Monday, March 12, 2012

"24" gaffes

The action drama "24" came out in 2001, debuting in the midst of national crisis: 9/11 was two months old, and global threats were on everyone's mind. Season 1 of "24," which I'm re-watching through Amazon Instant Video, doesn't really deal with what would eventually become the series' bread and butter: Islamic terrorism. Instead, it chronicles a Serbian plot to kill both a presidential candidate-- David Palmer (the imposing, authoritative Dennis Haysbert of Allstate fame)-- and the series protagonist, Jack Bauer (a perpetually growly Kiefer Sutherland). Palmer was part of a committee that had authorized a mission to kill Serbian warlord Victor Drazen (played with fiendish, scenery-chewing glee by Dennis Hopper) two years earlier; Drazen's body double was killed, but his actual wife and daughter were also killed, leading to the vendetta against Bauer and Palmer.

"24" makes no effort to be realistic, but if art is a vehicle for Big Thoughts, then on an artistic level, the series can be seen as a study in morality. It made for compelling viewing despite its cartoonish delivery. Even on my second run-through now, after all these years, the series is gripping. But this time around, I'm catching all sorts of things I had missed when I'd first watched Seasons 1 through 6 on a bootleg DVD in Korea (thanks, Tom). Among the things I'm catching this time are some hilarious gaffes in filmmaking. In two episodes, now, I've seen inadvertent shots of (1) a cameraman filming a scene in which one of the characters is supposed to be alone in a room, and (2) a camera dolly that ends up in frame during a scene in an otherwise-bare interrogation chamber.

In 2001, wide-screen TV was only just becoming popular; my guess is that the makers of "24" were themselves unused to the nature of the new format. I've seen the occasional boom mike appear at the top of the screen in other TV series, but I've never seen people and dollies show up with such prominence. I missed all this back in 2005: the bootleg DVD wasn't a copy of the wide-screen format of "24"; the edges had been sliced off.

All of this leaves me curious as to what other mistakes lie in my viewing future. For now, I'm treating them as an unexpected, inadvertent form of entertainment.

NB: "24" left the airwaves in 2010. See my tribute to it, and to "Battlestar Galactica," here.


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