Uh-oh. Kiefer Sutherland, the Emmy-winning star of “24” has messed up and will face the same judge that put Paris Hilton on lockdown for 23 days when he is arraigned on two counts of driving under the influence on Oct. 16. Sutherland, who faces up to 18 months in jail if convicted, also has been accused of violating the terms of his probation stemming from a previous DUI conviction in 2004.
That’s an indication to me that Jack Bauer has a bit of a problem.
But when news of Sutherland’s fourth arrest on suspicion of DUI broke last week, no media outlet really made that big a deal out of it. I found that rather curious since it was, well, his fourth DUI dating back to 1989, but I wasn’t really surprised.
For one thing, at 40, Sutherland is kind of past his tabloid prime. News of his latest screw up isn’t going to sell newspapers or increase anyone’s ratings. At this point in his career he’s simply the award-winning actor who plays Jack Bauer; and the guy who was once engaged to Julia Roberts.
It might have been a bigger story if some pesky reporter had uncovered evidence revealing that Sutherland was Roberts’ real baby daddy. But even then, so what? It’s not like they’re Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
But even more telling than all of that is the fact that Sutherland’s pedigreed DNA — he’s the son of respected veteran actor Donald Sutherland — contains the Y chromosome. It seems that men in Hollywood get a plethora of free passes the moment they receive their Screen Actors Guild cards. So even though Sutherland has had multiple encounters with the law, and assaulted an innocent Christmas tree at a London pub during a drunken rage in 2006, somehow it’s OK because he’s a dude. You know, boys will be boys.
Conversely, women in Hollywood are almost always vilified in the press when they screw up. Thanks to the extensive media coverage of Britney Spears, some of us know more about her than we know about members of our immediate families. I can’t remember the last positive thing I’ve read about her. And even though she’s not been busted for DUI, Spears getting a $35 parking ticket is a contemptible offense.
News at 4, 5, 6 and 11.
She’s gone from pop princess to bimbo Betty, thanks in part to all of the negative media coverage. If the media left her alone, she might evolve into someone who was in control of her life. Instead, she’s now considered by some to be a washed up divorcee who now has to attend parenting classes to learn how to rear her kids properly.
Yet, despite having a rap sheet that is now nearly as long as his lithe 5-foot-10 frame, I do find it interesting that no one has been suggesting that Sutherland should be in rehab; there’s been no horrific mug shot of him beamed around the globe; there have been no celebrity reaction bites on the entertainment magazine shows and there haven’t been a slew of celebrity psychologists debating the determining factors leading up to Sutherland’s arrest on the morning news shows.
Therefore, it’s kind of hard to pin that out-of-control party boy label on him.
Plus — and this was basically my reason for not writing him up last week — Sutherland is a very nice guy, but not nearly as exciting to write about as Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight, Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson or even the fiery Danny Bonaduce. They all got some significant press for their various crimes, and all of them — with the exception of Gibson — spent some time behind bars.
I think it’s Sutherland’s turn now.
He’s had his chances. If he gets yet another slap on the wrist — which isn’t that likely with Judge Michael “Star Buster” Sauer — or spends only 82 minutes in Sheriff Lee Baca’s jail due to overcrowding, he’s going to snap back into invincible mode and hit the road again after yet another night on the town.
Eventually, however, Sutherland will run out of his lucky charms and hurt himself or someone else.
Like Jack Bauer, Sutherland’s clock is ticking. He needs to take a time out.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.