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Is 24 still relevant in an Obama-fied nation?



24jackflagface I’m beginning to think Fox’s real-time espionage hit 24 is the best head fake in the history of television.

Case in point: the first scene featuring hero ex-Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer in the network’s two-day, four-hour premiere event kicking off Sunday. Bauer is seated before a Congressional subcommittee, finally called to account for unlawfully torturing suspects during past emergencies, gravely declining a lawyer and browbeating his inquisitor for questioning his methods.

Are we seeing a newly repentant 24, chastened by the public debate over real torture and headlines revealing that flesh-and-blood soldiers used DVDs of the show to develop a method for questioning actual, suspected members of al-Qaida?

Not a chance. Because Kiefer Sutherland’s Bauer is whisked away from his public flogging in minutes, summoned by the FBI to aid in an emergency only he can handle -- in the way that only he has the stomach to endure.

While the FBI dithers over warrants and due process, Bauer wants to torture a suspect to help locate a surprise nemesis; his former CTU partner Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), who seems to be working for terrorists.

24jackbauerposters The ostensible crisis is Almeida’s success in hacking a government firewall protecting air traffic control systems and electric power (if this sounds familiar, it’s because Bruce Willis faced something awfully similar in the last Die Hard movie). But the real crisis here is the debate between sticking with due process and doing whatever it takes to handle an emergency — an argument Bauer wins every time.

As Bauer tracks Almeida, President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is juggling the domestic terrorist threat and unrest in Senegala, a fictional African country. Brandishing a hair helmet worthy of Hillary Clinton herself, Taylor is Bauer in a skirt, berating her secretary of state for resisting military action.

Last year in Los Angeles, 24 director and producer Jon Cassar told me the real reason Bauer tortures suspects on the show: it’s because in a real-time drama they don’t have time to spend long minutes talking out important plot points. So, even though CTU is disbanded and Bauer is facing indictment, in the world of 24 it’s everyone else who doesn’t get what it takes, echoing the show’s constant theme of Bauer as a misunderstood hero.

Which is too bad. In a world where more questions about real-life torture pile up every day, the action in 24 is starting to feel as dated as a Bush/Cheney campaign sign.


[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:54pm]


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