24 & Climate Change: "We’re running out of time!"

I got an email from a really good friend this evening, pointing me to a press release the producers of 24 released about new initiatives in their show to combat climate change.

(From the press release): “24, … will strive to become the first television production ever to save enough energy and reduce enough carbon emissions over the course of a season to render its entire season finale “carbon neutral, it was announced today. In addition to making significant changes to its own production practices, the series aims to educate and inspire its millions of viewers to take climate change and the fight against global warming seriously and personally, before it’s too late”

Let me tell you where I sit before I talk about where I stand.  First and foremost, I definitely appreciate the efforts to help the environment wherever they can.  I don’t hate the planet and I admire people who can conserve resources. I try to do my part to conserve resources where I can (although I do drive a gas-guzzling Ford Explorer), when convenient opportunities are available.  Can I do more? Definitely, but I don’t intentionally waste resources. As far as the “global warming”, I do believe there is a global climate change and acknowledge the possibility that our behavior is contributing to this change, but I also believe we do not have sufficient information to call for drastic changes to our lives.

That said, I appreciate 24‘s concern and efforts to improve their economic impact in the production of their show.  However, with the state of the show being what it is, 24 is in no position to shove the producer’s political ideology down viewer’s throats. 

The show is basically on life support right now.  The Writer’s Strike had the most detrimental impact to 24.  After arguably the worst season of the show, 24 disappears for a full year due to their non-stop broadcast schedule of Jan-May. Rumors were percolating that the show could come back for a 1/2 season in the fall (rending the concept of “24” inept), but right now we’re looking at 20 months between 24 seasons.  The show would have been canceled if not for winning so many Emmy’s after season 5.  24 has basically become Willie Mayes dropping fly balls in the outfield at the end of his career. 

Considering their dire circumstances, they still see fit to allow political environmental ideology to influence and perhaps alter the story line?  Maybe the producers are simply in denial about their situation, or maybe they’re of the mindset: “It’s only a matter of time until we get canceled, we might as well do what we want.”

Consider their initiatives:

Introducing the use of biodiesel fuels to power generators and production vehicles;

Great, no issues with this!

Running all on-stage production activities on “green power” (buying from wind, water and solar);

This is noble, but I hope that the more expensive energy won’t force them to cut production and storyline corners.

Rewiring an entire stage to use electric, rather than diesel-generated, power;

That’s the sound of me applauding.

Integrating fuel-saving and low-emission hybrid vehicles into the production fleet;

Again, great! However, we better not see CTU and Secret Service trying to guard the President driving a Prius. 


So far so good, but here is where issues start to arise:

Creating a series of PSAs about the issue starring Kiefer Sutherland and key cast members;

Ok, this is really called “Kiefer’s Community Service” for sending Jack Bauer to jail for all of his drinking problems. I appreciate the sentiment, but right now Kiefer’s the last person who’s credible in PSA’s.  This will be in the back of my head whenever I see this.

When appropriate, incorporating the issue of global warming and the importance of carbon emission reduction into storylines;

This is where I have beef.  I realize there are only so many times you can go the “Nuclear Bomb” route, but don’t tell me we’re going to see <Insert Ethnic Terrorist Group> or Tony Almeda getting their revenge by pumping factory emissions in the air.  We don’t need the terrorists threatening to blow up a wind farm, or drop plane-loads of non-biodegradable material a landfills.

“When appropriate” – appropriate for whom?  Looking at last year’s plot breakdown, the producers’ judge of appropriateness can’t be trusted.

I realize that virtually all forms of entertainment have political influence by their authors (especially 24), but you usually don’t see it so blatantly announced and forced the way it is.  This is what bothered me about NBC’s “Green Week” last fall.  Environmental issues are important to discuss, but not because you tell us it’s important.  When it’s forced this way, it really just comes across as disingenuous, and you end up alienating the people you’re trying hardest to reach.  “Well it’s obvious that we can’t make compelling material to make people love us, so if we tell them we’re trying to save the environment maybe they’ll keep watching our show.”