Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Watching “24.”
I love learning.
I learned all sorts of things when I watched the “Twilight” series. I learned even more things when I watched “The Hills.” Actually — click those links — school yourself in life. All (really) practical things.
So, I love learning. This spring, Mr Wonderful and I decided to watch good ol’ ”24″ from start to finish. He vaguely remembered catching bits and pieces of the later seasons when it originally aired. I personally copped to watching the first season about seven times in a row more than a decade ago (because I thought if I sneered at Kim and Teri Bauer hard enough, they’d become less irritating….?), and I suspected it would still be just as entertaining all these years later.
It’s definitely entertaining.
Anyway — after many long evenings of “just one more episode, then we’ll go to bed!” behavior: we’re about done with the series. Mr Wonderful has managed to suspend his expectation of believability. I’ve suspended my expectation that any of the characters will button their shirts enough to seem professional (Morris O’Brian and Karen Hayes, I’m side-eying YOU). We both love tossing a non-sequitur “Claudia!” into conversation from time to time. But pronounced Clow-OOOOh-dia. Like the drug lords pronounce it.
Our late nights and weekend afternoons wasted on the couch are all starting to melt together into a noisy, explosive montage of dead terrorists and washed up federal agents and scary, deadly things (nuclear bombs, nerve gas, viruses, belly shirts, The Mummy, Ryan Chappelle’s nostrils, Angry Jack). BUT — there are certain inalienable lessons that stick with you after 145 hours (or so) of Vigilante Counter-Terrorism Awesomeness. Here we go:
Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Watching 24 (giant-screen TV edition):
1. If someone doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, try getting closer to their face and raising your voice. Unless you look like you’re gonna bust a vein in your forehead, you’re not being direct enough.
2. If yelling doesn’t work: knife ‘em in the kneecap.
3. When your terrorist crisis is a Prime Time terrorist crisis, “dammit” is as bad as things will ever get.
4. Gunshots to the chest: survivable. Small blade to the belly: instant death.
5. If you discover the man you love is not a mild-mannered businessman after all (he’s a WARLORD!!!???), don’t kid yourself. You won’t be able to pull off the “pretend everything is fine and meet up with the guy” schtick any better than the next girl. It didn’t work for the woman dating the Serbian thug, or the woman dating the Russian spy, or the woman dating the cartel kingpin or the woman dating the African war-monger, or that Desmond guy dating the “Information Broker” black widow.
6. Don’t go down into a bomb shelter with that lonely nut job just because he saved you from a wildcat attack. Just don’t.
7. Doctor’s orders are for kids. Real men just take another shot of adrenaline when their Massive Head Trauma keeps them from a
circle-jerk earnest eyebrow-raising competition with the Joint Chiefs.
8. You know a man has seen the depths of hell when he has an oddly scarred hand.
9. Office romance is a bad idea. One or the other of you is
probably a double agent.
10. Terrorists and rookie special agents agree: sometimes, the only way out of a situation is to cut your own arm off.
11. The most clean-shaven men are not to be trusted.
12. If you’re under 18, be careful: the odds of you becoming a pawn in a wayward family member’s scheme to sell out America are VERY STRONG.
13. Be wary of anyone who calls themselves a “Patriot.” Odd are they’ll be whispering sweet nothings about loving their country in your ear while twisting the knife into your back. Messy business, Patriotism.
14. Pregnancy symptoms can range from sudden, stabbing pain (leaving you doubled-over in sketchy backwood sheds), to the good, old-fashioned Fainting Spell.
15. Lady Guns-for-Hire are super-scary. Something about pretty girls in denim skirts blowing up airliners and taking part in Presidential assassinations provokes an especially nagging brand of cognitive TV dissonance.
16. Keep a spare suit and tie around. For those times you need to break into Consulates and White Houses and such.
17. Don’t tangle with The Biscuit.
18. For the love of skittles — when you’re evading evil bad guys bent on really killing you well with their noisy guns — BE QUIET. No “stop-and-chat” with fellow escapees, no “break for a breather,” no proclamations that you’re tired and “can’t go on.” None of that. KEEP RUNNING, for heaven’s sake.
19. I know it may SEEM logical to perform the relationship post-mortem on defunct love affairs in times of crisis, but….um, admitting you still have feelings for someone while they’re working to save the world is just…..awkward as hell, actually.
20. But if you must: those bowel-like concrete hallways of CTU are great for surreptitious admissions of lust and makeout sessions and promises of dinner-dates once all of that terror crud is over and done.
21. Don’t move to L.A. Just don’t. All of the terrorists want to kill L.A.
22. Wow — that blemish on his chin was on the left side of his mouth during the last episode!
23. Actually, rare is the actor or actress who doesn’t sport a zit or two under their makeup.
24. They forget to blend the foundation onto Jack’s ears pretty much always.
25. The shorter Tony’s hair becomes, the less entrenched he is in the Establishment.
26. Food and water are for lesser counter-terrorist agents.
27. Nuclear weapon technical specs are universally easy to read. If accounting software help files were anywhere near as simple to read as instructions for disarming a nuclear bomb, I’d be out of a job.
28. It is genetic, isn’t it, the inability to pronounce NUCLEAR? It’s a lot more difficult to say “new-kew-ler” but seems half the population bungles it that way.
29. Skirt-suits are difficult for even the most powerful female to wear well.
30. 2003 was a bad year for harsh, blunt bangs.
31. Palm pilots!
32. People still managed to save the world in an era before smart phones, actually. People even managed to save the world in a pre-texting alternate universe. It required a lot more phone calls. And made it much more likely that your phone would ring at one of those inopportune moment when you’re stalking your terrorist prey. Those midi ringtones really give you away.
33. Satellites. They win the day.
34. Never assume just because you held someone as they died and watched them be guerney’d off to the morgue that they’re actually dead. Novice move. They’re just off cultivating more ominous facial hair, perfecting their “Devil May Care Glare” and accumulating a wardrobe of Undercover Terrorist Black. Those guys wear the best sunglasses.
35. Bad guys are REALLY excited to tell you about the evil they’ve masterminded right AFTER they tie you up, and right BEFORE they try to kill you.
36. Tranquilizer guns: way underutilized.
37. Server rooms, bathrooms, and utility closets need better surveillance. People pull off the darndest heists and manage the most scheming communiques from the safety of bathroom stalls and rooms with lots of ductwork.
38. Vice Presidents are never satisfied to play the mere Veep role. They’re looking for any opportunity to exploit a POTUS’ moment of hesitation in order to assemble the cabinet and invoke the 25th amendment like it’s a game of Go Fish. “Mr President, you’re CRAZY, and I can do your job better. More wars! More invasions! Assemble the fighter jets!”
39. Second only to satellites: HELICOPTERS.
40. The entire world is brought to us by Ford.
I could keep going (but there are only so many Google images of “Jack Bauer with gun,” basically).
I’m not sure WHAT we’re going to do once we finish up the last episode of season 8………….somehow, “Bar Rescue” and “World’s Worst Tenants” just don’t hold up as well when you watch them for 6 hours straight.