By now, the first four hours of “24” have aired.
Shots have been fired, stuff has exploded, and people have been running and shrieking in all directions as Jack Bauer realizes he’s having another bad day.
By now, several characters have already died loud, hideous deaths. And by now, I have turned to my wife about a dozen times and said, “Honey, Jack had no choice.”
“24” is a silly, violent program. I feel bad whenever I watch it. Which is always. I feel bad for shouting “Woo-hoo!” when the graphic violence disclaimer comes on. And I apologize for the horrible, preemptive way I’ve treated relatives, Girl Scouts and clergy who have stopped by during an episode. (Come back during “American Idol.” I’ll whittle you something.)
And yet, “24” speaks to me somehow. Much of the show takes place in an office. Jack Bauer faces the same bureaucratic frustrations that all white-collar guys do, but he gets to resolve them with explosives. We don’t approve of this tactic, but we’re curious to see how it works out. Guys enjoy “24” for a variety of reasons, and not simply:
Violence. I don’t condone violence in real life. Like most civilized males, I outsource mine to television. There, professionals (like the Three Stooges) can bang their craniums together and I can enjoy the hollow coconut sound without so much as a welt. “24” is “The Three Stooges” all over again, except Moe has a Glock 9 and Curly has seized a nuclear reactor. Besides, for any male over 17, violence isn’t about “blowing people away.”
It’s more about ...
Closure. The ultimate whitecollar male fantasy. We live in a world where the bills keep coming, lawns spring eternal and love handles grow right back. But there’s a refreshing finality to Bauer’s management style. When he shoots a villain’s helicopter and it explodes, something inside you says, “We’re done here.”
Villains I know. “24’s” villains always combine scary exotic types with people who irritate us every day. This season, Bauer tangles with a deadly Middle Eastern agent, a boss who expects you to laugh at his jokes and a telemarketer who calls with “an exciting offer.”
Traffic. Jack Bauer never encounters traffic. We admire him for this. He can get from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach in 30 minutes. Moses didn’t make that kind of time crossing the Red Sea.
Bauer has superpowers. He can lie quietly in an air duct, inches above terrorists, triangulating satellites on a laptop without asking the terrorists to call tech support. He can come and go from work — shooting, killing and blowing things up — without filling out an expense form. And he can live on the edge for 24 consecutive hours without ever having to pee.
Keep your X-ray vision. To me, that’s a superpower.