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The Spacey Awards unveiled a truly bizarre set of nominees this past week.

Let me explain. The Spaceys are a set of science fiction and fantasy awards run by Space, Canada’s science fiction television channel. Despite winning the Hugo Awards last year (the real science fiction awards), Doctor Who has not fared well here — I suspect because Doctor Who was snatched away from Space by the CBC, and the CBC doesn’t participate in the Spaceys. Instead, shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1 tend to dominate.

Among the nominees for favourite television show this year is something of a surprise. Apparently, according to the Spacey nomination committee, Jack Bauer and his antics on 24 are science fiction.

Well… In some ways I can see where they’re coming from.

I mean, as a friend helpfully pointed out, a show that’s supposedly set in LA in real time and doesn’t contain at least one episode featuring nothing but Jack Bauer caught in rush hour traffic, probably involves time travel.

24, which debuted to critical acclaim, seems to have found ratings success precisely when the writers appear to have given up on their ability to credibly tell their stories in real time. The sixth season, while exciting, is proving to be watchable primarily as parody — as you can see by reading the hilarious and eviscerating reviews at Television Without Pity. What had previously been a single storyline that credibly played out within a 24-hour period has morphed into several intertwining subplots that just happen to proceed each other, hour after hour. Consider Wikipedia’s write up of the structure of the sixth season), which summarizes as:

6:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.: Jack Bauer is brought back from a Chinese prison, to help the Counter Terrorist Unit get to the bottom of a massive terrorist campaign that has been afflicting the United States over the past eleven weeks. This leads to the nuking of the LA suburb of Valencia.

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.: Jack races to help the CTU find the four remaining suitcase bombs. Discovers that his estranged brother (played by Paul McCrane) and father (played by James Cromwell) are at least partly responsible for the attacks.

3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.: With the American president in a coma, the vice president considers a nuclear strike against an unnamed Middle Eastern country (although I give you dollars to doughnuts that its first three letters are I, R, A). Jack races to find the remaining suitcase bombs as Arab terrorist Fayid and former Soviet general mastermind things.

7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.: Fayed and Russian general dead, bombs recovered. Mission accomplished!

9:00 p.m. - 6:00 a.m.: New mission.

The big problem here is that the main plot that we were sold at the beginning of the season — a massive terror campaign culminating in the attempt to detonate five nuclear bombs — effectively ends at the 17th hour, forcing the writing staff to jump in with a new plot about Jack and his Chinese captors.

Let’s summarize Jack Bauer’s day, shall we?

  1. Wakes up in Chinese prison cell.
  2. Carted off to the United States and immediately put to work in stopping terrorist plot (fortunately, he’s given just enough time to shave)
  3. Witnesses the nuking of Valencia, CA
  4. Discovers that his brother and father are partly responsible for this round of terrorism.
  5. Witnesses death of his brother.
  6. Learns of death of his girlfriend.
  7. Strangles lead terrorist with a crane (Jeez, Jack!)
  8. Discovers girlfriend is actually alive, and held hostage by a Chinese spy.

All of these events have been nicely spread out, so that they both don’t step on each other’s toes, but at the same time still manage to get told within the same day/season setup. Jack’s Chinese captor phones the moment after Fayed gets hung by his neck from a construction crane. How likely is that? And if at the end of the day Jack isn’t carted off in a straight jacket, shouting “dammit!”, they might as well cart off my suspension of disbelief.

Part of the problem is that the producers of 24 don’t seem interested in generating an ensemble cast. Even the members of CTU are highly overworked, but the producers tend to load almost all of the action onto Jack Bauer, such that he has absolutely no time in real time to do anything remotely normal. Once, just once, I would like to see a scene that runs as follows:

“The bomb is about to go off!” shouts Bill Buchanan. “Where’s Jack Bauer!”

“In the washroom,” says one of the minions.

(Quick cut to a shot of the bathroom door. You hear a stream of water and Jack singing to himself, checking out the acoustics)

“Chloe,” shouts Bill Buchanan, “It’s up to you!”

Jack’s bladder must be the size of a football.

24 might make the realm of fantasy in that it’s clearly set on a parallel Earth, with different presidents of the United States, just as West Wing follows an alternate history where a new presidential election got called in 1974. But as far as that goes, it’s still pretty flimsy logic.

So, perhaps the Spaceys should be honest, and suggest that their awards aren’t about science fiction and fantasy, anymore, and just about boiling pots.

And, For the Record:

Anybody who goes Google searching for “ann coulter shaved porn” does not, repeat NOT, get to complain about “another turd in the blog toilet clogging up Google with s—-!.

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