The problems with setting 24: Live Another Day in London

Feature Simon Brew 9 Oct 2013 - 07:00

Simon considers some of the difficulties likely to be faced by Jack Bauer during his trip to London in 24: Live Another Day...

I've had pretty much the same relationship with the TV show 24 as most people. For five seasons, it was unmissable, culminating in the quite wonderful season five, where all of the tensions, characterisation, twistyness and willingness to be just a little barmy all joined together exquisitely well. After that, as the producers and writers threw anything in that would sound like a vaguely plausible plot, it lost all vitality. I'm half way through season eight, and only progressing at a rate of one episode every two months. I do not feel at this stage that I've missed out.

But I do love the show at its best, and the announcement that it's set to return next year as a mini-series is a very welcome one. Removing the need to pad out 24 hours of narrative (well, 16 if you count the ad breaks) in favour of a tighter story should reduce some of the dafter cliffhangers, the subplots you know would never lead anywhere, and the usual reveal of just who the big baddy of the season was around the episode 17-18 mark.

But then, we learn that the new series of 24 is coming to London instead of its natural Los Angeles home. There's logic to this: there's only so much more carnage that can be wreaked upon America by the assorted actors on US casting agents' books, who fulfil the key criteria of repressed anger and facial hair.

As such, London is Hollywood's current go-to place for wanton destruction. Star Trek Into Darkness was the last movie to blow the place up, and Thor: The Dark World is the next. But is London prepared for Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer? Well, sort of.

There are some notable problems about moving a show from its base to far-off climes. British sitcoms, for instance, have sent Victor Meldrew to the Algarve, Del Boy and Rodney to Miami and the entire cast of Are You Being Served? on holiday in the past, only for them to return with less than they went with. 24, whilst not a comedy (appreciating it's had its moments), will no doubt have some fun with the fish out of water Jack Bauer story it tries to tell, but it faces similar cultural issues. Just look at how muddled it all felt when 24 decamped to Cape Town for a one-off telemovie.

The biggest problem is the ongoing one with 24, though, and that's the indestructible nature of its lead character. It was fairly early on in 24's run that one of the show's cliffhangers saw Bauer dying. Then, in the spirit of a Saturday morning cinema serial, he came back to life the week after. Once you've done that, and killed all his mates and family, what's left? I maintain that the best thing that 24 could do would be to follow the Alfred Hitchcock model, and kill off Jack Bauer early in a season. If it did that, then everything's suddenly up for grabs, and nobody is safe. As it stands, Jack Bauer feels like the computer game character that's taken the infinite lives cheat, and there's pretty much no tension around him as a consequence of that. In the 100+ hours we've spent in his company, every button barring the one that would outright kill him appears to have been pressed. He could outlive John McClane in Chernobyl at this rate.

On top of that, there are issues surrounding relocating Bauer to London anyway, that the producers need to consider. Take these for starters...

 

London Zoo doesn't have any cougars

This may yet be the deal breaker. When all of those in the writer's room are struggling to come up with a) a cliffhanger for a mid-season episode and b) something to do with Kim Bauer, previously, they've infamously tied her up and left her at the mercy of a prowling cougar. But cougars don't prowl London. In fact, even though London Zoo has a wide variety of creatures, there's not a single cougar in any one of its enclosures.

What's Kim Bauer to do? Obviously, she could be woven into an intricate, interesting plot of which she's a full and vital part. But 24 is only changing countries, it's not changing its entire raison d'etre. Thus, we're pleased to confirm to the writers of 24 that London Zoo has some fine, angry looking tortoises, a pygmy hippo that looks like it could do a bit of damage, and some really cute otters. There must be something there to keep junior Bauer away from the real action for a bit.

 

Transport

Hmmm. It's a good job that the real time mechanic is under review come 24: Live Another Day. Ask any Londoner, and they'll tell you that simply getting across the city in rush hour would comfortably eat up at least two episodes of the show. Jack Bauer may have been able to dash around Los Angeles in double quick time, but helicopters aren't at hand when you're caught in the crush at Tottenham Court Road tube station, and then there's the problem of making sure your Oyster Card (the pre-paid transportation pass for us non-Londoners) up to date.

Moreover, getting from A to B in London is generally quicker by tube, but is likely to involve changing trains a few times. 

 

London's not 24 hours, Jack

The producers of 24: Live Another Day have wisely opted to focus on a fewer number of hours in the day. That's very sensible, and we have to assume that they'll go for daytime hours. After all, whilst they could have gone to New York for 24, the city that apparently never sleeps, London quite likes a kip. As such, if Jack Bauer got peckish and wanted a Marks And Sparks sandwich past 9 o'clock at night, then he's going to have to wait for his local branch to open again at 9 in the morning. Unless he fancies a jaunt to motorway services on the M6, but again, that might not make for the most thrilling TV drama. Ginsters Pasties might be up for sponsoring an episode though.

 

Mobile Phone Reception

One of the narrative devices that 24 uses to keep things bubbling along at speed is a constant stream of phone calls, e-mails and secret communications going to whatever handheld contraption Mr Bauer is equpped with at the time. But in London? No dice, Jack. You just try getting some mobile phone reception when an Arsenal game has just finished, and the mobile network is utterly clogged. You're better off finding a phone box that hasn't been vandalised, or decorated with the business cards of ladies that wouldn't mind a look at Jack's American Express card.

 

You're not allowed to shoot things in London

On a practical level here, people don't walk around London with guns as a rule. The police aren't armed. People would notice if that bloke out of Flatliners started walking around the Westfield Centre with a firearm. They might not do anything about it, and might just politely talk to security. But the trademark 24 shootouts aren't likely to go down particularly well.

 

People will get annoyed with him

The thing about walking around London, especially the crowded bits, is that no matter how fast you walk and run in London, there's someone going faster than you, who will see you as an obstacle and an inconvenience. However, this is London, and as a result, people will not shout in a way that creates compelling television drama. Instead, they will tut, mutter under their breath, then go and tell their mates in the pub later how they firmly told Donald Sutherland's son where to go, in spite of the fact that the most they could really muster was a traditional British scowl.

 

Public Holidays

If whatever plot Bauer is trying to foil takes place on a Bank Holiday Monday, then Jack may as well surrender straight away. Unless he fancies visiting the aforementioned zoo to release his daughter.

 

So then...

All that said, there's a chance for 24 to reinvent itself with its new miniseries, and a chance to shake up its formula a little. All of these are good things, and may yet lead to the full-on movie that you suspect those behind the show really want to make. Until then, Jack Bauer needs to get his Union Jack T-shirt, a dodgy Dick Van Dyke-esque accent, and a fresh supply of patience for when he arrives at the security gate at Heathrow Airport. Good luck, Jack...

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Perhaps they should shift the slant to a plot which is more reminiscent of 'Falling Down'... the possibility of losing it in London are endless... Can I claim copyright on this piece by virtue of mentioning various of the above three weeks ago? No? Hummph!

I'm actually quite hopeful for this new series. At heart it was always a great idea for a TV show, and the change of format and location could give the writers the fresh ideas they need.

It's actually impressive that without changing format, the show didn't run out of steam until the sixth season, something which Homeland seems to be managing in just its third.

A fair and reasonable article all told, but just a few observations;

Other than the (mostly) below-par Season 6, I think '24' maintained a pretty high standard of quality right up to it's blistering finale in 2010, but that's just my opinion, but that glorious fifth season was indeed the high point overall... just don't arbitrarily dismiss everything that came after it!

The way I see it, the writing team for 'Live Another Day' have two big advantages in their favor going into this:

One is time; namely the time to get the story and scripts right before filming commences in early January, they started writing in early July this year so have considerably more time to crack and map out the story for twelve episodes in advance than they ever had for twenty four episodes... don't underestimate the importance of nailing it down on paper prior to capturing it on film!

And secondly they have a tighter narrative to tell the story. When they had to fill up twenty four episodes worth of airtime, the story had to ultimately serve the real-time format, but with only half that number to fill now, plus the fact they can jump whole hours if, as, and when dictated by the plot means for the first time the real-time format can serve the story... and that is always a good thing for solid dramatic writing!

As for the London setting, the genius of '24' is that it can take place in any state, any country, with or without CTU or any recurring supporting characters, and so long as it's in real-time and Jack Bauer is at the centre of events, it's still '24'... so I'm hopeful they're gonna do it justice next year!

I would imagine Jack would require a translator if he ever has to talk to London's 'Yoof'. all the 'you get me blud' and the 'she's peng bruv' will surely have him in horror. They don't all talk like Harry Potter and Hermione over her Mr Bauer

And let me guess, Chloe will remotely control the whole UK CCTV and traffic light system from CTU (or whoever is in charge) headquarters. If that fails a high speed Boris bike chase will surely get the adrenaline pumping

I'd suggest persevering with the final batch of Day 8 episodes, as they are considerably better than Days 6+7.

Killing off Jack in episode one would be amazing. It'll never happen but it would cause an asolute meltdown.

I actually recently rewatched the whole batch, and Day 7 is pretty great. I particularly love the dynamic between Jack and Renee, and how she questions everything Jack has done for six seasons. It puts a new spin on the whole show, something vital after Day 6.

(*applauds that last image*)

Absolutely. I think because it was the final series, they could finally have Jack go a bit crazy.

Yo, Jack, don't worry about the shops closing early. There's a 24 hour Asda in Roehampton.
Boom.

I, for one, am really looking forward to this new format and new location. When 24 was on its game, it was one of the best shows on tv.
Kill off Jack Bauer?! Yeah, that could work in the same way that killing off The Doctor would work for Doctor Who. Good grief, man. Jack IS the show!

Not with Sunday trading laws.

GET AROUND THAT JACK.

Live Free of Die Hard in 24... Jack Bauer and John McClane "JACK!"

Agree season 6 was the low point I'll grade as average. Keep in mind 'average' 24 is still loads better than most other dreck on TV. Seaon 7 was back to form (very good) and also bought Tony back. Season 8 was good...but not great.
Really looking forward to Live Another Day. Hope it does well and we get bi-annual or annual 24 mini-series.
Finally, it looks as though Fox, 24's American broadcast home, is going to 13 episode 'seasons' on several shows. Just observe their 13 episode season orders for Sleepy Hollow and The Following. 24 is getting a 12 show season (I hope the 1st episode is 2 hours so it will actually be equivalent to 13 hour long episodes). This may be the way to go and I hope will make the writing sharper/better/fresher.

Could Simon Brew please write the episodes? Or Simon Pegg? Because that would be comedy gold.

Still, quite looking forward to it if for nothing other than the opportunity to see what American scriptwriters think of us.

Keep on with season 8! the first half is pretty grim, but from episode 14 onwards is incredibly well done. I think you'll like it.

Flogging a dead horse here. Not going to work, leave Sutherland in rehab and do something else.

Yes 24 can be daft, but its always entertainng whereas homeland is just daft, pompous and dull. As long as chloe is back too, mike novak and arron pearce, it'll be 24

Using London as a location should be fine. The thing that pisses me off is that they are bringing back the two most boring characters to ever appear on 24 (James Heller and Audrey Raines). William Devane has got to be one of the most annoying actors in the world. If they're going to make him the new President, this new season is going to suck. I realize that all of the best characters (Renee, Nina, David Palmer, Bill Buchanan, George Mason) are all dead, but bringing back the two most irrelevant characters (Audrey and her father) is a huge mistake. Hopefully there will be appearances by Charles and Martha Logan. I'm also hoping that Kim Bauer will not be in the new show; she is annoying as well. Too bad they can't bring Renee back from the dead.

or die hard 3 where Jack is an absolute mess and has to fight through it. granted jack has been a mess before but not a complete and untruly disaster of a human like John McClane was in DH3.

The whole "24 lost steam towards the end" narrative is utter bullshit. Sure the plots got more fantastic in the big picture but episode by episode the writing and acting was still top-notch.

Your a dumb ass leave the plot up to the writers they why they get payed top dollar and not you. London will be a great change can't wait to see what's in store.

I came across the article hoping for a mature... let's say, 'evaluation' of some of the difficulties the show may have returning next year. But this article was a joke. Stupid. Which is actually good, because it means the writer couldn't come up with any genuine negatives! :)

Here's something you may not know... Keifer is British! There i've said it.

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