Clock still tick­ing on an action stal­wart

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

HERE’S a tele­vi­sion trivia tit­bit cour­tesy of Wikipedia: about this time next year, 24 , now in its sev­enth sea­son, will be­come the long­est run­ning es­pi­onage se­ries in TV his­tory, over­tak­ing the orig­i­nal Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble and The Avengers . That sort of snuck up on us, didn’t it?

I’m not sur­prised, though: this Fox net­work se­ries, with su­per spy Jack Bauer ( Kiefer Suther­land) as its im­pla­ca­ble cen­tre, is my favourite hour of TV es­capism. I put Dex­ter and House in the same cat­e­gory, sep­a­rate from big-brained shows such as Mad Men, a bit like Gra­ham Greene di­vided his en­ter­tain­ments from his se­ri­ous nov­els.

Th­ese es­capist en­ter­tain­ments re­quire a sub­stan­tial sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief. It’s un­be­liev­able that Dr Gre­gory House can do what he does and not be fired or that Dex­ter Mor­gan can do what he does and not be fried, Florida still hav­ing work­ing elec­tric chairs.

But Jack Bauer stretches our dis­be­lief to break­ing point. It’s un­be­liev­able, for starters, that he can pre­tend to be work­ing for the bad guys, the ba­sic plot de­vice of the past few sea­sons, without them know­ing that he’s re­ally a good guy. The bad guys have the tech­no­log­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion to eaves­drop on Kim Jong-il’s din­ner par­ties. They have so in­fil­trated the US gov­ern­ment that they know the truth about JFK. Yet no one has told them that Jack’s pulled this bad-guy trick a few times be­fore.

Which is just as well be­cause 24 is ripped from the head­lines we never want to read.

An African strong­man, as­sisted by evil Amer­i­cans, has ob­tained a de­vice that al­lows him to con­trol the US’s in­fra­struc­ture net­work.

He demon­strates its ef­fec­tive­ness

Good and bad: Kiefer Suther­land’s Jack Bauer stretches au­di­ence dis­be­lief by crash­ing two planes out­side the White House.

Chem­i­cal plants and nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties are next, un­less pres­i­dent Al­li­son Tay­lor backs down from plans to in­vade the strong­man’s coun­try to re­store the elected prime min­is­ter.

Work­ing to foil him are Jack and his old col­leagues Tony Almeida ( of course he didn’t die), Bill Buchanan and Chloe O’Brian.

It’s good to have them back. The fact they are pre­tend­ing to be bad guys ( and girls) means they also have to bat­tle the FBI, CIA and other agen­cies, which are rid­dled with real bad guys. Aus­tralia’s Cameron Daddo pops up in a few weeks play­ing the vice-pres­i­dent and I wouldn’t mind bet­ting he’s a bad guy, too.

24 bril­liantly taps the anx­i­eties and un­cer­tain­ties of the post-Septem­ber 11 world. But the show it­self is some­thing we can count on: seven sea­sons in, the action still un­folds in real time, the clock still ticks and it’s still thrilling to watch.

Stephen Romei

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