Tradecraft: More 24 Trouble
Variety reports still more chaos on the set of 24's seventh season, which has been plagued with problems for two years now. "Production will shut down for more than two weeks on the show as of Sept. 15," the trade reports, adding that the "decision to take a breather came after exec producer Howard Gordon expressed displeasure with the direction of the season’s final six episodes. The show’s creatives will take the time off to rethink its ultimate direction and rewrite scripts; 20th [Century Fox TV] said production should resume by Oct. 9."
This is the latest blow to the ill-fated season, which comes after a series of other disasters:
The season was originally scheduled to go into production in July of 2007, shooting from an outline that called for half the season to take place (and shoot) in Africa. Fox executives reportedly put the kibosh on the African shoot for cost reasons.
It was retooled, then scheduled to begin shooting on August 27, 2007, but was delayed again until September 10 so that the writers could complete enough scripts for the new season-long plot.
In late September, however, star Kiefer Sutherland was arrested for DUI, and faced jail time, since this was a violation of his five-year probation. At the time, The Hollywood Reporter said that the show faced an "uncertain future."
The prophecy proved true, since the Writers' Guild went on strike in November, forcing production to shut down. This did, however, afford Sutherland an opportunity to serve his jail sentence without missing any work. As the strike continued into January, 2008 (when the season was set to begin airing), Fox decided to push the entire seventh season a whole year rather than broadcast the eight finished episodes and risk a lengthy interruption in the real-time drama.
By February, longtime showrunner and co-creator Joel Surnow had had enough. He decided to exit the series with the expiration of his contract with Fox, leaving Howard Gordon (who'd already been running the day-to-day operations for a while) to take over.
The following month, Africa was back on the table when it was decided that Jack Bauer would return in a two-hour TV movie in the fall, which would serve as a prequel to Season 7 and a reminder to audiences that 24 still existed. The movie would take place in Africa.
The producers worked out a way to salvage the eight episodes that had been shot in 2007 and re-incorporate the original African angle while taking the whole season in a new direction. Now, with this latest delay, it appears to have shifted course once more.
On the plus side, Variety notes this week that, "Kiefer Sutherland and company have the luxury of going dark because the show is already far ahead of schedule, the studio said. That’s because the studio and network decided to preempt 24 last year and push its seventh season to January... Eight episodes had already been produced when the WGA strike put a halt to the season, and the decision was made to push the season a year. That gave scribes a jump on this year -- and an opportunity to rethink the season’s storylines." So perhaps all the delays will benefit the show after all! I like Variety's refreshingly "glass is half full" view. Will the resulting season, two years in the making, prove disastrous, or a welcome return to form for the series? We'll find out in January... (Fingers crossed.)