Game Time: 24 -- Was CTU Actually Run By Isiah Thomas? We'll Never Know
We're running out of time...to trade for Stephon Marbury
One of my favorite parts of the work day occurs around 10:00 a.m.every day, when Lance Zierlein is finished with his show. At that point, I'm five hours away from my show starting, so Lance and I will typically begin haphazardly discussing about a hundred different topics at once, sometimes sports-related, sometimes not.
Today, Lance asked me the question "Robin Lopez, like or dislike?" After some hemming and hawing, I decided "Still under evaluation, but possession arrow pointing toward dislike." Lance took it a step further and compared Lopez to mayonnaise -- if you hate him, you vehemently hate him, and even if you like him there still reaches a point where you palpably know you're tired of him. Well put, Z!
(For the record, that ultimately is true of almost anybody, isn't it? The only names we could come up with that withstood the Mayonnaise Test, i.e. we could NEVER, EVER get sick of them ever, were Jose Lima and Paulie Walnuts.)
I would have liked to have said Jack Bauer shattered the "mayonnaise test," but unfortunately what Russian terrorists and dirty bombs couldn't do, the writers of 24 managed to pull off -- they mayonnaised Jack Bauer for me. Season 8 of 24 was, in a word, brutal. We've had terrible presidents on the show before (David Palmer's brother Gary Payton -- I honestly forget his name, I just remember he looked like Gary Payton), we've had things run amok at CTU before (those damn moles), we've had complete ignoring of the "real time" clock before (Jack getting from Long Beach to Pasadena in six minutes during rush hour was awesome back in the day).
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Nothing compares with the final season of 24 -- and I mean that in a completely insulting, disgusted, "I can't believe I invested time in this crap" kind of way.
Basically, for the last six hours of the season, I was Brian Scalabrine running up and down the floor in a 30-point blowout, playing out the string of a meaningless turd of a television season. When I heard that the show was finally closing its figurative doors at the end of this season (an announcement that came during this season), I was relieved -- not exactly the primal reaction that you'd hope for from your diehard fans if you write
this crap for the show.
However, in the end, this is what needed to happen. We had a grandmother for a president (Allison Taylor) who probably couldn't effectively shoo teenagers off her lawn, much less weed out terrorist threats on domestic soil. We had a season where it was revealed early on that, speaking of grandparents, Jack Bauer was now a grandfather, meaning it was far more realistic that he was suffering from sleep apnea and drinking prune juice between meals than brushing up on his interrogation techniques. (Of course, this would explain why the writers decided that early on this season, Jack spent the better part of two hours essentially sitting in a parked car -- he needed the rest.)
And then there's the government's Counter Terrorist Unit....good ol' CTU. I've worked for a handful of companies in my day, and some have had fairly strict human resources policies and stringent guidelines for hiring a new employee. It is with several years of hiring under my own belt that I openly wonder why it is that the companies I've worked for put seemingly ten times more research into hiring, say, an accounts payable coordinator than CTU did into hiring people that were...you know...responsible for millions of American lives.
Christ sakes, CTU, mix in a background check. Maybe it's me but I see "making sure AT&T gets paid on time each month" as far less important than "preventing millions of citizens from vaporizing in a pool of their own melted skin." I'm crazy like that.
CTU's hiring motto: What would Isiah do?
It's almost as if the writers were admitting how foolish they made CTU look over the years when they unveiled the head of the new CTU this season. (By the way, it was the "new" CTU because between Seasons 6 and 7, the government had shut down CTU, because it had essentially suffocated itself under the weight of its own incompetence. Clearly, the time off did not shore up their hiring practices.) It's as if they said "Who played the dumbest, slack-jawed yokel of a character in the history of American film? We need that guy. Who would that be?"
Enter "dude who played Bubba in Forrest Gump." Yes, THAT guy was now the one pushing the buttons at CTU, blindly trusting new employees who wound up being spies for the Russian government, and completely ignoring feedback from people like Jack Bauer who spends his vacations saving the world from Armageddon.
Not surprisingly, Bubba didn't make it past the midway point of the season before getting shitcanned. And naturally, the president decided that, in a pinch, an appropriate hire to run an entire government branch designed to thwart terror on a day where a terrorist attack had actually occurred just hours earlier was none other than Chloe O'Bryan -- a highly competent computer nerd with nary a social skill who had never been so much as head of the party-planning committee (yes, Angela Martin from The Office was more qualified to lead CTU than Chloe).
This would have been like firing Isiah Thomas as vice president/general manager of the Knicks and then replacing him with the equipment manager -- which actually sounds like an idea that would have made sense at the end of Thomas' reign of terror. Yes, as sadly void as her resume was of anything remotely resembling leadership, Chloe was actually an upgrade over Bubba.
In some sense, the final season of 24 was an homage to all the wrong things about the show. A groundbreaking drama that actually stuck to what made it unique in its first couple seasons (for the most part, strictly adhering to the concept of "the season as an entire day"), this season had become a comedy of time compression with Jack being wounded by stabbing, torture, and gunshot all within about twelve hours and getting zero sanitary medical attention for any of the pelts. Oh and in between he got laid by Renee Walker. No, seriously.
Above all else, this season was a tribute to the most incompetent government organization in American history -- CTU. Somewhere, Isiah Thomas is smiling. It took the government (albeit a fictitious one) to get him off the hook as the worst executive of all time, but on the watch of various presidents, CTU got hoodwinked by new hires seemingly every season -- from Jamey Farrell in Season One (fairly horrific, the Jerome James signing of CTU) to Roger Stanton in Season Two (over the hill veteran, Vin Baker signing) to Edward Vossler in Season 7 (wormy bastard, Larry Brown Era) to the queen of all things mole-like, Nina Myers who managed to infiltrate CTU, have an affair with Jack, and kill Jack's wife Teri Bauer in cold blood (the CTU equivalent of the trade that brought Stephon Marbury and the corpse of Anfernee Hardaway to New York).
The only thing missing by the end of Season 8 was CTU hiring Steve Francis.
I understand that there needs to be some suspension of disbelief in any action/drama, especially one that sets an expectation of grabbing your attention and teasing nailbiters for 24 episodes a season -- 24 episodes that comprise one calendar day. But what should have been a show that either ended with Jack squaring his business Michael Corleone-style with everyone who had ever wronged him or with Jack finally taking a warm slug between the eyes instead ended with Jack cheesily staring up at some satellite camera in the sky knowing CTU was watching and waving goodbye. If it had ended with Jack screaming "don't you cry, I'll be back again some day!" a la Frosty the Snowman, it would have been less ridiculous.
If indeed he does come back, let's go off the page a little bit -- let's see Jack Bauer try and address that little oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Somehow, I think CTU is involved in the clean up.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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