24: A Huge Following in Uganda
Reiko Aylesworth as Michelle Dessler Fox's 24.

24: A Huge Following in Uganda


The new addiction in Kampala.

By Aretha Frison
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First published: November 14, 2005


In general, I have been simply amazed at the intense influence of American culture in Uganda from movies, fashion, music and recently in the business world by having their company create “western standards” for improved customer service and financial partnerships.


These innovative developments that are happening in Uganda will probably make a dramatic turn for the better in the country’s future no doubt. However, I was really taken aback again about this whole intermingling of American culture into Uganda when I went to my neighborhood video library in Bukoto, 1000 Movies on Ntinda Road.

In The Beginning…
I was just looking for a movie to watch, when the production manager, Caesar Oyo, suggested the American, 24 TV series to watch.

“Naw,” I said. “I watched the previews when it first came on. I’m not really interested.”

But man, he kept persisting and persisting until I finally rented the first 3 episodes of the first season of 24 (since I had viewed the shelves observing that the library had all the episodes leading to season three. I was impressed.)

That was a month ago. And, that was the last time I rented three tapes at once on 24.

It Seemed So Innocent
Since then, I have developed a surreal infatuation with Jack Bauer (the main character played by Kiefer Sutherland) and rented all twenty-four tapes of seasons 2 and 3 at once, and very proud of the fact I finished seasons 1-3 within three weeks.

Now, 1000 Movies has all twenty-four episodes of 24 on season 4.

Oyo, the production manager at 1000 Movies, said the library started renting out the first season of 24 when the store first opened in Bukoto in March 2005.

“When we first got it, it wasn’t that popular,” Oyo said. “Then, people started watching, and they got hooked.”

Before 24 stepped on the scene, the weekly U.S. comedy, Friends, was the most popular rental TV series, Oyo said.

And due to the local popularity of the show, Oyo said that 1000 Movies now has two sets of DVDs for seasons 1 through 4, along with its VHS collection of the series, also from season 1 through 4.

“Every week, there are 70 clients who rent two sets of the DVDs for seasons 1 through 4,” Oyo said. “And, it (the clients) increases.”

So, word spreads, and as soon as people get interested, Oyo has to add these new members of the 24 fan club to his growing roster of fans waiting to see what will C.T.U. (stands for Counter Terrorism Unit. Just some 24-cult lingo,) do next to fight terrorism.

“Season 3 is the most popular,” said Oyo. “(I think) because season 3 had a wide scale of different characters and different plots---a lot of twists and turns. By the time you have watched season 3, you can analyze and see that only Jack Bauer is fit for the job.”

Social Thought and Political Philosophies of 24
When interviewing him, I learnt that since last week, he has finished watching all twenty-four episodes of season 4. Oyo is a bigger fan than I thought, since he has also analyzed the social and political solutions of 24 that he believes can be implemented to improve global unity in our nation and the world.

And, he’s really serious about that.

24 should be introduced to the military education in Uganda because it touches on policies and the way someone can manipulate the government system,” Oyo said. “And, it can also give someone a wide range of thought about analyzing a system. And, it would show the gap in the technology. It also shows how a security system should be facilitated.”

See, 24 is more than a silly, little action TV show. It is a respected and highly vital political educational tool for modern-day Uganda.

Get Hooked, Get High
Like AA for alcoholics, if there were a 24A for fanatic fans of this American cult-show, I will have to attend the meeting and say, “Hello, my name is Aretha, and I am a 24-aholic.”

Seriously, I really do need help from watching my tube (well, there is relief since Caesar has season 4. But my anxiousness has already led me to read about it on the show’s website. And, my impatience lured me to watch the entire season off my friend’s Ricky’s laptop. Sorry, Caesar, but I’ll still rent the season from you anyway!)

Man, I believe if 24 was the drug cocaine, I would be like a crack addict, because as soon as one episode of the show is over, I have to get my "24" fix by popping in another VHS tape to watch the next episode, and the next episode, and the next in my search to find my “high” to fulfill my craving for closure in each tantalizing episode that is filled with advanced technology, drastic turns of events and complicated and interesting characters.

But I do not find satisfaction---just a slight case of insomnia because it’s 6:35 a.m. when I go to bed.

The Word on 24
For those of you who are living in a cave and don’t know anything about 24, well, shame on you, dude. But, I will have mercy and give you some background info.

Beginning in 2001 by FOX, the directors and creators of the show, Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran produced “one of the most innovative, thrilling and acclaimed drama series on television,” according to tv.com.

If you are a big American TV fan, they also created “La Femme Nikita” “Miami Vice” and “The Commish.”

 

William Devane and Kim Raver Fox's 24.
William Devane and Kim Raver Fox's 24.

 

The show follows the life of Jack Bauer, the main character, who is a counter-terrorism agent for C.T.U. He fights the bad guys of the world, one day at a time. With episodes unfolding in real time, 24 covers one day in the life of Bauer per season.

After foiling a political assassination and other mind-boggling events like stopping a nuclear attack and fighting bioterrorism, now in season 4, Jack Bauer is working for the Secretary of Defense (while dating the Secretary’s daughter, Audrey) and also returned to C.T.U. when his new boss, Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), was kidnapped in connection with a terrorist-coordinated train crash.

Although Agent Bauer helped prevent an attempt to melt down the nation’s nuclear power plants, he could not stop terrorists from successfully shooting down Air Force One and attempting to assassinate the president. After this event, TV critics say the most devastating and momentous in the show’s four thrilling seasons, C.T.U. operatives were faced with shielding the nation from a nuclear terrorism threat that could kill millions of people and change the world forever.

But if you ask me, the devastating thing that happened was when I realized that the characters Tony and Michelle were divorced! And, the momentous events were seeing Bauer so calm, cool, collected and contented with his girlfriend, Audrey, at the beginning of season 4, and then quickly turning back in the raw, rugged and fearless Jack Bauer I so love and admire. Even though he has a strong desire to have loving relationships and a “normal” life, his die-hard passion to save his country from any threat is always the main priority above anything else.

Ah, the bittersweet life of a hero.

Either You Like Or…
When it comes to watching 24 in Uganda, there are even times when families will snuggle up to the TV and bond in harmony as they tune-in for the explosive series. Take for example Ugandan shop manager Kate Zaramba and her family. They love 24 so much. Not only does the family watch the show every week on DSTV, but her brother-in-law and my friend, Ricky, has “somehow” downloaded the entire fourth season on his laptop. Now, Kate’s mom is getting into the 24 groove on the laptop before the season has ended on TV.

“It’s one of those shows that I can truly call explosive,” said Zaramba. “You don’t know what to expect with each new episode. It just blows your mind.”

But unfortunately, when you submit to the enticing sinful pleasures of this growing global 24 cult, it may put a strain on your closest relationships.

Ricky said his married friend took his laptop to watch season four of the series recently.

“The guy said he stayed up late to watch the show,” Ricky said. “He said his wife was complaining because sometimes he wouldn’t go to bed until 5 a.m. I don’t think his wife like me too much right now.”

Well, it is also a show in Uganda that you either like or hate because most people here like consistency when it comes to watching television. They are not too much on being left on the edge to watch something again and again, I have been told. Yet, they like these cheesy Latino soap operas and lame Nigerian movies---no offense to my Latino and Nigerian brothers and sisters.

Luckily, I am not alone in my new delusional and obsessed world of the 24. This show has virtually turned Ugandans into die-hard fans of the FOX network phenomenon, and onlookers into envious Bauer player haters.

Some Ugandans I have spoken to say they don’t like the show because it’s the same old good guys versus bad guys’ setup. There’s nothing new to it.

“It’s one of those fabricated FBI (military intelligence) shows,” said Mesh Feroze, a Ugandan graphic artist living in Kampala. “It’s been done before. There’s nothing unique about it, considering the hype it’s given.”

Well, I guess everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

Even if it is utterly ridiculous.

A Fifth and Sixth
The “hype” of the show has led the creators laying out plans for two more seasons.

The creators said they would retain the show’s unique format in the upcoming fifth season. Each episode will cover one hour of real time, and the season’s entire story will take place in one day. Once again, viewers will be able to follow several key characters through a day that none of them will ever forget. In addition, the FOX network has also ordered a sixth season from the creators. Meanwhile, the show will once again return in January 2006 for a non-stop season, according to tv.com.

Bollywood Bauer
Now, you thought this obsession was just in Uganda and maybe in the U.K. Well, India should also be a part of 24A because recently, 20th Century FOX filed suit in the Delhi high court to keep Zee Telefilms, an Indian production company, from airing an action drama called Time Bomb. FOX alleges the Indian show plagiarizes its show 24, according to Fox officials.

Fox says Time Bomb, like 24, takes place in real time: An hour of the show is an hour in the characters' lives. While 24 involves the assassination attempt on a charismatic U.S. president by terrorists, Time Bomb tells the story of an assassination attempt on a charismatic Indian prime minister.

These similarities may be coincidence, but the movie industry magazine, Variety stated that the India's film industry, known as Bollywood, is often accused of plagiarizing Hollywood products.

A Sexy 24?
Now, for fans like me who want to know anything pertaining to 24, the creators of 24 plan to slow the pace a bit for their next series at the network, after completing the fifth season of the real-time TV show, according to Reuters.

The project is tentatively dubbed Thirteen, because it is envisioned as a story that unfolds over a 13-episode arc per season, and the FOX network has made a sizeable commitment to a pilot.

Set in present-day Los Angeles, it will mimic the film L.A. Confidential and such vintage classics as 1944's Murder, My Sweet and 1947's Out of the Past, said Bob Cochran, who will produce with Joel Surnow.

Cochran said: “There's not a whole lot on TV right now in this wonderful genre, and we feel that we're kind of in the same place where we were a few years ago when 24 launched. There's real opportunity for someone to reinvent this format for TV.”

Surnow and Cochran have taken their time in settling on their follow-up to 24, their Emmy-winning drama series that raised the bar for small-screen action dramas. The two have chatted about several ideas during the past few years, including some variations on the 24 real-time theme. But nothing quite seemed to gel until they put their heads together on the concept for Thirteen.

The Big Screen for 24
Jon Cassar, one of the show's producer-directors, recently announced a 24 movie has been discussed, according to TV Guide magazine.

However, “it could still be two years from now, so it's far too early to say,” he added.

If the television show ends up as a feature film, Cassar said it would not follow the show's real-time format entirely.

So, whether you a small screen or big screen fan, accept that fact that 24 is multi-dimensional and transcends all boundaries in the global community uniting all of us to stay in suspense and to live life one episode and one day at a time.

By Aretha Frison
more from author >>
First published: November 14, 2005
Aretha Frison, a native of Detroit, Michigan, and a graduate of Florida A&M University, is currently living in Kampala, Uganda as an independant media consultant for media houses and publishing companies.

She has written, edited and been featured in the Detroit Free Press, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, the East African, New Vision, The Daily Monitor, Vibe, and other trade magazines and newspapers.

Living in Uganda as a resident, she is actively involved in the Uganda writing arena, local church activities, and volunteer organizations. She can be reached at rereb@hotmail.com.