Jack Bauer In Africa...almost

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THE PLANK FEBRUARY 2, 2008

Jack Bauer In Africa...almost

Even for those of us who are not '24' watchers, The Wall Street Journal's amusing front page story on the show is well worth a read. Concerned that Jack Bauer was becoming too closely identified with torture and the Bush administration's foreign policy, the producers sought to reinvent their hero. This (eventually ditched) idea was particularly hilarious:

On May 31, the show's head writers went in for a
meeting at the studio to present their first big idea: sending Jack to
Africa. In various incarnations, Jack would begin the season digging
ditches, building houses, tending to orphans, providing security for an
embassy or escorting around a visiting dignitary. "One of the themes we
discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek
some kind of penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things
he's done in his life," Mr. Gordon says.

Ms. Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen of 20th Century
Fox Television, were receptive but believed it was too much of a
departure. "It felt like we were throwing the baby out with the
bathwater," says Ms. Walden. The Africa plot also had several glaring
problems, the first of which was that at some point Jack would have to
fly back to the U.S. The writers proposed that for the first time ever,
"24" would break from its real-time conceit; the show would skip the
period when Jack was on his 14-hour flight.

The writers agreed to work on the plot. Just three
weeks before they were due to start shooting the first episodes,
Messrs. Gordon and Surnow joined fellow head writers Bob Cochran and
Manny Coto for a pancake breakfast at an IHOP to talk through the
elements of Jack-in-Africa that still weren't working. Jack was too far
away, they felt, both from the immediacy of domestic terror and from
the character he had been in prior seasons.

For more, be sure to check out Jane Mayer's great New Yorker piece on creator Joel Surnow. 

--Isaac Chotiner 

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