Beginning this morning by trying out Windows Live Writer, in which this entry is being composed and which is so far giving me all the indications that it will have a very short life on my computer. Typical of a Windows product, it slows my machine down to a drunken crawl (a mere stagger would be too much to hope for), and even with the much vaunted Microsoft techies behind it, I'm so far discovering Outlook Express was more versatile. I hate editors that can't handle simple tabs right off the bat; but ones that leave their operations unclear send me into minor fits of fury because they guarantee greater fits of fury in the future.
The big story today, I'm assuming (barring Castro shuffling off this mortal coil), is the clamour surrounding the first four episodes of 24. The nattering nabobs of Net-nuttery are going wild with the typical expressions of shock and guffaw: They killed Curtis! A nuke went off! Valencia got pwn3d!!! w00t!!! I'll refrain from noting the pernicious perspicacity of the lot, though you've surely already inferred my response. I have to say, however, that I'm surprised by the surprise: 24 is as conventional as a sonnet, and significantly less predictable, so the hullabaloo seems to me to disprove the notion of audience savvy. Five seasons through, with only two nuclear "problems," you had to know this season the producers had to detonate a nuke for real this time. There was no choice. They had no way left to ratchet up the stakes, to show audiences This Season Really Matters. And after last season's frontal assault on its long-standing cast, you had to know a familiar figure was going to get iced in the early on. It's the great poker lesson: the further on you go, the greater your raises have to be for them to have any significance, and 24's other raises were all used up. It had to go nuclear; it had to continue feeding its familiar company to the slaughterhouse. Had, had, had. How appropriate.
There are, supposedly, four more little nukes out there in 24's universe, of which I suspect two more will go off; there are, give or take, only a few more long-term characters to be thrown to the lions, and at least two more of them will be. (Though likely not the new President, the show having gone to that well once too often; my bets are on Aaron, the stoically-decent Secret Service agent extraordinaire, and the ever-scowling Chloe, just to piss off all of her fans out there.) In the meantime, expect the expected. A few noticeable but decidedly minor actors will show up, and get killed off. There will be a mole. Someone at the very top of the power structure will be involved in the conspiracy. Perimeters will be formed, and broken. One or two Muslim characters will prove themselves heroic, to tonic charges that the show's Islamophobic. Jack will suffer. Jack will have to kill at least one more close "friend." Even more people will be wounded in the thigh, as if to evidence the show's Fisher King neurosis. Chloe will pout, commanders will be incompetent, lovers will be seperated, and cell-phones will prove once more the show's most important props.
Further to wit: Cynics will wonder how Jack can get around Los Angeles without once getting caught in traffic, how his superiors can ever dare to question his judgment, and how on earth Jack Bauer can have more lives than a Hindu cat. Churls will wonder why the producers couldn't get the obvious choice to play Jack's father, and why major events always seem to happen at the turning of the hour. Girls will wonder, idly to their great relief, if they could still find bearded Kiefer hot or not. (Boys, conversely, will cross their fingers for the return of Mandy, the show's occasional villainess, and Jack's eminently but malevolently sexy counterpart.) And smart critics will wonder how the show can keep running at its frenzied momentum for the remaining years of young Kiefer's inexplicably long contract with FOX. (How do you raise when you've already gone all-in? You buy more chips, even if you're not allowed to do that, natch.) I know I'm in the minority when I write this, but I will anyway: the show ran out of credibility three seasons ago, but it soldiers forward with its increasingly berserkered fervency to keep its exceptionally-punditocratic audience enthralled at any cost.
Necessity, we're incessantly reminded, is the mother of invention, and in the television world it's the mother of convention. It's also the mother of desperation. And that's what I saw writ large, like a revealing watermark, beneath 24's return. Which makes me think two things: that, yes, Mandy will be back, if Mia Kirshner can be lured back to reprise the part; and that sooner or later we'll see Jack kill the President, whomever he might be at that point and of course played by a Canadian, so he collapses, ambiguously, on the detonator of a nuclear bomb.
A little too Bridge on the River Kwai? And you know what that would be: "Madness! Madness!"