It took eight seasons (and one made-for-TV movie) for time to run out for Fox’s venerable and ground-breaking action series 24 which starred Kiefer Sutherland as the tragic anti-hero Jack Bauer.
The show took one day, in the life of the sometimes counter-terrorist agent Bauer and dealt with the ups and downs of a major attack on U.S. soil like clockwork every season. The real time conceit was the hook, but it was Sutherland and crackerjack storytelling that kept viewers hooked year after year.
With 24 – Season Eight and 24: THE COMPLETE SERIES hitting DVD this week, ASSIGNMENT X chatted with executive producer Howard Gordon this week in an exclusive interview about his tenure on the show.
In Part 2 of our conversation he talks about his favorite (and not so favorite) seasons, the status of the 24 movie (it’s on hold) and completing his first novel GIDEON’S WAR which is out on book shelves on January 11.
ASSIGNMENT X: What’s your favorite season and the not so favorite season of 24?
GORDON: I think, everyone would say, and I would jump on the bandwagon, and say that Season Six was my least favorite. I would say, the first season and the fifth season are my co-favorites. The first one, because it was the first one and there was so much real, pure creative void in that first experience and being part of launching that show. The fifth season, because the show had run its course and many of us believed it might have run its course and we sort of proved the opposite and delivered what I think is arguably one the most creatively strong seasons of the series. Those would be my two favorites, but I like them all.
AX: And if there is one season that you feel is underrated, and now that there is a box set of the complete series, which season do you think fans should revisit?
GORDON: Well, oddly enough, everyone has their favorites, I think the one, that even though it wasn’t our best, but I still think it was under-appreciated, is Season Six. I think there are some really good moments and good episodes. I think it’s better than people give it credit for. I think it suffered in comparison to the other episodes.
AX: If there was a Season Nine, did you have an idea of what it would be.
GORDON: I had a couple of ideas, but nothing compelling enough to pitch. We definitely had some ideas of what happened to Jack after that moment.
AX: What’s going on with the movie?
GORDON: The movie is something that right now I’m not engaged or involved in. The rumors are that [director] Tony Scott has an idea that he is going to run it by or has run it by Kiefer Sutherland. I don’t know what the status of it is.
AX: Wasn’t there a Billy Ray script turned in?
GORDON: There was a script, but ultimately it wasn’t the right proposition. It wasn’t strong enough or compelling enough to the studio obviously to move ahead with it.
AX: So that version is dead?
AX: Did the movie take the conceit of the real-time hook or was it more broader based?
GORDON: It was more broader based and international.
AX: How is your new Showtime series HOMELAND coming?
GORDON: It’s been very fun. I’m very proud of the script so far and working with [director] Michael Cuesta is a real pleasure.
AX: Is there a difference working on cable versus a network?
GORDON: The tone is very different and the pace is very different. Showtime has encouraged us at every turn to slow it down. It doesn’t have the same requirements as a network show. Obviously you can push things you couldn’t on the network. Even the rigor of not having commercial breaks changes the viewing experience pretty profoundly.
AX: You’re also working on something with [GLEE’s] Ryan Murphy, how far along is that?
GORDON: We’re still working on it. He has a lot on his plate right now with GLEE, so we’re still in the process on it.
AX: But it’s a genre thing?
GORDON: Actually, it’s morphing into something new and different that I have to keep under my hat for now.
AX: But it’s not what it was originally going to be?
GORDON: Yes, it’s morphed a bit from there.
AX: When did you start writing your novel GIDEON’S WAR?
GORDON: I started writing it during the writer’s guild strike and had a bunch of pages written and sold shortly thereafter to Simon and Schuster. Since we got back to work after a couple of months, I didn’t make as much progress on it as I would have liked to. I had to keep pushing the deadline. It was written very much in the margins of the show and once I was done with the show finally, I finished it for good.
AX: Can you talk about the story?
GORDON: GIDEON’S WAR is about two brothers, both who are orphans. One is this great peacemaker. Their parents died violently. He was a great kick-ass guy, he swore to a life of non-violence and has become this world-famous peace anchor and negotiator. He goes to conflict zones and he’s a rising political star. He has a brother who took a different path and was kind of a delinquent and acted very differently to this parental tragedy and joined Special Forces and became a covert operative and has since gone to the dark side. Gideon, this peacemaker, is enlisted to bring his brother in. His brother has become this pirate in the South China Sea and he’s agreed to give himself up, only to Gideon, and Gideon goes there and finds out he’s been lured by his brother and betrayed. The finale takes place on a deep-sea oilrig off the Coast of this fictional country. The climax has a DIE HARD feeling to it, in terms of the set piece. The title, GIDEON’S WAR, refers not only to the war that might happen should this seizure of this rig succeed, but also his own war between himself and feelings of non-violence. Through the trajectory of his character, he eventually realizes that sometimes you do have to pick up a stick.
AX: Is this the first time you’ve written a novel before?
GORDON: I wrote a novel for my senior thesis in college, but not like this. It was challenging and a real education.
AX: How different is it from writing a novel and writing for TV?
GORDON: Part of it, in some ways, you have to be more spare on television and writing for the screen. What I found that the reversals you play dramatically on television, they don’t play the same way in the book. There are a lot more words. That’s another blunt distinction between the two mediums. It was far more challenging than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a much forgiving medium, but I found out it’s a fairly rigorous one.
AX: I’m sure your experience on 24 helped inform the rich kind of tapestry of the novel.
GORDON: 24 wasn’t very novelistic. I always thought of it as being a rather overlong thriller novel, and it would be interesting to test it one day, how that story would play in a novel. I think maybe between covers, it might read a little more absurdly than it played. Part of it was the sheer energy and conviction of Kiefer.
AX: Would you want to do another book?
GORDON: I’m beginning to sketch out another one. It’s a sequel, absolutely.
AX: Is it exciting that your book is finally coming out?
GORDON: I want to get it out there. It was a great experience. I hope people like it, and I hope that it’s at least some consolation to 24 fans, who won’t have 24 in January. It’s admittedly a pale replacement for it, but it’s the best I could do.
CLICK HERE for PART 1 of ASSIGNMENT X’s EXCLUSIVE HOWARD GORDON interview as he talks about the end of 24 and Season 8
CLICK HERE for ASSIGNMENT X’s review of 24 – SEASON 8 DVD