The end of an era

The week of the 23rd of May 2010 will be a week long remembered, as television viewers across the globe witnessed the eagerly awaited _LOST_ finale and before they could even catch their breath _24_’s Jack Bauer bid a final goodbye to Chloe and fans via low flying hellfire-equipped surveillance drone. Oceanic Flight 185 crash landed on the island in 2004 and baffled audiences with polar bears, theatrical facial hair and mechanical sounding smoke monsters for six perplexing seasons before finally drawing to a close last week. _24_ first aired in 2002, über-agent Jack Bauer’s series of unfortunate days spanned eight series and 195 episodes, entertaining audiences with political intrigue, presidential assassinations and a myriad of nuclear/biological/chemical threats . While _LOST_ and _24_ have both officially been cancelled, considering the straight-to-sequel world we live in, have we really seen the last of Jack-attack and the survivors of the fated Oceanic flight?

_24_ viewers have enjoyed (endured?) countless poignant season finales, and as talk of a movie spinoff edges progressively closer to reality it appears that once again the indomitable Bauer will return. While it looks like Jack Bauer will now outlive his own show, Kiefer Sutherland originally envisaged Jack Bauer’s grand finale very differently. Before the ball began rolling in earnest on the _24_ big screen adaptation, Sutherland lovingly outlined a small scene where the aged, yet unstoppable hero would casually venture down to his local deli in search of an innocent pint of low-fat milk only to be gunned down by a mystery assailant. As a devoted _24_ fan, I personally find that seemingly bleak ending delightfully plausible. Although the official number differs from site to site, according to the now defunct []( Jack had totalled a cheeky 205 kills by the 4th episode of Season 8. In the mind of any discerning viewer it seems entirely possible that along the way he might have ticked someone off to the point where they found themselves furiously redecorating Bauer’s local delicatessen a sumptuous blood-red.

Fox, it seems, had other plans. February of this year saw the hiring of Billy Ray (seen in_State of Play_ and _Breach_) to bring Bauer onto the big screen. A _24_ film had long been in the pipeline with a dry run in 2008 of the lacklustre _24: Redemption_, a TV movie that linked the sixth and seventh seasons and brought Jack back to the US to stand trial via a heroic orphanage rescue. The television movie did several things that the show itself could not. For the first time the action took place off American soil, although this accomplished very little as the entire ‘Sangala’ military force thankfully made it over to America in time for the real-time 24 hour showdown several months later. Generally, the film was well received and perhaps even generated some renewed interest in the tried-and-tested real time format that Kiefer Sutherland and co-creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow have spent the last 8 years perfecting. Like the TV show, _Redemption_ took place in real time, something which Billy Ray has decided to forgo in this latest treatment. The film will instead be a representation of yet another tough day for poor Jack. This will supposedly afford the story a little bit of breathing space as Jack will no longer be limited to a 10 minute commute: he is free to roam the world, which in light of Season 8’s limp finale, will most likely mean locales away from the United States.

There is no solid timetable for the film which is loosely scheduled for release in 2012 and there is no indication of who will be backing Jack up this time around. If Mary Lynn Raiskub’s career is any indication, the announcement of a CTU spin-off starring Chloe, Arlo and Cole (Bauer’s latest loyal, but essentially worthless, companion) is just around the corner. Perhaps then we’ll uncover some overarching reason for why the hapless Chloe survived a staggering 126 episodes, when the average expectancy of Jack’s friends is usually limited to just a few precious hours.

Movie spin-offs aside, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of demand for semi-retired super-agents any more as Sutherland is at the moment on the books only to voice a dog in this year’s _Marmaduke_ and an unspecified role in Lars von Trier’s 2011 _Melancholia_. The series creators Surnow and Cochran appear to be resting on their laurels and will most likely continue to do so until they pick up a few more executive producer credits for the film in 2012.

Both shows have an unfortunate aversion to closure and bringing such long spanning stories to an end must have been a daunting task. For what it’s worth, _24_ never stopped reinventing itself, but after eight long seasons even the most devoted of Jack’s followers began to tire of the endless terrorism inexplicably centered around Jack’s social calendar. Epic finales have been and gone, and Bauer, the eternal loner, has heroically trudged off into the distance countless times only to re-appear begrudgingly to heed his nation’s call. Perhaps a few feature length films (sequel rumours are already running rampant) will offer Jack and Kiefer the closure they need, and with a bit of luck us devoted fans may finally taste some of that succulent _24_ closure and see Jack get the final heroic send-off that he and his audience deserve.

After six years of flummoxing questions that begged more questions only to be answered with even more questions, on the 23rd of May, J.J.Abrams finally tired of toying with his somehow-still-captive audience. The _LOST_ finale was arguably always going to be a disappointment. For their credit I think the writers succeeded in confusing the issue to the point where nothing would’ve really made sense. Instead we were treated to the return of familiar faces, with Mr Eko being the notable exception. Perhaps what were supposed to understand of the finale is that none of _LOST_ really mattered at all, as our friends and loved ones were always careful to point out. The non-believers’ failure was in their lack of faith, and so to all the faithful _LOST_ fans who saw it through – I salute you. Go and crack out a dharma beer, you’ve earned it!

The cult sensation that became _LOST_ began in 2004 as the brainchild of director J.J. Abrams (that is Jeffrey Jacob Abrams), creator Jeffrey Lieber and writer/producer Damon Lindelof. Abrams firmly established himself in 2001 with _Alias_, and has since had fingers dipping into a variety of entertainment pies, ranging from a producing role with the feature-length _Cloverfield_ to the thriving television sci-fi drama _Fringe_. Abram’s headed up last summer’s _Star Trek_ reboot and is set to direct the as-of-yet unnamed sequel as well as a fourth _Mission Impossible_ film where rumour has it that Tom Cruise will reprise his role as the unstoppable Ethan Hunt. As for the immediate future, Abrams looks to be indulging in his softer side. His latest spy series _Undercovers_ somehow resembles the bastard love child of _Mr and Mrs Smith _and _Cold Feet_. Perhaps that sounds appealing to some but I think the tagline “nothing spices up marriage like a little sexspionage” says it all. Lieber on the other hand has indulged in his serious side with _Miami Medical_, a show following the professional and private lives of a trauma team of surgeons which is rumoured to include regular cameo appearances from super doc spinal surgeon extraordinaire Jack Sheppard – maybe in another life! Damon Lindelof has co-written Jon Favreau’s impeccably cast _Cowboys and Aliens_, due for release in 2011. Although on the surface the ‘genius’ behind _LOST_ appear content to leave the island behind, the internet is already amok with spinoff rumours. The finale’s ending does leave scope for possible, if not plausible continuations of the show, but do we really need to go back to the Island? If we are to be subjected to more remote capers, what, or more precisely who, can we expect to see? The finale hints at a Hurley-Ben bromance that I’m sure could be stretched into 4 or 5 seasons. Perhaps chunky Hurley can make a man out of wayward Ben’s ‘Daddy Issue’ Linus. At least it would finally afford the lovable giant a chance to shift some of that puppy fat!

Perhaps these are dark times as the future of Television remains uncertain: before we can possibly consider such important questions as who will rise up to replace Jack Bauer, we must first ask ourselves if that is even possible. More importantly – do we need another Jack Bauer? And where will we find another unhappy, international gang of loveable candidates to measure up to the suitably philosophically-named survivors of Oceanic flight 815? TV audiences worldwide must stay strong: to anyone following these shows, try to think of this as an opportunity – you have been set free! It’s the summer time, get up off the couch and enjoy the sun. If you absolutely can’t wait though, then you can get your kicks with the ever enjoyable _Entourage_, Season 7 premieres on 27th of June, and if you’re looking for something to get your teeth into then you’re in luck, Martin Scorsese has directed the pilot and it stars the legendary Steve Buscemi. HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, follows Nucky Thompson part politician part gangster and is on track for an autumn release.

It is impossible to say where the futures of _24_ and _LOST_ are headed, perhaps, indeed, it is nowhere at all, as I’m sure some people would prefer. For now though, I’m still holding out for the Rose and Bernard Nadler show, with the occasional cameo from Vincent the dog, which I can’t help but feel would be a delightful account of two oldie but goldies living the high life on a beautiful desert island, far removed from unreliable dynamite, converging/hypothetical timelines and those accursed unexplained digits: 4 8 15 16 23 42.


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