Monday, September 04, 2006

Vanished: Sir, You Are No Jack Bauer

My plan this season is to give all the shows that look good a try. Vanished I gave two tries, because the pilot is always just a warm-up, and it's early enough in the TV season that hardly anything else is on. The show itself is fine. It's a perplexing mystery, and it makes me want to know more. But I can't get past the main character.

Special Agent Graham Kelton is a lot like every other fictional law enforcement agent you know, including Fox's mac daddy, Jack Bauer, whose timeslot he is taking over while Jack takes a cruise. Fox is purposely trying to draw in 24 viewers by using another thriller as a fall placeholder and proclaiming, "Jack Bauer would be proud!" in its ads. Kelton, like Jack, thinks he knows better than everyone else, and since this is TV, and he's the hero, he does. He barges into a meeting of the whole staff and basically makes it all about him by imparting some special piece of information that only he knew about. He sees the blinking red light of a bomb just moments before it goes off and thereby saves himself – but not the redshirts around him. Basically, he's an arrogant bastard. But while Hugh Laurie can take a character like that and make him eminently watchable, Gale Harold does not have that talent.

And, of course, there's Nathan, a kidnapped boy that Kelton attempted to ransom in a flashback. Apparently he told the FBI not to bring sharpshooters to the exchange, but of course they didn't listen, and so when the sniper shot the kidnapper, the kidnapper pressed the detonator and little Nathan got blowed up right in front of Kelton. Which makes Kelton "haunted." In the sense that the show won't stop bringing it up. We get it. Kid blew up. So what? Kelton obviously didn't learn anything, because he was right. He took public responsibility, so there's the whole hero/martyr thing working itself out. If it had actually been his fault, and he had to live with the guilt, constantly second-guessing himself or developing a drug or a drinking problem, that would make him an interesting character. This, by itself, does not constitute character development.

The difference between Graham Kelton and Jack Bauer is that Jack isn't all hero. Jack does unsavory things. If it had been him, Jack probably would have blowed up the kid his own self. Not on purpose, unless it was to save countless more lives (see: Ryan Chappelle). I like a hero who isn't always right, who sometimes makes mistakes or slides into amorality to get the job done. Kelton is not that guy, and that makes him, in the parts where he isn't boring, completely maddening, because: shut up, Kelton.

Thanks anyway, but I'll just wait for Jack to get back.

Update 9/5/06: I have to just comment on a scene in last night's episode. The senator is listening to Bach's "Little Fugue" and remarks that his wife loves that piece and wanted it played at their wedding. Which should have been his first clue that something was off with her, because, yeah, it's a great wedding song - if you're marrying a supervillain.


Morgan said...

I felt the same way, but I lamely waited it out-- tonight was the payoff, Kelton is almost certainly dead. If only Ming Na could get the same treatment this thing would be good.