Category Archives: 24

One Day in the Life of the Bad Protagonist

Question: When will the new season seven of 24 begin? 

Well, while searching for some info on that very subject—now that the writers’ strike has ended—I came across an interesting Wall Street Journal article on torture.  And by interesting I mean apparently written by a 14-year-old or maybe a New York Times columnist (shame on you WSJ).  It tries to tie a strong correlation between the decline in the popularity of the TV show 24 and America’s decline in the popularity of the use of torture during the execution of the War On Terror. 

Before I get into the rant, I’d first like to say there is absolutely positively no correlation—not even a weak one—between these two events, and I will unequivocally prove this using the basic tenets of math and science.  I won’t spend the time working out the statistical Z-score just yet, but I will as soon as I get a free couple hours to spare.  If you’d first like to review some basic statistical concepts and definitions, checkout this stats 101 website and brush up for later.  

First of all, check out the numbers here in this graph.  The first thing you should notice (if you can read or you’re not Stevie Wonder) is the rough average number of viewers between season one and then season six.  Looks roughly like about 9 to 10 million viewers in season one and 13 to 14 million in season six (finger estimate).  I’m no genius, but that’s about a 40% increase in viewership over those two seasonal bookends.  Season six even has the average highest rated season ever for the show.  I’ll let you research what TV shows historically do around season four or five, but just trust me when I say they’d all kill for a 40% increase in viewership from season one to that point.  Hell, most just don’t want to be cancelled by their sixth season. 

Now, let’s study the season six numbers alone for a minute.  We’ll actually come up with a totally different hypothesis than the one assumed by the writer if we attempt to show a correlation between the content of the show and its viewership (which is what this bozo, who apparently never watches the show, was trying to do in the first place, only they got it backwards).  Season six—while being popular at first—shows the biggest and most consistent drop off in viewership between the first episode and last.  Almost every week it had less viewers than the week before, which had never happened in the shows history. 

Now, if this anomaly occurred in 2004 during the height of the Abu Ghraib kerfuffle, then maybe we could say it had something to do with torture, but alas, that didn’t happen.  Actually, the inverse occurred, with 24 increasing viewership by almost 2 million viewers in 2004 during that time-frame.  Season six started over two and half years after Abu Ghriab, with the second most watched episode in the shows history.  Only one other episode had been watched more before this point, and that was season five’s premiere, which by the way happened around two years after Abu Ghriab.   

During season six, and even during the “big event points” that occur on 24 about every six episodes and always midway through the season, the drop off still continues.  If you look at every other season you’ll see these spikes in viewership at these event points.  So, what happened in season six that caused 24 to consistently lose so many viewers as the season progressed?  Why did the bleeding begin and progressively get worse?  Well, I can tell you that the viewers “tired of the same old story” dropped off in season four, or at least my anecdotal data proves that to be the case.  A lot of the 24 fans I knew back then decided that Jack Bauer saving the world three times was enough.  So, why the highest rating to begin the season, followed by the bleeding? 

What happened throughout the last season when the show saw such a drop off?  Jack came back from China and decided torture wasn’t the answer, that’s what.  He also came back and second guessed killing a bad guy for moral reason.  He also decided to negotiate with an obvious Bin Laden type character who saw the “light” and wanted to sign a treaty of peace with the “American scum”, only to be killed by an American and cabinet member who wanted to continue the war.  Jack also killed one of his best friends and a true patriot, Curtis Manning, to save the life of that Bin Laden character. 

So, the only real drop off that has occurred has been during a season filled with preaching about the ills of torture and a hero bent on appeasing terrorists to the point of killing his best friend (an allegory for the American left if there ever was one).  If you want to make a show people watch, please, make Jack a hero, not a politician.  Make him a man of action and quick in decision.  No woman wants a man who can’t make a decision, and no country wants a terrorist fighter with a moral compass.  Even if what a character like Jack does is wrong, that doesn’t make it ethically wrong to tell a story about it.  He does bad things to save good people.  There are consequences for his transgressions, like his wife being killed, his daughter hating him, his father and brother turning to the dark side and trying to kill him, and everyone he knows who isn’t dead—which is most of them—hating him.  Tony Soprano anyone?  Dexter anyone?  Hamlet anyone? 

So, the next time the author of this ridiculous article decides to dig deep into extremely tough subject matter such as math, statistics, morality, or literature, I hope they just stick with what they know — which appears to be close to nothing.  I also hope the producers of 24 have learned from their season six missteps.  From the looks of the 24 season 7 preview they have, but from the new cast of characters (Janine “Air America” Garofalo???), maybe not.  Still, can’t wait to see Red Forman from That 70’s Show as a dumb ass senator.  Well, I guess there’s always that show Dexter.  The show about a man who knows how to deal with evil, no matter what the cost.

Oh, and I almost forgot — still no word on when the new season of 24 begins.  Now that didn’t take long for me to get to, now did it?