Friday, March 24, 2006

Don't screw with Chloe O'Brien

Even though the moving truck is due in less than five days now and I have barely made a dent in the packing and other get-out-of-town tasks, a short post won't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, I suppose. [rationalization mode off]

As John August advises screenwriters, writing for television as well as films these days is, well, advisable because it's "just another screen" and an additional potential avenue to explore creatively and commercially. As the home theater becomes more sophisticated, the home (not the theater) is becoming the focal point for people's entertainment consumption. Content itself, not any competing delivery media, will ultimately be king. So it behooves those of us new to the game to diversify our abilities and work both sides of the street, as it were.

Having sold my television in anticipation of the big move, I'm not in the best position to stay on top of all the hot shows that are currently being spec'd. But when I was connected, Fox's 24 was weekly (guilty) appointment viewing. Yes, it requires a suspension of disbelief worthy of Thomas the Apostle. Yes, politically the show has fascist undertones and validates torture as a justified means to an end. Yes, Jack Bauer has the magical power to avoid LA traffic at any time of the day. Nonetheless, I remain addicted - mostly because of Mary Lynn Rajskub's perpetually-pissed computer analyst, Agent Chloe O'Brien. Hasn't the encryption code or security system been built yet that Chloe couldn't hack around, always accompanied by a sarcastic mot juste and scowl.

As a source for your next drama spec, however, 24's "real time" format presents some issues that other more conventional series might not. Since each episode/hour is but one loop in a 24-link chain, it would be difficult to write a completely self-contained 24 script. One would inevitably have to also come up with the backstory that leads up to the hour that is the subject of the spec. Writing the first hour of the day, which is usually more exposition than action, might be one way to get around this issue but that feels like a bit of a cheat to me (and not as likely to fully demonstrate one's skills at plot, character, and dialogue). And the last hour of the day is mostly filled with Jack racing against time to stop the threat-du-jour, whose location has finally been divined. But if one could figure out exactly how Jack & Co. got to, say, between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., I think it would be a fun show to try and spec.

So if you find yourself at that point, the good news is that there is a set of strict rules (24 in fact) with which any actions in the Bauerverse must comply. Thanks to Rob Griffith at The Robservatory for being similarly addicted to 24 but going the extra step of coming up with the following CTU commandments:

1. Given the chance to kill Jack Bauer, an evil-doer will not do so.

2. Given the chance to kill another major ‘good’ character, there’s a 50/50 chance an evil-doer will do so.

3. Given the chance to kill any other ‘good’ character, an evil-doer will do so.

4. When guarding an exit door, police officers will always stand looking out said door, instead of back at the hallway, making it easy for any evil-doer to slide up behind them and take them out.

5. When guarding an area, CTU and the police will leave one blatantly obvious exit path unguarded.

6. The CTU motor pool issues only large American-made SUVs, typically silver.

7. All evil-doers also drive large American-made SUVs, typically black.

8. Most any problem can be solved by opening a port.

9. If opening a port doesn’t solve the problem, then you must create a protocol.

10. Protocols must be followed, unless you’re Jack Bauer.

11. If you work for “Division,” you only care about protocols and covering your butt in case things go wrong.

12. CTU’s systems can increase image resolution while zooming in to see fine details.

13. CTU’s annual budget request for cubicle walls is always rejected, leading to the inability of anyone on the floor to do anything in secret.

14. All areas of CTU’s workspace are public and visible, except Tech1, where the most-important and often most sinister work occurs.

15. CTU can block all employees’ conversations and emails during times of crisis, but personal cell phone use is allowed without restriction.

16. CTU’s business jets are capable of travel at greater than the speed of sound. (Time the flight from Los Angeles to Visalia in season #2 for proof.)

17. CTU system passwords change seemingly randomly, causing employees to verbally give passwords to one another, thereby severely limiting effectiveness of said passwords.

18. Those on the ‘good’ side get Macs. Evil-doers get PCs.

19. Evil-doers will overlook at least one extremely obvious problem in their plans. As a generic example, Chief Bad Dude won’t remember to move his relatives to a safe location before implementing his extremely evil plan.

20. Cell phones will say “No Service” only at the most inopportune times.

21. Cell phone batteries never die, except at the most inopportune times.

22. Tracing a call will always take at least n+1 seconds, where n is the duration of the call.

23. If Kim Bauer is involved, her life will be endangered in some way.

24. You may think you know what’s going on. You’re wrong. You won’t know until at least hour 23, minute 45 or so.

Some funny, but some also functional if one finds one's self stuck at a crucial plot point and wondering "What would Jack Bauer do?" or "What would be the one possible thing that no reasonable person could ever believe would happen at this precise instant in time?" And if you really need something dramatic at about the 30-minute mark, just remember that any schmoe off the street can always weasel their way into the heart of CTU if they ever need to detonate explosives or release toxic materials into the ductwork. When they say "kill your darlings," the enterprising 24 writer will take that directive literally.

Just not Chloe O'Brien. Ever.

5 Comments:

  • here here. i heart chloe...

    By Blogger mernitman, at 3:18 AM  

  • "18. Those on the ‘good’ side get Macs. Evil-doers get PCs."

    Lol... And so they should.

    25. Jack Bauer will always 'Kick ass' and comprehensively and commendably save the day (again!!)

    You know, he's gotta be knackered after all that lot.. That's one hell of a lot to fit into a normal shift at the office.I mean like, when would you find the time for your tea break?

    By Blogger london cokehead, at 1:53 AM  

  • oi oi! Saff London massif!!

    By Blogger Chris, at 6:33 PM  

  • zI found your blog - read all of your posts. Interesting! Here's what I know: we have similar taste in music.

    By Blogger shecanfilmit, at 10:10 PM  

  • hey Development Hellion,

    thanks for discovering. and glad that it was found interesting (always a plus). and good to know i'm not alone on the indie music island.

    By Blogger Chris, at 9:42 PM  

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