James Cromwell slams ’24’ writers for torture, lack of imagination

James Cromwell as Phillip Bauer in 24 Season 6
James Cromwell as Phillip Bauer in 24 Season 6

Actor James Cromwell who played Phillip Bauer in 24 Season 6 has some harsh words for the producers of the series, voicing disapproval of his character and claiming the writers lacked imagination:

You had some displeasure working on the series “24.” Could you go into that a bit?
I had never seen the show before, and I took it because my agent said it was important to do, that it would be a good thing. They paid me a lot of money to do it. And then I’ve taken my son captive and I’m torturing him, then I was going to take my grandson captive and threaten him. So I went to the producers and I said, “Look, are there any redeeming qualities to this character?” They looked at me as though I was nuts, I was asking something bizarre. And then on the floor of the set I saw this two-star general and asked him what he was doing there, and explained that he had come to talk to them about the presentation of torture, which I thought was eminently reasonable and necessary. And their reaction was flip, to my way of thinking. And to me they missed a great opportunity, which they could have done in the last season, to rectify what they had done — where he becomes disillusioned with this and makes every effort to change his techniques. It could’ve been a great contribution, but they didn’t have the imagination for that.

Source Metro


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I have to say I agree with Cromwell. The sixth season , while having the best political storyline of the series, was the most violent of all. They should have toned it down A LOT. 11 out of the first 12 episodes of the season had torture in them. The other 12 were torture-free. That first half STAINED THE SERIES FOR GOOD.

The writers should have known that the critics would be watching the show more closely after 24 winning the Emmys for best Drama series and lead actor the previous year. And they came up with 12 torture-filled episodes. Of Course the series wasn’t nominated in 2007. If they hadn’t done that, seasons 7 and 8 would have received bigger emmy attention and critical acclaim.

But let’s be clear… season 6 had some of the best moments and episodes of the series. It was the torture thing… it always was.

It took him almost 5 years to admit that? Jesus Christ…

I like James Cromwell as an actor, but I’m also betting he’s a pretty liberal guy in his politics, he pretty much said the same thing about his role in ‘Eraser’ years ago… and the fact most of the cast on that film were all testesterone-filled Republicans! Phillip Bauer was SUPPOSED to be like that, he’s even described by several characters in that season as a “sociopath”, Cromwell needs to separate his personal politics and his acting roles, and if he can’t, he’ll go the same way as Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, etc, whose radical views have hurt their careers, but I like Cromwell as an actor, he just needs to stop whining and playing to the base…

24BauerFan, the reason there was a lot of torture in Season Six was the story played out that way, if they were just sticking it in for the sake of it, it would show pretty clearly, and I happen to be in the minority that thinks the sixth season was one of the strongest – that final scene between Jack and James Heller was the single greatest and most powerful scene in the entire series’ run, in my opinion; powerful, tragic, sad, and touching at the same time – and the reason the sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons weren’t nominated to the same degree was arguably political, because ’24’ had been labelled as a ‘conservative/right-wing’ show, which was completely ludicrous, as the series had more white American corporate villains than ethnic ones, but horses for courses and all that…

Gerry Mander I agree with you, Season 6 is very underrated. The Jack/Heller scene was absolutely awesome and epic.

And why was 24 labelled as a ‘conservative/right-wing’ show?
1) It has torture
2) Its on FOX

And yet of the 8 writers of season 6, there were only 2 conservatives.
Kiefer Sutherland himself is a Social-Democrat (it’s true, I assure you).
And as you said: “the series had more white American corporate villains than ethnic ones”.

But I stand by what I said before. It was a bad decision to have 12 torture-filled episodes just after 24 won the emmys. They should have known it would put off 80% of the critics. I mean, seasons 1-5, 7-8 all survived (very well) with less than 8 scenes of torture.

Gerry Mander I agree with you too, season 6 was not so bad, the 4 first episodes are awesome and IMO it’s the best series ending: Jack on the cliff edge with his empty look, the sound of the see, Jack’s face fades to black and the silent clock…

And for the politics, I’m a left wing french…and you know left in France is not quite the same as in US ;-) and I never thougt 24 was a pro Bush or a pro torture show, in many seasons the villains are american business men (seasons 2, 5, 6, 7)

Torture in 24 is a dramatic device, used to make Jack Bauer a tragic and dark hero, torn between the lifes he had to save and the extreme acts he must commit to achieve that. And what could be more extreme than torture for a character portrayed as honest and human?

I do agree with Cromwell

but I also adore Season 6.

The reason, I believe, it didn’t get nominated was because of critics trashing the series after the 4 episode premiere was over. And most people get their opinions from critics, so it just became a huge bandwagon. I had ex-friends tell me that Season 6 was awful and they didn’t watch the series, they just read what critics say.

Though, watching from episode 6x05 on through television was torture because of the way Fox presented the show. They ended with a teaser for next week’s episode that was really a whole summary. So you knew exactly what to expect for next week. So you wait a week to see something you already just saw and then you get another recap of next week’s episode. It felt really bad.

I stopped watching (mainly because I had work at college interfering). It was necessary to watch Day 6 in consecutive order on DVD or torrents with no waits. I waited till the season ended then watched it all. It was wonderful. Those episodes were so much better in consecutive order because its like being in the mind of Jack Bauer. It was a character study. Watching it week to week with commercial breaks took you out of that mindset and made everything out of context.

I decided to never watch a series on television again and always wait for it to end.

I hear that my favorite series ever next to 24, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, had that problem with audiences in Season 2. There were so many hiatuses and commercial breaks, that it took this very focused mindset in a story that was very deep in exploration and made it seem like it was going nowhere while watching it on television. I wouldn’t know for sure though, because I watched it all together as it came to an end.

And no, I’m not to blame for its cancellation ‘because I didn’t watch it on TV’ as I’m not a Nielsen viewer. And yet I still made sure my tv was tuned to the program at the time just in case my cable company had a new way to measure what I was watching without me knowing.

(I will say that Terminator had the best ending of any series I’ve ever seen, even as an open-ended conclusion.)

Season 6 was terrible. Just awful. Wayne Palmer as Prez, Nadia Yassir falling for Ricky Schroeder two “hours” after he chokes her out and xenophobes out on her and one “hour” after she makes out with Milo. The suitcase nukes that became drones that just magically get recovered by Jack seven “hours” before the series ends because the plot was weak to begin with. The main bad guys that die way too easily because they all suck and aren’t compelling, but at least they had a Russian, an “Arab” and a Chinese man (not to mention Jack’s Dad – who kills his own family members with the ease of a wet fart). Audrey Raines comes in for 2.5 episodes and says 2.5 words. This season was a complete cluster-fuck. They built up to Curtis dying in hour 4 and then COMPLETELY mailed it in. No wonder Tony had to resurrect for Day 7. They damn near killed the series with Day 6.

I understand your disappointment regarding Season 6, a feeling shared by many, and the 24 writing team fully deserve the criticism they get for that season, they clearly dropped the ball big-time in it’s overall execution!

There’s been much discussion as to what happened with that season, and how they could go from the best of 24 to arguably the worst in less than a year, and I think I have reasons for that; simply put, some of the producers had their creative focus divided elsewhere – Joel Surnow and Manny Coto developing and producing Half Hour News Hour whilst also working on Season 6 whilst Howard Gordon was developing new projects under a development deal he signed with Fox earlier that year – whist the writing team as a whole were also writing the 24 movie at the same time! At the very, very least, they should have mapped out either the first twelve episodes in detail or the broad outline of the entire season as a whole in advance if they knew that some of the team were going to be working on other side-projects that year… it’s not a hindsight thing, it’s a foresight thing!

It’s any wonder that with their creative focus and energies so diffused that Season 6 was half-baked at best (although in saying that, it still has the best production values and action sequences of any 24 season to date), had everyone’s full and undivided attention been on that season like the five that preceded it, I have absolutely no doubt that Season 6 would have been triumphant… but at least they learned their lesson and corrected much of the problems with Seasons 7 and 8!

Season 6 is easily the worst season, though season 3 is also quite awful (those prison break episodes were so bad…).

I hated all the supporting cast in season 6, from James Cromwell to Ricky Schroeder (yep, Silver Spoons), and Wayne Palmer as President??! That sucked!

Killing Curtis like that was stupid, and having Jack up and running after spending months being tortured in a Chinese prison was a really terrible way to start the season.

Much of the season was forgettable, but I just remember a complete lack of believability or tension.