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Composer-Conductor Pierre Boulez At 85

He's been at the forefront of contemporary music and conducting for more than half a century. Marking his 85th birthday this spring, a number of new Boulez CDs and DVDs have been released. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews three of the latest.

07:24

Other segments from the episode on May 24, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 24, 2010: Interview with Howard Gordon; Review of the finale of the television show "Lost"; Review of three recordings by Pierre Boulez.

Transcript

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Counting Down The Final Minutes Of '24'

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting in for
Terry Gross.

For fans of the Fox TV series "24," waiting these final hours for the show's
last episode has been a form of what its hero, Jack Bauer, has been famous for
both enduring and inflicting: torture.

(Soundbite of TV show, "24")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KIEFER SUTHERLAND (Actor): (As Jack Bauer) You people are so stupid. Renee
Walker was no threat to you. Her work was finished. She was done. We were out.
All you had to do was leave us alone. Why couldn't you just leave us alone?

(Soundbite of screaming)

BIANCULLI: That's Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, the counterterrorist agent
whose very long, very bad days are the heart of the action series "24," which
ends its nine-year run tonight on Fox. Today on FRESH AIR, we get ready for the
"24" finale and examine the show's impact and message by talking with executive
producer Howard Gordon.

"24" was created by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. Howard Gordon, who
previously had written and produced for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel" and
"The X-Files," is one of the primary shapers of the show's content and
direction, as is series star Kiefer Sutherland. I spoke with Howard Gordon last
week.

Howard Gordon, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. HOWARD GORDON (Executive Producer, "24"): Thank you very much, David.

BIANCULLI: I'd like to start with last week's episode, and it featured a
terrific, very tense scene in which Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland,
tracks down and abducts former President Charles Logan, played by Gregory
Itzin.

Bauer wants information, as usual, and he's thrown the former president up
against a chain-link fence, kind of wall thing, occasionally punching him to
get it from him. So here's the clip.

(Soundbite of television program, "24")

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) You're going to tell me everything I want to
know.

Mr. GREGORY ITZIN (Actor): (As Charles Logan) Jack, you're making a mistake.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) Are you going to try and pretend you're not a
part of this? I found the man who killed Renee Walker: Brezhnev Repano
Sakharov(ph). I got his cell phone. The last call he got was from you.

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) I know how it looks. You're got to let me
explain.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) Explain what? That you sent him to kill me? You
sent him to kill me, right?

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) Yes, yes, yes.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) Why'd you take out a hit on Renee Walker?

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) I had nothing to do with that. I was brought in
after that happened.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) Who brought you in?

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) President Taylor (unintelligible) being arrested
back to the table. I called my sources in Moscow. They told me that people in
their government were behind Hassan's assassination. I told the Russian
delegation. I had evidence to that fact and the names of everybody involved. It
was just (unintelligible).

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (As Jack Bauer) What evidence?

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) It doesn't exist. I was playing poker. It was a
bluff. It worked. It kept Taylor's peace agreement on the table, but you, you
were determined to screw things up.

Jack, Jack, Jack, no, no, I admit. I admit I was part of the cover-up, but I'm
not part of the Russian conspiracy. I had nothing to with the terrorist attack
or your friend's death. I'm not the bad guy here.

BIANCULLI: That's Gregory Itzin and Kiefer Sutherland from last week's episode.
I love how good a performance Gregory gives in that. I mean, there's so much
exposition he's got to get through, but he keeps ratcheting up the emotional
stuff.

Mr. GORDON: Exposition is really the, that is the exact right word, and he kept
it interesting and kept it, more importantly, comprehensible, obviously in the
midst of that very exigent moment.

BIANCULLI: The reason why I wanted to start with this clip is not only it's
really two of the really wonderful performers from the series just going toe to
toe, literally, but the final point that he makes, you know, I'm not the bad
guy here - this season has had even more than usual a lot of good-guy-bad-guy
flip-flops, including Jack Bauer. And I wanted to start by asking you about
that, if that was an intentional part of the final season.

Mr. GORDON: Very much so. Probably more so than any other season, we had an
idea for this season. And often, in years past, we have aspired to have, you
know, get a good beginning and understand where we're starting and just, as an
act of faith, hope that we'd find our way to the end.

And this year, we had a governing idea from the very beginning, and that was
that Jack would start from a place of a possible happy second chance. For the
first time in a long time, Jack was actually happy. He'd forgiven himself for
the things that he'd done, and - you know, imperfectly, of course, and I think
honoring the complexity and the darkness of his past deeds, he still had
started from a place where, okay, maybe I'll rejoin the human race.

And we added to that a very important relationship in Renee Walker, played by
Annie Wersching. And we knew right away at the very beginning of the year that
they would sort of complete the relationship that they began last year, that
complex relationship that was really more apprentice-mentor than anything else,
but that was always charged with something else and consummate it this year,
and after Jack finally had that chance, take it away in true "24" fashion and
ignite what you're now seeing as the last batch of episodes and taking Jack to
a place that's about as dark as we've ever seen him. And he's been in some
pretty dark places.

BIANCULLI: When you say consummated, it's actually literal. It's the only love
scene I think that Jack Bauer had in the entire series.

Mr. GORDON: That's absolutely true. We had a post-coital moment between he and
Audrey in season four when we introduced her, but that was just putting on the
tie after some period of time. But yes, this was the first time. It was
something we have been looking to do in the most generic way because it seemed
like an interesting real-time thing to be doing, and, of course, that's a whole
other story in terms of how long does it take Jack to do it, and, you know -
anyway.

BIANCULLI: Well, how long did it take you - I mean, there are a dozen executive
producers, it seems, on this series...

Mr. GORDON: Yes.

BIANCULLI: ...including Kiefer Sutherland. So when you're talking about what's
going to happen to that character the next year, there's a big vote in the
room, in the executive producers. I'm wondering how you make the important
decisions with such a sizable democracy, and when and why you decided this
would be the final year for "24."

Mr. GORDON: Well, to answer the first question, there are a lot of people who
are - who have the executive producer title, but mine is really the only one
that counts, frankly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GORDON: It's - I mean, when I say counts, I shouldn't say that. It's a
fairly democratic procedure, but I'd say the democracy is they have 49 percent
of the vote, and I get 51.

BIANCULLI: Okay.

Mr. GORDON: So, generally, when there were real decisions to be made, by and
large, those decisions were consensus ones, I'm happy to report. But
occasionally, of course, there is a deadlock, and you have to keep Monday from
bumping into Tuesday, and then I got to cast that vote.

That said, Kiefer really is the other one who had veto power, I should say, and
his was the last hurdle or the last opinion and really, arguably, the one I was
most interested in. I mean, including my colleagues, including the network and
the studio, Kiefer really was a partner for me, particularly in these very big
moments and in the character's evolution. And it was really because he is - he
was not a titular executive producer. He was a very, very active producer, and
he's a really smart guy, and he understands this character in a way that
sometimes even I didn't.

BIANCULLI: "24" writer and executive producer Howard Gordon, in a conversation
recorded last week. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: I'm speaking with Howard Gordon, writer and executive producer of
the Fox series "24," which ends its nine-year run tonight.

The thing about this season, as it's getting to the end, is that Jack, because
he's so traumatized by what happened to Renee, the FBI agent with whom he had
recently fallen in love, that he's on this revenge quest that's really dark. I
mean, even by "24" standards, what he's doing and what's being shown on
television is pretty surprising.

Here's the way President Logan's assistant, speaking by phone to his boss,
describes Jack Bauer's recent behavior. Reed Diamond plays the assistant, Jason
Pillar, and Gregory Itzin once again plays the former President Logan.

(Soundbite of television program, "24")

Mr. REED DIAMOND (Actor): (As Jason Pillar) The story's going to come out.

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) No, not necessarily. We still might be able to
manage this.

Mr. DIAMOND: (As Jason Pillar) Look, sir, I know you've told me that you're
committed to seeing this through, but you can still extricate yourself from
this mess. There's no evidence of your involvement yet. You can still delay the
press announcement.

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) It's too late for that, Jason. The White House
press secretary just announced my role in the peace process. There is no
turning back.

Mr. DIAMOND: (As Jason Pillar) Then there's something else you should know.
Bauer didn't just kill Pavel. He butchered him. He beat him savagely, and then
he eviscerated him. I don't think Bauer's just looking to expose the Russians'
involvement in the plot against Hassan. This guy's out for blood.

Mr. ITZIN: (As Charles Logan) Then you'd better find him and stop him, hadn't
you?

Mr. DIAMOND: (As Jason Pillar) Yes, Sir.

BIANCULLI: That's Reed Diamond and Gregory Itzin in a scene from last week's
"24." I think about "The Sopranos," you know, that first-season episode where
Tony was on a college visitation field trip with his daughter and found a stool
pigeon and killed him, and as viewers, we were all meant to go whoa, you know,
I'm rooting for this guy?

Mr. GORDON: Right.

BIANCULLI: And I'm wondering if that's the intent with these final hours of
"24," that we've rooted for Jack this entire time, but is he going too far? I
mean, or are we supposed to ask that question?

Mr. GORDON: That's a great, great question. This was a source of tremendous,
tremendous debate on the staff. It was interesting because there was no clear
consensus as we went down this particular path. There's obviously a lot of
complex feelings about it.

On one hand, is Jack justified? But, of course, the way he's prosecuting this
is clearly brutal and violent and in the red zone of some, you know, moral
gauge.

And I think it's important to look at - I'll tell you, anyway, the way we
justify it or what we meant to do. I think we meant to be confused and
conflicted about this character - who, by the way, has been a hero who, you
know, has generated some controversy and who, as the years have gone on, has
gotten progressively darker and progressively more complex in terms of his, you
know, morality and architecture.

And I think here, his moral compass is - there's a question. There is a
question, and that really is - and you have to look at this other - at what
really has brought him to this moment. It's not merely Renee's murder. It's the
fact that this other pillar of justice, Allison Taylor, the president, who even
had her own daughter...

BIANCULLI: Played by Cherry Jones, whose performance is - yeah, wow.

Mr. GORDON: Magnificent. I mean, she is - we are so blessed with these
phenomenal actors, and that really is one of the great treats, to see Greg
Itzin and Cherry Jones and Kiefer Sutherland play together.

But, in this case, Cherry Jones, Allison Taylor, for reasons that I think we
have earned, has come to this moment, this peace agreement, which she believes
is a greater good and for which she is able to suppress justice. And the
collateral damage of that justice happens to be Jack's beloved, and it's really
the deprivation of that chance.

I believe had Jack - I think we all believe - had Jack been given proper
recourse, had President Taylor, in that moment, come to what was the right
choice, come clean, let the public, let the world know what's happened, and
this peace will happen in its time. When this beacon, this pillar of law and
order of the rule of law betrays Jack, all bets are off.

BIANCULLI: Now, these questions bring to mind years and years now, "24" has
been at the center of a media debate on torture, and even more so as the
government struggled to define it, and it became a political issue and an
election issue.

And for a while, there were some people that were saying that "24" was actually
more conservative rather than more liberal, and you've got all of these things
going on throughout the series.

If you're having these debates among your own staffers and your own producers
and writers about how to go and how far to go, what does that say about how the
show itself has struggled to deal with this question over the years?

Mr. GORDON: Well, I will say for one thing, we have struggled. To say that we
haven't or that we have been some de facto or mouthpiece for some political
point of view is - I mean, it's not only specious, it's - I mean, I promise
you, it is insane. And any fly on the wall or anyone who's been there would
tell you the same.

So, I mean, look, the show is a show for one thing. It is a - it's a thriller
in the vein of, you know, "The Bourne Identity" or "Rambo" or "Dirty Harry."
And, you know, and the hero finds the bad guy and shakes out of him where the
bomb is. And again, the real-time scenario lent itself in particular to that.

And frankly, for the first five years, no one - I don't think you could find a
single article or op-ed piece that used the word torture or that even described
that this was somehow morally repugnant or corrosive or anything.

I think what happened was Abu Ghraib happened and Guantanamo happened. I think
the show certain benefited from some kind of post-9/11 wish fulfillment. You
had a guy who cut to the chase, who did whatever was necessary, and there was
some, you know, some - again, wish fulfillment involved. I do think that the
show experienced some of the blowback.

Obviously, we were being watched and listened to, and I don't think you can
stick your head in the sand and say we're just a TV show, get over it. We did
understand that the climate had changed, that the issue - because of Guantanamo
and Abu Ghraib - changed.

The world had changed since the show first began, and it put us into a
conundrum, honestly. At the end of season six, where Jack had been acting a
certain way, we had a choice where either we renounce the series as having - we
admit we're a bunch of torture-mongering, morally corrosive torture
pornographers, or we find a way of confronting this issue and this changed
world that we're in. And, in a strange way, it gave us fodder for the seventh
season, where Jack actually is on trial for many of the same things that the
show itself seemed to stand trial for.

And we created the character of Allison Taylor specifically as a pollster, as
someone who was a thoughtful, credible, strong and unwavering - had a strong
point of view about this very thing, torture, and under no circumstances does
she ever allow it - up to and including allowing it as a way of preempting what
turned out to be an attack on the White House itself.

BIANCULLI: Did you go to get any advice from interrogation experts early on?

Mr. GORDON: We didn't seek any advice, but advice was offered to us after the
torture issue became an issue. In subsequent seasons, we did sit down with a
number of people who were - you know, I can't remember their names, but one of
them was the person whose investigation and interrogation led to the arrest of
Saddam Hussein.

We did talk to some interrogators, again, in the aftermath of the controversy.
We sat down with some real interrogators from the military, and they gave us
scenarios which were, you know, effective interrogation techniques.

The problem with them, as dramatically interesting as they were, is that they
occurred in real life over the course of days and weeks, and they were trust-
building and psychological, you know, things.

BIANCULLI: Right. Mm-hmm.

Mr. GORDON: And that's where, once again, we were hamstrung by the notion of
real time. Jack has to get on with it. He doesn't have that luxury. And we,
unfortunately, didn't either, to use some of those scenarios that the
interrogators provided us.

BIANCULLI: Do you think that that dramatic need actually may have influenced
the way some viewers thought about torture or its effectiveness?

Mr. GORDON: I certainly hope not. I really do. And I really have to say I give
credit to our fans and to anybody who watches the show to effectively
distinguish between reality and a television show. And any efforts we could
make to disabuse those people who might conflate reality with, you know, this
television show, I hope we made - and any opportunity to say that, we did. This
is - and so did Kiefer. This is a television show.

So I think for anybody to confuse that with how things might be done - up to
and including the people in the field. I mean, one of the contentions by some
people was that we were affecting people in the field. And my response was,
then, if that's the case, let's disabuse them. Let's become part of their
training. And I actually participated in a West Point training film and a
documentary called "Primetime Torture" with Human Rights First.

So I hope that that - the few people who may have been influenced and took "24"
as some kind of primer - which I, you know, I find really questionable. It's
one of those things where I think it's an age-old debate: Does movie violence
beget real-life violence? I know there is a correlation, and I hope that - I
hope it hasn't, is really the short answer to the question.

BIANCULLI: Well, you know, when you have the torture issue, which changes as
news comes in from Guantanamo and everywhere else, the other thing you have
with "24" is sometimes you're ahead of the curve. And this goes back to I
remember seeing the series pilot before it was on the air, and there was a
scene in the pilot in which a terrorist, you know, parachutes out of a
passenger airline, leaves a bomb behind. It gets detonated, and this is just a
couple of months before 9/11.

And what do you remember about the reaction then both at the network and in
your own inner circle? I know that you edited the explosion scene.

Mr. GORDON: Right. The plane exploded more graphically on camera, and we - I
think we eliminated that cut entirely, and it played a lot more, you know,
indirectly. But I think the conventional wisdom then was - aside from obviously
being stunned, as everybody else in the world was and everyone in this country
- was that this was not - it was not a show that would play well in the
aftermath of that, those terrible events, and that in fact, you know, the
conventional wisdom was then the networks would respond with comedies and blue-
sky shows.

And it turned out to be quite the opposite, that the show wound up having a
unique kind of resonance and relevance because of what had happened, and that
caught us all by surprise.

But certainly, in the immediate aftermath, we thought wow, we're done. You
know, this will never - I mean, maybe they'll air it, but people won't want to
see it.

BIANCULLI: "24" executive producer and writer Howard Gordon. The final two
hours of "24" are showing tonight on Fox. We'll continue our conversation in
the second half of the show. I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m David Bianculli, FRESH AIR’s TV critic, in for Terry
Gross.

We're talking with Howard Gordon, writer and executive producer of the Fox
series "24," which ends its nine year run tonight with a two hour series
finale.

Before we pick up our conversation, let’s listen to a pair of quick clips from
the show's second season, featuring some of its memorable characters. These
include Nina Myers played by Sarah Clarke, who had killed Jack Bauer’s wife the
season before, and President David Palmer played by Dennis Haysbert, whose
assassination attempt Jack had foiled.

In season two, the new threat was a nuclear device hidden somewhere in Los
Angeles. And Nina Myers, who knows where it’s hidden, has Jack Bauer at
gunpoint as she calls the White House to broker a very unusual deal.

(Soundbite of TV series, "24")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JUDE CICCOLELLA (Actor): (as Mike Novick) Miss Myer, Mike Novick. I'm the
president’s chief of staff.

Ms. SARAH CLARKE (Actress): (as Nina Myers) I asked to speak with the
president.

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) He’s not available.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) Do you want to stop this nuclear bomb or not?

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) Of course we do.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) Then put the president on.

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) I'm authorized to negotiate on his behalf.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) What I want is non-negotiable.

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) What do you want?

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) I’ll tell you where the bomb is in exchange for
immunity.

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) The president’s already granted you a total
pardon.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) But, this is a crime I haven't committed yet.

Mr. CICCOLELLA: (as Mike Novick) What crime?

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) The murder of Jack Bauer.

BIANCULLI: After a quick consultation with the team at CTU, President Palmer
gets on the phone with Jack Bauer still at gunpoint but listening on speaker
phone.

(Soundbite of TV series, "24")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DENNIS HAYSBERT (Actor): (as President David Palmer) Miss Myers, this is
President Palmer.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) I'm listening.

Mr. HAYSBERT: (as President David Palmer) Is Jack Bauer there?

Mr. KIEFER SUTHERLAND (Actor): (as Jack Bauer) Yes, Mr. President, I'm here
too.

Mr. HAYSBERT: (as President David Palmer) Miss Myers, if the information you
provide culminates in the successful interception of the nuclear device, you
will get everything you asked for. You'll be pardoned, in advance, for the
murder of Jack Bauer.

Ms. CLARKE: (as Nina Myers) I can live with that.

Mr. SUTHERLAND: (as Jack Bauer) Start talking, Nina.

BIANCULLI: I asked Howard Gordon about the character of President Palmer, who,
for a show so rooted in minute by minute real time, certainly seemed to be
ahead of his time.

Another thing that seems very prescient about that initial season was you cast
Dennis Haysbert as black president of the United States, President Palmer. So
how influential do you think that was - truly?

Mr. GORDON: Well, truly I think, you know, the only one who deserves credit for
Barack Obama's election is Barack Obama. But what I do think is that what it
represented – and this is Joel and Bob, you know, I was not on the pilot so I
have to, you know, really, you know, I can compliment their great choice in
Dennis and in choosing to have a black president rather than just another white
guy with silver hair, to me represented what was wonderful and uniquely
American about, you know, the sort of best of America. That America that
condones slavery as recently as a century and a quarter ago was able to have a
black man at its helm at the chief executive position. That, to me, made him a
more valuable target to protect. And do I think it – honestly, I think we
deserve as much credit for Barack Obama as we do blame for Guantanamo on Abu
Ghraib. So that’s kind of my...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GORDON: I think it certainly didn’t, it probably couldn’t have hurt to put
it out there and to create a character who was so credible and so beloved. And,
you know, again having gone in public many places with Dennis Haysbert, I know
he’s actually been enlisted to run in real life for any number of political
offices and I think he won the seat for Allstate.

BIANCULLI: This is a couple of seasons later. We have a different president but
it actually links back to President Palmer and this is a scene when the
Secretary of Defense, James Heller who’s played by William Devane, another
great actor you pulled in there...

Mr. GORDON: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: ...claims to have heard a tape that implicates President Charles
Logan, Gregory – and you can tell I love his performance.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: In the assassination of former President Palmer and he comes to
confront Logan about his crimes. And these crimes also involve collusion with
petroleum interest in Central Asia and another.

Mr. GORDON: (Unintelligible). I know.

BIANCULLI: Yeah, but it’s another prescient plot line, you know, about rising
oil prices and it just amazes me to go back a couple of years after these shows
were on the air and see what’s in them now. So here’s President Logan when he
was president being challenged by the Secretary of Defense James Heller.

(Soundbite of movie "24")

Mr. GREGORY ITZIN (Actor): (as President Charles Logan) I hope this was
important.

Mr. WILLIAM DEVANE (Actor): (as James Heller) I know what you did. I know what
you’re doing and I'm here to put an end to it.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) You have to be a little more specific.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) You are responsible for the murder of David
Palmer.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) That's outrageous.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) I heard a recording. A conversation between you
and a man named Christopher Henderson. When Palmer found out about your insane
plan, Henderson had him killed and you let it happen.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) Where is this recording?

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) It’s in a safe place.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) I would like to hear it.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) Why? You know exactly what you said and so do I.
It’s burnt into my memory.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) How dare you stand there and judge me.
You have no idea. Until you sit in my chair, you don’t know what the hell
you’re talking about.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) Your chair is not a throne, Charles.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) I'm protecting the interests of our
country.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) You mean oil.

Mr. ITZIN: (as President Charles Logan) Yes. Yes. This country needs energy
more than you or anybody in this gridlocked government cares to admit. We’ll
see how you judge me when the cost of oil goes up over $100 a barrel and the
people who put me in office can't afford to heat their homes or run their cars.

Mr. DEVANE: (as James Heller) And you think that justifies the blood on your
hands?

BIANCULLI: That’s William Devane and Greggory Itzin in a previous season of
"24."

These things really hold up really well on the radio, don’t they?

Mr. GORDON: They really do.

BIANCULLI: The structure of "24" - it didn’t really have to revolve around the
White House, certainly not to the extent that it does season after season. But
you’ve clearly made that choice and you’re interested in power at that level.
Why?

Mr. GORDON: You know, it’s one of the tropes of the thriller. I think for one
thing, the real time aspect required cutaways, so we knew we needed other
stories to be happening. And by the third season, when Secretary Heller
actually it was the first time we didn’t start at the White House. We had a
secretary of defense and his daughter, who was Jack’s romantic interest, we
were very scrupulously saying we're done with the presidency, how we really
can't do this and Secretary Heller was the proxy or was as high as we went for
a time before we went back to President Palmer came in to help President Logan,
if you’ll recall. That’s where we re-launched that character. So it came very
very challenging and we were concerned about it, frankly.

But every time we would try - and again, I tell you, we gave it a really strong
try to... We looked at city government, we looked at purely staying away from
it. But the stakes always morphed into these - because of the nature of the
threats and the real time threats, we just found ourselves going there. And
that included this year. President Taylor really was going to be a supporting
part where we tried to make it unique to the UN.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GORDON: And then you'll find there’s a reason why in most every thriller,
whether it’s Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn, you'll find that the president is
involved. The trick is actually keeping it fresh and trying to find new stories
and territory that you haven't mined before. But it’s like Shakespeare did, you
know, lots of kings and princes for the similar reasons, because the stakes are
so large.

BIANCULLI: Can you talk about the elastic logistics as you are writing this? I
mean, if I understand it, most seasons are sort of written in thirds and you
take a big breath and then you...

Mr. GORDON: You know, that's sort of a yeah, the elastic is right. I would call
it more of an improvisation. Again, the nature of the show is that we shot 24
episodes a year, unlike say, "Sopranos" or some of the other cable shows that
are lucky enough to have to do 10 or 12; we have to do 24 of them. So we would
finish typically a season at the end of May and we would be in preproduction by
the middle of June. And so that it’s sort of an impossible task frankly,
especially for serialized drama. You cannot possibly map out 24 episodes in any
detail. And you needed to keep it, as you say, elastic because sometimes a
story – we would think here’s an idea and that'll be maybe somewhere mid-season
and it turned out to be episode two.

So it was this really kind of mosaic accretion of stories that, you know, we
would tell as a group and that, I think is what gave it some of its energy, the
not knowing where we were going with the show, painting ourselves into corners
and demanding ingenious and sometimes absurd, admittedly, solutions to those
difficult problems like amnesia or, you know, a cougar in the woods. But
sometimes it was just what you had to do to keep one hour from bumping into the
next. But we did have a motto very early on, that Joel and Bob coined which was
not good, never boring and that we tried to live...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GORDON: ...and die by that particular motto.

BIANCULLI: Well, I always wondered why you didn’t end - go to a commercial
break just at one point. You had so many years to do this where Jack Bauer on
the way to somewhere, you know, some sense of urgency again where you'll say
okay, just a second, and go into the bathroom and the camera would stay behind
outside the door. You just have a few seconds where nothing happened and then
you would hear ka-ching(ph), ka-ching and go to commercial. I mean...

Mr. GORDON: That film exists. It does exist. We did shoot it. We did try it.
It...

BIANCULLI: Really?

Mr. GORDON: Yeah. Yeah. Because it was a question that was asked so often: why
doesn’t Jack eat? And why doesn’t he pee?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GORDON: And I always said he does. He just it when you’re not looking or
while we're off on some presidential storyline or during the commercial like
the rest of us. I don’t know. I'd love to unearth it somewhere. I'm sure
someone has it somewhere.

BIANCULLI: Howard Gordon, thanks so much for being on FRESH AIR.

Mr. GORDON: Well, thank you so much for having me.

BIANCULLI: Howard Gordon, writer and executive producer of the Fox series "24."
Tonight the show presents its final two episodes of the season and the series.

Coming up, I review a series that ended its run last night. ABC’s "Lost."

This is FRESH AIR.

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In 'Lost' Finale, A Graceful Farewell

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

And now, we shift focus to another long-running series with a much discussed
much publicized finale, ABC’s "Lost." But that show’s finale was last night so
we can discuss it in the past tense.

The smartest thing the producers of ABC's "Lost" did, other than generating
such an interesting show and series pilot in the first place, was to decide, a
few years ago, to end the series in May 2010. That simple yet bold decision
allowed the writers to pace, to focus on what was important, to make the most
meaningful use of the time they had left.

On the one hand, all that did was turn "Lost" from an ambitious weekly TV
series into an even more ambitious mega-TV miniseries. On the other hand, it
also turned the TV series into a metaphor for its central message, and for the
journey of its "Lost" protagonist. For the show's writers, for us viewers, and
for Jack Shephard, the lesson was the same: It's a temporary journey, so enjoy
the ride — and embrace each other.

Instead of giving us one ending, writer-producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton
Cuse gave us two, one for each alternate storyline. This is where, if you
weren't following the show, or even if you were, you could easily get lost with
"Lost." But basically, this past season had us watching two stories at once.

On one, our heroes were on the island, fighting to return home and also
fighting the island's evil force, who had taken the shape of one of their own.
And in the other storyline, seemingly triggered by a nuclear event on the
island, the ill-fated Oceanic passenger jet had never crashed on the island,
and we saw what the passengers' lives would have been like without the crash,
or the island. Except that their lives were different somehow, and so were the
details.

Enough of that. You either buy into it or you don't. In the expanded two and a
half hour finale, all the people in that alternate existence eventually found
one another, giving viewers the satisfaction of one mini-reunion after another.
Off the island, without the island, these people touched each other — often
literally — and their memories of the island came flooding back to them. So did
a feeling of peace.

The last person it happened to was Jack, who got that rush of memory when he
touched his father's coffin — the coffin he had transported back from
Australia. Jack, played by Matthew Fox, opened the lid, and the coffin was
empty. But suddenly, next to him, stood his father, played by John Terry, and
the biggest question posed by "Lost" was answered.

(Soundbite of TV series "Lost")

Mr. MATTHEW FOX (Actor): (as Dr. Jack Shephard) I don’t understand. You died.

Mr. JOHN TERRY (Actor): (as Dr. Christian Shephard) Yeah. Yes I did.

Mr. FOX: (as Dr. Jack Shephard) Then how are you here right now?

Mr. TERRY: (as Dr. Christian Shephard) How are you here?

(Soundbite of music) Mr. FOX: (as Dr. Jack Shephard) I died too?

BIANCULLI: And then we got those two endings, played out simultaneously.

One ending — the one back on the island, where Jack had restored the life force
to the island but was losing his own — was purely visual. It echoed, in
reverse, the powerful opening of the series, returning Jack to the bamboo field
where he had first regained consciousness after the plane crash. "Lost" the
series had begun with a close-up shot of Jack's eyeball opening. Its final
image, last night, was of that same eye closing as Jack died, having
accomplished his mission and found his purpose.

But the other ending of "Lost" was purely verbal, returning to one of the
show's most resonant and recurrent themes — father-son issues. When Jack's dead
dad emerged from that coffin, he explained that it wasn't an alternate timeline
at all, but a timeless line, a limbo, a gathering place. And Jack's death in
the real world, on the island, enabled the eventual happy reunion of everyone
off the island.

Yes, it was a little Twilight Zone-y. And as series finales go, the ending of
"Lost" was not as outrageous as "St. Elsewhere," as defiantly open-ended as the
one for "The Sopranos," as aggressively complete as "Six Feet Under" or as
utterly perfect as "Newhart."

But its two endings, together, were very satisfying — and the final advice from
Jack's dad to Jack should be remembered in the context of watching television,
too.

(Soundbite of TV series "Lost")

Mr. TERRY: (as Dr. Christian Shephard) The most important part of your life was
the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here.
Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.

Mr. FOX: (as Dr. Jack Shephard) For what?

Mr. TERRY: (as Dr. Christian Shephard) To remember, and to let go.

BIANCULLI: Exactly. Remember "Lost," because its type is not returning to TV
anytime soon, if at all. But also, as the father figure says, let go. Don't
nitpick over the missing details, the forgotten Walts, the unexplained polar
bears. Just say so long, and thanks for all the fish. Or maybe, just thanks.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews some CD and
DVD packages noting the 85th of composer and director Pierre Boulez.

This is FRESH AIR.

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Composer-Conductor Pierre Boulez At 85

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Composer and director Pierre Boulez has been a hero of the avant-garde for more
than half a century. To celebrate his 85th birthday this year, a number of new
CDs and DVDs have been released that include at least one major piece of music
Boulez has never recorded commercially. These releases make our classical music
critic Lloyd Schwartz very happy.

(Soundbite of song, "Symphony in Three Movements")

LLOYD SCHWARTZ: That’s the chilling opening of "Symphony in Three Movements," a
piece Stravinsky composed for the New York Philharmonic during World War II,
which he referred to as his War Symphony. It’s pounding, biting rhythms echo
his notorious pre-World War I ballet, "The Rite of Spring."

SCHWARTZ: The most celebrated conductor of Stravinsky's music, after Stravinsky
himself, some people would say even ahead of Stravinsky is Pierre Boulez whose
latest Stravinsky recording, one of his best is a live performance with the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra released on CSO Resound, the orchestra's own label.
The CD also includes Stravinsky's complete "Pulcinella," not just the
abbreviated Suite, which leaves out the charming, sexy songs. Stravinsky
composed this scintillating commedia dell'arte ballet for Diaghilev's Ballets
Russes.

Stravinsky himself regarded "Pulcinella" as his first neo-classical work, both
his discovery of the past, and his transformation of it. He boldly took – stole
- themes he thought were all by the 18th-century Italian composer Pergolesi,
though it turned out some of them were actually by a number of other minor
composers. But even though the tunes themselves aren't by Stravinsky, his
syncopated rhythms and dazzling, even hilarious combinations of instruments
make "Pulcinella" one of his most original, most modern, most 'Stravinskyan'
scores. And in the hands of Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, one of his most
sparkling.

(Soundbite of song, "Pulcinella")

On a new DVD, "Inheriting the Future of Music," you can watch Boulez working on
Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" with young conductors and players at the Lucerne
Festival Academy in Switzerland. They adore him because he doesn't condescend
to them. And not a note escapes his attention.

Mr. PIERRE BOULEZ (Conductor): One, two, three four. One-two.

(Soundbite of clapped hands)

Mr. BOULEZ: Two, three, four. And then...

What do you want here, Otto? I stop now, you know, because you’re not that’s
not the feeling too... What you want? Not the Mozart piano. On the first
(unintelligible) you have the small accent.

OTTO: Yeah.

Mr. BOULEZ: Tah(ph), and then you have to show it because that’s one, two,
three, one, pah(ph). You know?

OTTO: Yeah. And what suggestion did you have?

Mr. BOULEZ: Every detail is that important. Because suddenly, your pah, pah,
pah, pah. Some they are repeating and then suddenly suspended, tah.

OTTO: Yeah.

Mr. BOULEZ: And nobody moves, only the woodwinds.

OTTO: I was yeah, suspended but not accent.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOULEZ: What? Suspended what you want but I mean I want the accent...

OTTO: Accent. Yeah.

Mr. BOULEZ: ...and then the chord, you know?

OTTO: Yeah.

Mr. BOULEZ: Okay.

SCHWARTZ: I wish every conductor would take Boulez’s advice about finding
gestures that convey musical information without being either excessive or too
recessive.

The new Boulez recording I'm most excited about is a live performance from 1996
of music he isn't generally associated with, and if you didn't know it was
Boulez, you might guess some conductor born in Vienna. It's Haydn’s last
symphony, number 104, called the "London" because that’s where it was
commissioned and written and the orchestra is the Vienna Philharmonic.

Boulez is famous for his amazing ear. He lets you hear every detail. But there
are two other Boulez qualities he isn't often given credit for. One is his
innate and effortless sense of the right style. This symphony for a change
actually sounds Viennese. The other is size. Too many Haydn performances seem
small-scale, miniature and tinkly. But Boulez really conveys the grandeur as
well as the delicacy of Haydn's magnificent conception.

(Soundbite of symphony, "London")

SCHWARTZ: At 85, and not for the first time, Boulez has announced that he would
be cutting back on conducting to devote more time to composing. Of course, we
want to hear more of his own music. But since he's the most insightful and
incisive conductor now alive, how can our reaction to this decision not be
bitter-sweet?

BIANCULLI: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where he is this
year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

Congratulation, Lloyd.

He reviewed CDs and DVDs featuring Pierre Boulez released in celebration of his
85th birthday.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair.
And you can download Podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org.

For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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