Monday, February 20, 2017

The Legacy of David Palmer

Searching Amazon Prime for some show to watch last night, I found 24 and watched the first episode of Day (Season) 2.  IMDB reports that the episode first aired on October 29, 2002, and clearly 9/11 had an impact on the story line.  While terrorist threats are part and parcel of each of the seasons of 24 (the hero of the story, Jack Bauer, works for CTU - Counter Terrorist Unit) in Day 1 the terrorists were from Serbia, with hired guns from the U.S.  In Day 2 the terrorists are Islamic, operating with accomplices from the U.S.  

Day 2 also features a returning character from Day 1, David Palmer, who is now President of the United States.  (In Day 1 he was a Senator running for President.)   Palmer is played by Dennis Haysbert.  David Palmer is a good guy, rational and tough, though his character has blind spots about others who are his confidants, some of whom totally betray him.  In a recent post I criticized some more recent TV shows about plots that weren't really tight because they depended on highly intelligent characters making bonehead plays.  Are David Palmer's blind spots more of the same?

I'm not really sure.  I know I got hooked on 24, so if I did find some of this a stretch it didn't bother me much when I viewed it the first time through.  One possible story to explain this lack of perception in people is that they changed due to the pressure they were under.  A second is that major politicians have to cordon off parts of their lives, both personally and professionally, to address the overwhelming demands that are placed on them.  This is enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Another big deal aspect of the David Palmer character is that he is black. Apparently this is not the first example of a black President in movies or TV.  Morgan Freeman played President Beck in Deep Impact.  But 24 was an incredibly popular TV show and the David Palmer character appears in each of the first four seasons, 81 episodes in total.  Further, David Palmer's brother Wayne subsequently becomes President.  He too is a good guy, though not quite to the standard of his older brother.

On the theme that ideas from TV prepare the audience for the parallel idea in real life, I found the piece linked and excerpted below, where Haysbert ties his role in 24 to the Obama candidacy.  This piece came out in January 2008.  It seems even more plausible now, in light of how Obama's successor got chosen.

The irony, of course, is that 24 appeared on Fox.  The entertainment division and the news division of Fox probably don't communicate much.  I know that I treated 24 like science fiction, but set in the present.  I don't believe it made me any more or less prepared for an Obama candidacy.  The speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention is what made Obama appealing to me as a candidate.  But for those who missed the speech, maybe 24 mattered.

In Days 7 and 8  of 24 the President is a women, played by Cherry Jones.  I guess with popular TV series like 24, it's the first couple of years that really make the impression on the audience. 

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