interest goes out of the show. While the actor who plays Senator Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is a good actor, he spends pretty much the whole season whining, and vacillating over his idiotic son. But Haysbert himself dominates the role, and it is fantastic casting. Having been in the business for years (he’s done everything from BUCK ROGERS to DALLAS to MAGNUM PI to CRIME STORY to RETURN TO LONESOME DOVE to STANDOFF to THE MINUS MAN to THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR to “Now and Again” (1999) to THE UNIT) , it’s good to finally see him in more leading roles. And as Senator Palmer he’s an impressive and imposing aspect, towering as he does over everyone else. He manages to really straddle that troublesome line of Presidential bearing, inspite of the fact that often his character is poorly written, crossing the line too often into melodrama.
Speaking of which a large portion of why the Senator Palmer subplot doesn’t work is the poor casting of his son. Beyond not looking remotely like he’s related to the other actors, the young actor in the role comes across as just an annoying, unsympathetic screen presence. Not everyone has a face for every part, and this young man with his mugging, and whining, and temper tantrums was the wrong take for this critical role. He came off as very unsympathetic, which just makes the audience not remotely interested in the character’s welfare. So it’s also a hit against the writing team, for scripting a character, and dialog, that makes you want to hit the fast forward button.
And beyond that poor casting, the senator plot, basically just goes in circles, repeating the same old argument about telling/not telling for the whole series. It’s just bad writing. Luckily the other plots are interesting enough to make up for the poorly written Senator Palmer storyline.
That said at the half way mark or so, when The main subplot of Jack Bauer finding his wife and daughter is resolved, the whole series just shifts tonally, and becomes, like the Palmer plot, very repetitive and plodding and uninteresting.
Every character begins to behave wildly irrationally, and the show just goes off the rails.
Particularly Leslie Hope’s character (Terri Bower) suffers from being poorly and irrationally written. Amnesia?? Really? She went from being okay written, to being an atrocious, annoying mess.
Other odd writing choices include: (SPOILERS): A character stabbing someone on camera? Bauer, basically trying to set up an episode of CHEATERS with a known assassin rather than just taking him into custody. And then we have a special forces trained Assassin getting taken out by a scorned campaign aide.(END OF SPOILERS)
Just idiotic subplot building on idiotic subplot. As if the writers are just killing time to get to the season end.
Well that’s my verdict through Disk #5. One more to go. I’ll update this review when that last disk is done. But my opinion right now is that 24 is a series let down by its 2nd half, and lazy writing.
UPDATE: (Possible SPOILERS) Okay I just saw the final four episodes of Season #1, and “24″ does still suffer from being very irrational, and annoying. Though there are some surprises. The Senator Subplot actually becomes at times interesting, with the Lady Macbeth machinations of the wife of Senator Palmer. But for that plus, the Bauer subplot loses just about all steam and credibility, with them falling back on kidnapping his daughter again. There’s just a lot of inconsistencies, and stupidity on the bad guy’s side that stretches suspension of disbelief too far. Also the casting of Dennis Hopper, didn’t work well. He’s generally a fine actor, but saddling him with a ridiculous accent really distracts, he just isn’t very believable throughout these episodes. (END OF SPOILERS)
So there’s a lot of cliched writing throughout these final four episodes, but there’s a couple of really original plot twists that really save the season. One particular plot twist blew my mind, and really just created an emotional storm that carried you through any writing plotholes.
All in all I thought it was an audacious ending that worked on enough levels to get me to give the first season a passing grade, but just barely.
**12 out of ****
And here’s a quick overview of some of the under the radar actors that I thought delivered really strong and essential performances for 24 season #1:
-Michael Massee as Ira Gaines owned the first half of “24″. His understated, but menace filled performance was the kind of presence that Dennis Hopper couldn’t bring to the 2nd half of season #1. And it is really surprising he hasn’t gotten more work since his stint on “24″.
-Richard Burgi is always a fantastic actor, and here, as Alan York, is no exception. The guy is a solid actor and always brings his A game, even in less than stellar productions. This reliability is probably due to his soap opera background, which I’ve noticed tends to allow actors to outshine others, who don’t have that demanding training ground of daytime tv to hone their skills.
This range, and “in the moment” truth of his acting is more than likely why Burgi has remained a consistently busy and in-demand actor. For other work by him try “ONE WEST WAKIKI”(1994), “THE SENTINEL” (96-99), STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 (2004- A subversive, straight to DVD, claustrophobic film, that I thought was far better than the big budget blockbuster original), CELLULAR (2004), “POINT PLEASANT” (2005), James Woods “SHARK” (2006-2008), “REAPER” (2007), “HARPER’S ISLAND” (2009), “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES” (2004-2009).
-Zeljko Ivanek as Andre Draven I thought was astonishing. Possibly the most effective actor of the whole series, I thought he completely owned and made true every scene he was in. Having first seen him on “HOMICIDE” where he was good, here he gets the chance to be great. And I didn’t realize he’s Yogoslavian when he acted on “HOMICIDE”, as his English is accent free. Here in “24″ he channels the land of his birth to I thought always riveting effect. He’s another actor who has stayed consistently busy, and like Richard Burgi he started in soap operas. Proof positive that people who do years on a Soap, really learn how to bring it when they graduate to Primetime and Movies. Some of the highlights of Ivanek’s filmography being:
THE SOLDIER (1982), THE SENDER(1982), “The Sun Also Rises” (1984), “Echoes in the Darkness” (1987), “Aftermath: A Test of Love” (1991), White Squall (1996), Courage Under Fire (1996), Infinity (1996), “The Rat Pack” (1998), “Homicide: Life on the Street” (37 episodes, 1993-1999), Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), Dancer in the Dark (2000), Denis Leary’s “The Job” (2001), Unfaithful (2002), “Oz” (27 episodes, 1997-2003), “Touching Evil” (2004), “The Jury” (2004), “Bones” (2005), “Shark” (2006), Ascension Day (2007), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), In Bruges (2008), “The Mentalist” (2008), “Damages” (2007),
- Megalyn Echikunwoke in a poorly written role as Senator Palmer’s daughter still manages to draw your eye when she’s on screen. You can catch her also on: “CSI: Miami”, Who Do You Love (2008) , Fix (2008/I), “The 4400″ (2006), “Supernatural” (2005), “Veronica Mars” (2004)
- And last but definitely not least Sarah Clarke as Nina Myers is fantastic! The season largely hangs together on her performance and credibility. And when a lot of actors waver, I think she never gives a false note, a really fine performance. Inexplicably, she had very little follow-up to “24″. If I was a director or producer she’s the type of talented actress I would be on the lookout for. However it appears the lull in work has turned around for her as she has a slate of movies and television projects for 2009 and 2010. Some standouts from her filmography include: Psychic Driving (2005-short film), Alibi (2007), The Colony (2007/II- short film), “Life” (2007), “The Cleaner” (2008), Twilight (2008/I), Women in Trouble (2009), Level Seven (2009).