After launching in November of 2001, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, FOX’s “24” came to occupy a unique place in the American psyche, both echoing and expanding on the fears of terrorism and everything that went into fighting it.
The thriller and its relentless lead character, CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) operative Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), have still not lost their influence, as seen in the wake of the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1, and the subsequent capture of a suspect in a little over 53 hours.
In an early May press conference, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “Now, we know that Jack Bauer can do it in 24 minutes [likely meaning to say ‘hours’]. But in the real world. 53 hours is a … is a pretty good number.”
Bauer’s time as a TV character comes to an end with the show’s eighth-season finale on Monday, May 24, but there are plans to continue his story on the big screen.
But a chapter is still closing for executive producer Howard Gordon, who took over as show-runner from creators Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran, and he takes the time to answer a few questions from Zap2it.
Zap2it: What was your worst decision?
Howard Gordon: “I feel as though the story made a very wrong turn in season 6. I don’t think the idea of Jack’s family was a wrong turn, but I think the way we accelerated the story was wrong, and we paid for it the balance of the year. That, to me, is one of the narrative gaps I don’t think we ever quite recovered from. We did, on an episode-by-episode basis,or on a certain arc-by-arc basis, but the DNA of the season never really recovered from it.
“Honestly, other than that, I’m remarkably free of regrets, because even the moments that one would imagine we’d regret — like the cougar or amnesia or shooting JoBeth Williams in the leg, the moments people would point to as being gaffes — I have to say, they occurred in moments when the story needed them to happen. They were really just collateral damage of the real-time conceit.”
Zap2it: Since each season takes place over one day, people are often in the same clothes for many episodes, if not the whole season. What was the worst wardrobe choice?
Howard Gordon: “One of the worst wardrobe decisions would probably be Dana Walsh [played by Katee Sackhoff] this year, wearing what looked like a sleeveless cocktail dress. That’s probably up there. CTU agents aren’t supposed to be like that.”
Zap2it: Has actor Carlos Bernard — who played CTU operative turned bad guy Tony Almeida — forgiven you for having to wear a soul patch under his chin the whole first season?
Howard Gordon: “That was his own doing. You gotta take it up with him.”
Zap2it: What do fans not know about Kiefer Sutherland?
Howard Gordon: “I think people know too much about Kiefer, but the one thing that they may not know — and they have to read between the lines — is how incredibly active and hands-on he was in terms of having creative input on the show. Kiefer was truly one of the most productive producers at times.
“You have to think, he had done this for about 20 years before he started the show, so he’s truly a filmmaker. I think his experience informed what he brought to the table, but he’s also got a tremendously steep learning curve. He became a very, very important person behind the scenes.”
Zap2it: Would you develop a TV show with him?
Howard Gordon: “Sure, but it would have to be something in another wheelhouse entirely.”
Zap2it: He used to ride rodeo, so maybe it should be a cowboy series. There aren’t many of those right now.
A: “Yes, exactly. I think you’re right.”
Zap2it: But, are you qualified to work on a cowboy series, being from New Jersey?
Howard Gordon: “Well, I spent a summer on a farm in Texas. I got kicked in the balls by a cow. I fell back in a pile of s*** a foot deep. I was laughed at by the Mexican cowhand. I was 13, 14.”
Zap2it: One feature of the the production offices at “24” was a separate room dedicated to cigar smoking. What has become of its contents?
Howard Gordon: “We had an official send-off, the last smoke, two weeks ago. I got plaques, and I gave out three of the humidors to Manny [writer Manny Coto], me and to Joel [Surnow], and then I lotteried the last one.”
Zap2it: How have you evolved politically over the course of “24”?
Howard Gordon: “I think I have the optimism of some Democrats and the pragmatism of some Republicans. I have to say, I’m kind of an issue guy. I’m disappointed in both parties. It really is a candidate-by-candidate and representative-by-representative thing.
“I have incredible respect for the process, I’ll tell you that. What it’s done is make me appreciate America in a way that I probably didn’t before.”
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