Last year’s writer’s strike caused an interesting thing for FOX’s show 24, which I love dearly. Now, the reason I enjoy the show is because I immediately stop worrying about the concept being “24 hours” and “real time”. If realism will destroy your enjoyment of a fictional show, then this ain’t for you. I got into the show on DVD a few years ago because Scott Spears tipped me off that Buy.com had season one on sale for $15 including shipping and for a 6 disc set, that’s cheaper to buy than it is to rent, plus I could sell it for that amount at a used DVD store.
My Sexy Fiancé Veronica ™ and I were hooked right away and Netflix © kept us going until we caught up with the current seasons. I’ve liked Kiefer Sutherland since THE LOST BOYS and STAND BY ME in the 1980’s and his JACK BAUER character has been a source of acting challenges with range for him that I enjoy watching.
24 starts shooting like every other TV series in the fall even though none of their episodes begin airing until January. They do this because they feel that the show is much more effective with the audience to consistently get new material every single week with no breaks for all 24 episodes. This even affords them some double episode weeks and really gets the anticipation going from start to finish. Shows like LOST are emulating this model because shows that are highly serialized demand audience attention for continuity, etc.
Last year, 24 got off to a rough start. They had a highly publicized halt to their production. Supposedly, they were breaking their difficult show model and were going to do 24 hours, but not all in a row. So 6 hours in this city, then a week later, 6 hours in another city, etc. The original intent was going to be the first 6 hours taking place in&shot in AFRICA and the next 6 hours in Washington D.C. The writers & producers felt each year being in Los Angeles was limiting and they were right. The formula was getting a bit stale, so breaking it up and moving it out would have been better.
So, the problem became that FOX was deeply concerned about shooting in Africa for real and knew that the budget would skyrocket, so just as they were about to pack up and leave, FOX pulled the plug and told them all to re-think the season minus the Africa segments. Since the show doesn’t premiere until January, this wasn’t an emergency per se, but they did have a lot to catch up on and re-do to alter everything they intended. So they re-tooled, re-wrote and started off with the Washington D.C. segments and laid the Africa stuff as backstory that occurred off camera between.
They got 7 new episodes in the can before the writer’s strike kicked in for 2007-2008’s season, then the writer’s strike set in for months. Even when the strike was over, a show like this cannot catch up, nor can they do less than the “24” episodes that is the core of the show’s concept. Kiefer Sutherland also had to serve a jail sentence for drunk driving, and it all worked out.
The decision was to completely hold off any producing any new episodes until the 2008-2009 season.
So cut to the new season, FOX has already invested in 7 fully produced episodes and wants to continue where that left off. That means for the current season they have a surplus in their budget for 7 episodes and taking after another TV series, NBC-Universal’s Sci Fi Channel BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, they offered the producers a chance to make a one off 2 hour TV movie for 24 called REDEMPTION. They could use the majority of the 7 episode surplusmoney to produce it, and the writers/producers decided to dust off their scripts and ideas for the AFRICA storyline. NOW they get to produce the African storyline with even more budget, not conflict with the 24 hour real time aspects, and get the backstory for the new season as something we can visually see with high production values.
Still following the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA model, used to do their 2 hour movie RAZOR in 2007, this 24 movie REDEMPTION will also get released within a day or two of its airing on DVD in a longer, unrated producer’s cut. Since the new season doesn’t start until January, they can still satiate fans with new content in the fall with this made for TV movie. Given what neophiles and the compulsive nature of fandom, this idea has real brilliance. The buildup hype for the new season, using annual production budget surplus, and then offer it as a retail item immediately for the big cash return. It’s genius, if only because the product is good.
Next week I’ll be watching the broadcast, then probably renting the producer’s cut, and getting psyched for some Jack Bauer terrorist ass kicking since it’s been nearly 2 years. I love these ancillary products like the TV movie for things I’m into. It deepens the mythology of the stories I like, it creates alternative revenue for a dying industry, and it’s just feeding the fans desire for MORE of anything.