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It's black and white on Fox's two-hour '24: Redemption'

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.

TiVo

The Shield series finale, 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX: It's the question that has hung over this violent urban fairy tale for seven seasons: What finally happens to brutal-yet-principled supercop Vic Mackey? He's already alienated from most everyone in his life — his wife is secretly working with the cops to bust him, his protege tried to kill him and his boss wants him behind bars for life. That the show's creators wrap up his story in a satisfying and unexpected series finale — and star Michael Chiklis somehow makes you care about a guy who last week admitted a litany of crimes to make Capone blush — is a final, fitting tribute.

Ti-NO

A Colbert Christmas, 10 tonight, Comedy Central: Yes, this review has the right headline. Despite helming one of the coolest news satires on the planet, The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert couldn't quite make this Christmas special satire shine. It's not just the nonsensical plot twists or uncomfortable cameos by Toby Keith, Elvis Costello and John Legend. It's that Colbert strays a bit too far from the blowhard conservative pundit character we love to loathe.

the list

America Online tallied more than 600,000 votes on AOL TV users' thoughts about the fall season. Some of the biggest totals:

52% cited CSI as their favorite returning show.

37% cited The Mentalist as their fave new show.

30% said NBC's Knight Rider was the most disappointing new show.

37% hated Desperate Housewives' five-year jump.

49% used the writers strike to discover new cable shows.

54% thought

30 Rock's Tina Fey was the season's most buzzworthy star.

62% thought Saturday Night Live covered the election best.

the site

TV and literacy may not seem like a natural combination, but PBS has developed a host of online games and activities around popular shows such as Sesame Street and Between the Lions to teach kids to read. Adults are encouraged to join their kids or students at readytolearnreading.org, where they can learn rhyming words with Grover or letters with Elmo.

It's black and white on Fox's two-hour '24: Redemption' 11/22/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 22, 2008 10:22pm]

    

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