The Home Team / "What would Jack do?"
Two weeks ago, we lost Agent Walker, Jack Bauer's latest partner. At the time, it made me kind of sad, because she was tough, loyal, resilient -- and hot. But as the days have gone by, I find myself gradually getting over it, because ... well, because she's just a character on a TV show.
And deep down, I really don't care about TV shows. In a lot of ways I look at them as obligations. Most of the time when I'm watching I have the uncomfortable feeling I'd rather be doing something else. I'm secretly relieved when something comes up and we're forced to skip a show. In fact, one of the only reasons I watch at all is because I'm afraid I might be missing something really good. Whenever I don't watch a show, my wife and my son both rave endlessly about how it was the greatest episode ever. But when I watch with them, it's never the greatest episode ever. In fact, it usually stinks.
My wife has a very different attitude toward TV. She'll insist that there's a lot of excellent entertainment out there, and that it's a respectable and worthwhile way to spend your time. She's wedded to at least eight different dramas, from Grey's Anatomy to Damages, and is now trying to shoehorn Treme -- HBO's heavily promoted series about life and music in post-Katrina New Orleans -- into the mix. She's devastated when she falls behind in any of these series, faithfully DVRs missed episodes, and constantly feels pressured to catch up.
No such burdens for me. I only have three shows I watch: Lost, 24 and Friday Night Lights. Actually, only two, since Friday Night Lights is never on. I keep hearing that a new season will begin this summer, but I wouldn't bet on it, and I wouldn't watch it over the summer, anyway.
I have another issue with all these TV series, besides not wanting the obligation to keep up, and preferring to spend my time on something else. It's that I can't follow half the episodes.
Take Lost -- which is exactly how I feel when I watch it. I mean, are they in the present, or have they time-traveled back to the '70s? Are they on the main island, or are they on Hydra Island? Are we in an actual episode, or in "sideways reality?" Does Kate still love Jack? Or does she really love Sawyer? Does Jin trust Locke? Isn't Locke dead? What about Sayid -- didn't he die for awhile, too? Why do dead people keep coming back on the show? And how can I worry about "the others" when I can't even keep tabs on these guys?
My wife will ask me urgently, "Isn't Eloise the wife of Widmore, and isn't she Daniel Faraday's mother?" And only then do I realize -- I have absolutely no idea! Nor do I really care! I just kind of watch ... and watch ... hoping to be entertained, and figuring they'll let me know what I need to know when I need to know it. Yeah, I could look up all this stuff in those endless recaps and explanations and backgrounders they're always running on the Lost blogs -- but I'm damned if I'm going to do homework for a TV show!
Then there's 24, which is a little easier to follow -- although there, too, I don't worry too much if I'm confused. Is Tarin really in love with Kayla, or is he just using her to get to her father? Is Dana Walsh a goody or a baddy? Does it matter? Jack will probably wind up killing all of them anyway.
No, here are the things I wonder about.
Why does Jack always whisper, even when there's absolutely nobody else around who could possibly hear him? Why is it that whenever the CTU guys need to call up a grid of an abandoned warehouse on their computer, it always appears instantly, and they never get that infuriating swirling little ball? Why is it whenever Jack shoots, four guys fall over dead, but when the bad guys with funny accents shoot at him -- nothing but near-misses. How is it that no bomb is ever defused with 15 minutes left, or 8 minutes left, or 54 seconds left, but always with one tick left on the clock? And most important, when Jack and Agent Walker are in the secret tunnel trying to ferry Hassan to safety, and they're being ambushed from all angles, and Jack whispers, "Renee, we're not gonna make it -- take cover ... I'm gonna head up the middle ... as soon as I set these off, I want you to start firing ... doesn't matter if you hit anyone, just make some noise ... c'mon, I'm gonna take the high ground ... in about five seconds, you start giving me cover fire," how come Agent Walker doesn't say, "Huh? Could you please repeat that? And by the way, speak up?"
Friday Night Lights, of course, is the easiest of my three shows to follow, but as I said, it's never on.
Ah, well. 24 is down to its final six episodes. Lost is down to its last four. Friday Night Lights might be on this summer, but I seriously doubt it. So it looks like in a few weeks, all I'll have to do is settle in with the Mets and just watch baseball. Which is pretty easy, since nothing ever happens.
Westporter Hank Herman, whose "Home Team" column appears every other Friday in the Westport News, will be addressing the Senior Center on "The Fun and Folly of Writing About Your Life" on Friday, May 7, at 10 a.m.