For four hours this past Sunday and Monday night, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) kicked a lot of terrorist ass – or something like that. In truth, I have no idea what the “24” protagonist did during his four hours of real-time, but I assume it had something to do with terrorists, and there may or may not have been some sort of nuclear/biological weapon of mass destruction hanging in the balance. In fact, outside of the hundreds of thousands of “24” promos that Fox has forced down my throat over the past six years (yes, I’m keeping track), I’ve never seen Jack Bauer kick any terrorist ass.

Christopher Zbrozek
Michael Passman

It may surprise you that a TV columnist could be so oblivious to what’s purportedly one of TV’s best dramas, but there’s a valid reason. I do watch a lot of TV, more than most I suppose, but Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t fit into any of it.

When asked why I don’t watch the show, I can never really come up with a sufficient answer, but it usually comes back to one issue I’ve always had with this show that I’ve never actually seen. The issue: a lack of information.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell are you talking about? ’24’ doesn’t skip any details, it’s in fucking real time.” First off, calm down – there’s no reason to use profanity. While “24” does devote each season to an entire day, what it fails to do is cover the other 364 days a year of Jack Bauer’s life.

So, I propose to you “364,” Fox’s newest crappy sitcom smash-hit. It’s a guaranteed home run. In the vein of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The War At Home,” “364” would be the standard laugh-track-riddled mindless piece of crap that I so desire. The primary cast would consist of Jack and his immediate family, his parents – who moved back from Florida because of a quarrel his mother had with a local flea-market vendor – and his drinking buddies, a group most likely composed of his childhood best friend, a token black guy and an unmarried co-worker whom his wife despises. I’m guessing Donald Sutherland (“Pride & Prejudice”) would star as Jack’s neurotic father who’s around the house way too much.

Actually, there’s no way in hell I’d watch that – but if Fox wants me to produce it, I’m available. In all seriousness, the real reason why I don’t watch “24” is the same reason most people started watching “24.” After being bombarded with more promos than “The Simpsons” has seen in 18 years and enduring roommates who demanded that I watch the show, I’ve gotten sick of “24” without ever seeing it. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good show – I’m clearly in no position to say that – it’s just that all the hype has shied me away. And don’t confuse this with not taking to a show just because everyone else does; my unwillingness to watch “24” is far from rebellious. It’s simply because the masses have worn me out.

I’m often told to watch an episode or two, then decide if I want to watch more. The problem is, at the moment I’ve already made up my mind about “24” – actually, Fox and my roommates have. Going into season one with anything less than a blank slate would certainly affect my opinion – and that’s not something I’m willing to do.

ESPN.com: Page 2’s Bill Simmons has always said that television needs to be consumed “organically.” Basically, this means that TV shows need to be approached only when it seems appropriate and you have a desire to watch.

I couldn’t agree more.If you’re coerced into watching a TV show, you’re never going to approach it with the open mind and time that it requires. Not once have I thought, “I should be watching ’24’ right now.” That’s never happened. So to dive into “24” just because people tell me I should would almost certainly result in me not appreciating Jack Bauer’s terrorist-disposal techniques.

Unlike a film that only requires watching 120 minutes of celluloid, seriously taking in a TV series – especially a serial drama like “24” – requires a deeper commitment. If you don’t like the first few episodes, you’ll bail on the series, won’t know what the rest of the season has to offer and judge it unfairly. It’s the equivalent of reading the first 30 pages of a 400-page book and declaring it the worst book ever.

So who knows, maybe in 10 years after the “24” phenomenon has died down I’ll give the show a chance. But to start watching now, well, that just wouldn’t be right.

– Passman can be reached at mpass@umich.edu.

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