There may be no TV series that brings me greater emotional agita than Fox's real-time adventure series on steroids, 24.
On the surface, it's an action-packed program that wraps all our modern-day anxieties — terrorism, out of control governments — into one compelling ball of drama. Toss in the depiction of a black president six years before Barack Obama's election, and I'm sold.
But the subtext for so much of 24 is seriously troubling. Viewers see hero agent Jack Bauer using torture effectively and unilaterally, sidestepping little things like due process to address a pressing crisis. Those who insist on following laws and granting rights are shown as hypocrites or, worse, ineffective wimps.
No wonder some of the real-life troops who used "stress positions" on suspected terrorists turned out to be using 24 DVDs as if they were training manuals; sometimes the show felt like a Bizarro World take on our actual military policy.
So when evaluating the new two-hour 24 movie, Redemption (airing at 8 tonight on WTVT- Ch. 13), I'm seriously conflicted.
The story opens on Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, in typical hangdog, tortured hero mode), working at a school for boys maintained by an old military buddy in Africa. In minutes, the villains surface; brutal rebel warlords seeking to conscript the school's students as cannon fodder for their conflict.
We 24 fans know that, in short order, several things will happen: Bauer will defend the boys, lots of bad guys and a few good guys will die, and it all will feel way too intense for two hours' time.
Unfortunately, the Africans here get two shades; ruthless warlords and helpless victims. Even the guy running the school is British (adding to the show's occasional right wing tilt, a French U.N. worker is also shown as a craven, traitorous "surrender monkey"-style coward). Couldn't one righteous African be shown taking a stand?
Told in real time, the film has expansive visuals shot on location and a statesmanlike Cherry Jones as the first female president. (Looks like we'll wait several more years for that in real life too.) Jon Voight does everything but twirl a mustache as the villainous, suit-wearing mastermind.
When the dust settles, 24: Redemption is a satisfying if predictable set-up to next year's strike-delayed season of 24, where Jack will finally face trial for his methods. Maybe then we'll see a repudiation of the onscreen methods that brought us so much shame in real life.