Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Olbermann At It Again About 24

Keith Olbermann's at it again. He just called 24 a "neo-con soft porn series". Did he see the first four hours of the new season, on the air last night and Sunday? Apparently not. Has he seen any season or even one complete episode of 24? I doubt it.

Olbermann's main grievance about the show, tonight, is that his nemesis, Bill O'Reilly on Fox, "defended torture" by showing a clip of 24. I didn't see that O'Reilly segment. I don't share O'Reilly's defense of torture - certainly not the Bush administration's routine use of it, and the holding of prisoners in limbo in Guantanamo.

But what does any of that have to with 24, in which torture is not glorified, but always opposed by at least one major character, and applied by Jack Bauer only when a nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction is about to go off?

At least O'Reilly has the courage to put opposing opinions on his show. Rachel Maddow, who follows Olbermann on MSNBC, and is my favorite anchor-commentator, and always tries to interview people whose opinions differ from hers.

But not Olbermann. His guests serve as a supportive Greek chorus for his rants, which, unlike the fictional torture on 24, are a real kind of torture for the intellect on television.

Here are my reviews of 24, Season 7: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4


gone said...

Excellant analysis Paul. My biggest problem with Olbermann is not that he is liberal, that is fine. What makes him a disgrace are the things you mentioned. His obsession with O'Reilly, his distorting and mangaling of quotes, and his joke of guests that he has on EVERY NIGHT to affirm up his stories that he presents as hard news. He plays himself off as some big time journalist, yet I don't think he has ever covered a field story in his life. While the rest of the MSNBC lineup went to the Republican Convention, Keith sat in his studio in Manhattan. The thing that sets me off the most is his use of "Good Night, and Good Luck." Wow thats embarrassing. And the 24 that O'Reilly showed was just to show how the national debate on interrogations has hit the pop culture scene, but of course Keith took it out of context.To quote Alec Baldwin, "At least O'Reilly has talent."

Anonymous said...

Are we watching the same show, Paul?

Forgive me, but I've watched every episode of 24 ever aired, and torture porn is exactly what I see.

Quite apart from torture being morally abhorrent just in general, in reality, most people who've studied the subject have one main objection: it just doesn't work.

Put somebody under enough physical duress and they'll tell you anything they think you want to hear to get the pain to stop.

In 24, Jack Bauer, the protagonist with which we're surely supposed to empaphise, employs torture a couple of times every season with, so far, 100% positive results.

The bad guy du jour always coughs up exactly what Jack needs to know to enable him move him on to the next bad guy.

This season has so far attempted to pay lip service to anti-torture arguments, but only insofar as to wipe them aside as the petty, unrealistic objections of self-serving politicians and by-the-book pencil-pushing FBI stuffed shirts.

Watch the first four episodes again and tell me the producers want us to agree with Senator Kurtwood or the new FBI desk jockey guy (who, let's face it, is already being signposted pretty heavily as a traitorous mole) rather than Jack and his Bic.

Anonymous said...


I need a coffee.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I agree with Kevin, tho I am not a regular viewer of the show. The problem with 24 is the underside message, which is that torture does work, that there are situations where it should work, and that our political situation is somehow 'represented' in this fictional domain. Since John McCain mentioned 24 and tried to tap into its underside influence on people, these concerns are legitimate. Which doesn't mean it shouldnt be on tv, but that Olberman has every right to rant against it.

Now, about Olberman: Who said every show has to have opposing views? When you have a preponderance of ranters in media who happen to be conservative, Olberman's opposing-viewpoint-free COMMENTARY show (not dressed up as journalism) is a breath of fresh air for those of us who want to vomit every time Anne Coulter goes on tv (ie every day when she has a book in the pipeline). Since Olberman is sometimes the ONLY person on television who calls certain things for what they are, the mere absence of opposing viewpoints is, for me, inconsequential, as there is no implicit contract that says all such shows need them.

Paul Levinson said...

Kevin, I think you do need coffee - or, at least, a new pair of glasses (or, if you don't already have them, glasses ... :)

What I see on 24, including the first 4 hours of Season 7, are people struggling with how much physical violence, or torture, to use with prisoners and suspects. Over the seven seasons, major characters in the government have opposed torture - including sympathetic characters (like Buchanan). Torture hasn't always worked. Jack suffers about what he feels he has to do.

This, to you (and Jude) is porn? Soft or otherwise, last time I looked, porn was supposed to be pleasurable to look at, arousing. The torture parts of 24 are no more pleasurable than people being blown up or otherwise killed. They are a painful part of the story - part of the "reality" in the fiction, over which the characters and we agonize.

Back to the first 4 episodes of this season: right, the Senate Chair and the FBI guy Moss are jackasses. But Renee is very appealing, and she is certainly struggling with the appropriate level of violence in interrogation, as I pointed out in my review.

Jude: I'm not saying Olbermann has to do anything, opposing viewpoints on the show or the otherwise. I'm saying I have less respect for him, because he does not. You obviously feel differently - different strokes for different folks.

One of things I admire in a commentator, by the way, is when he or she stands up for someone or something you would not expect - for example, Shep Smith's smack down of Joe the Plumber. I never see that in Olbermann.

Big Frank: I don't dislike Olbermann quite as much as you do, but I'm getting there. One of things that really annoyed me was his haughty "special comment" attacking Hillary Clinton.

Shane said...

Kevin and Jude also ignore a crucial aspect of the show '24'. IT'S A CRISIS! The government has twenty four hours to address an imminent attack on the country - that's why they call it '24'! You can saunter around congratulating yourselves for opposing torture, but the situations portrayed in all the seasons of 24 are quite realistic, and they force people to consider their own decisions were they under the same pressures. Do we have the time to seduce terrorists into talking to us willingly?

The concoction that inspires the dilemma this season is unfortunately weak - the president is forced to decide between pulling American troops from a 'Darfur' like situation she's aiming to save or protect the American people. She can't decide. Her priorities are confused. Actually it ought not be a conflict, but she's a Democrat, so it's a tough question.

But there are often two or three plot evolutions in a season, so I'll endure this one to get to the next...