The balm is dropped

As many of you will be aware, Fox has cancelled 24. Yesterday, the show’s producer Jon Cassar confirmed via Twitter that the announcement was made to cast and crew, and the 8th season currently showing will be the last on the network. There’s talk of  NBC picking up the show, or that it might make the move to cinemas – the recent feature-length 24: Redemption suggests it’s a leap it could easily manage – but otherwise this is the end of Jack Bauer and co.

What’s surprising about the cancellation isn’t that it’s happened at all – the writing’s been on the wall for a little while with rising costs and falling ratings (though it’s still one of the network’s biggest hits) but the reaction to the decision. I’ve read a number of forum posts and blogs from people suggesting that it’s the right time for it to go, and that it should finish while it still retains a bit of dignity. But to me, 24 has remained remarkably consistent over eight seasons, particularly given the restrictions of the real-time format.

In truth, 24 isn’t quite as good as it was, but then it’s hard to name any show whose eighth season can beat its first – after all, familiarity breeds contempt, and the show’s twist-packed format has naturally led to a few repeat revelations. The tunnel switcheroo, the missing nuclear weapon, the mole inside CTU – these old favourites have all popped up again this season. And it’s certainly lost a little of its shock factor – Season Five arguably did the most damage on this front by killing off so many established cast members that the following series had nowhere to go; little wonder many consider Season Six (after a blistering four-episode salvo) the weakest, while Season Seven had to resurrect a character long thought dead, switching out CTU for the FBI to make the setting feel a little fresher.

None of this has stopped 24 from being consistently fun, though – while it’s long abandoned any pretence of strictly adhering to the real-time format (any terrorist activity is rarely more than ten minutes away for Jack, Renée or CTU) it’s still often hugely entertaining, and the show’s clichés are wholeheartedly embraced by many of its fans. It’s not 24 without Jack’s familiar cries of “DAMMIT!” or “WHERE’S THE BALM?” and the thought that we might have heard Jack yell either of those for a last time is a sad one for me.

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