'24': The Morning After

Today's cuppa: Dublin morning tea (having been woken up early by hovering traffic helicopters, I'm on my second big mug)

JackBauer If you haven't seen last night's two-hour "24," go away now. Seriously. If you keep reading, I will not be responsible for the consequences. I believe in personal responsibility, and so should you.

In hours 11 and 12 of the action-drama, the "to torture or not to torture" debate continued as Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) took on a senator's traitorous aide -- but 24-711_1128_4452 President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) stopped him just short of him getting the vital info -- and then had to deal with African terrorists that had stormed the White House.

The bad guys got into the presidential residence by jumping off boats in the Potomac River, swimming to some sort of underwater pipe, drilling a hole and then sneaking somehow into the White House basement. Really not sure that can actually happen, but hey, it's TV!

Frankly, if you're sitting around wondering if anything on TV is real then, well, I don't even know what to say to that. You want real, look out the window.

Anyhoo, last Friday, I was on a conference call with "24" executive producer Howard Gordon. As promised in the previous post, here's some of what he had to say about last night's festivities.

On attacking the White House:

One thing about the two-hour was that, obviously, the White House and attacking it credibly was something that we had some big internal debates about, and we feared, "Could it be done credibly?" I do think we pulled it off, but I know it was a big concern on the part of a lot of the crew and cast. The writers were the forward-bearers on that, and I hope it worked credibly.

24-E9_sc929_int-bar-73_f On forcing Taylor to choose between her own safety and the life of her hostage daughter (Sprague Grayden, "Jericho"):

To me, the story is really about a mother and daughter reconciling after this estrangement, and in the context of her having lost her son, in many ways, because of her office. This is a woman who's really pressed to the edge of something, and if you look at this incredibly dramatic hostage situation, or siege situation, at the end, she gives herself up for her daughter.

As a mother, to us (that) was a really, really powerful crux to put her against. It's her office or her daughter, and the mother in her won out; at least that's what you think at the end of episode 12.

No, the show wasn't shot on the old sets of "The West Wing":

We have a built set. We built the White House and, in fact, there was a small, little external set that you saw, which is a West Wing -- not "West Wing" from the show, but the actual West Wing entrance. It's fashioned after that. We needed some depth and some interior and exterior spaces, so we built a fairly inexpensive exterior set, which we wound up using for the rest of the year. All of it was shot on Stage B, which is our adjacent soundstage.

On whether you can swim your way to the White House:

Washington essentially is wetland; it's swamp land. So I have this fantasy that maybe there were ... I've done really no research on this -- but I've heard that there are sealed-off tunnels from various construction phases, so I just sort of said, "What if..." I'm sure these tunnels don't exist. And in fact, what we wound up shooting was different than what you saw, different from what we scripted.

We scripted a much...imagine a very large, ceramic, abandoned sewage pipe that was half-filled with muck, and Brad (director Brad Turner) shot something a little more James Bond-y, which was obviously with the scuba gear and stuff.

...So, anyway, it's not based on anything.

On having his terrorists come in on boats, as did the terrorists that attacked Mumbai, India, in late November, 2008 (of course, "24" was written and shot long before that, so it's just another one of the show's weird current-events coincidences):

The terrorists, us -- the writers and the people who are putting together a show -- our 24_sc-1249_097 imaginations are living in the same world as the real-life terrorists and the real-life counter-terrorists and the real-life Homeland Security people. So ... you'd expect that scenarios are going to play out dramatically on the show as they do in real life. There's only so many ways.

Had the Mumbai terrorists come in by helicopter, you could point to any number of other episodes where our terrorists came in by helicopter. There's only so many ways you can mount an attack. But it is eerie when headlines coincide with this week's episode, that's for sure. It's been a very odd dance between reality and "24."

People have asked if we think this show is predictive somehow, and "Is this what's going to happen two years from now?" I think they're giving us a little more credit than we deserve.