Terror Vision

24 was the Big Bang moment in the current boom in telly-terror because of its revolutionary real-time format, its claustrophobic obsession with conspiracy and betrayal within the American political and security establishments, and, most conspicuously, for its timing. The first series began airing on the American Fox network in November 2001, only two months after 9/11, though obviously the planning and writing had begun long before. Now gearing up for a sixth season for the start of next year and with a spin-off feature film in prospect, 24 rescued Kiefer Sutherland from a twilight zone of bad movies and obscure TV guest appearances, and possibly triggered the trend towards making television a respectable home for movie actors.

Equally significantly, 24 set a tone President Bush might admire – terrorism is the deadliest enemy, and no weapon will be left unused in combatting it. Its makers have made no bones about their hawkish sympathies, with co-creator Joel Surnow happy to admit to 24’s conservative leanings. When the Council of American-Islamic Relations became alarmed by what it considered a negative portrayal of Muslims, Kiefer Sutherland responded by appearing in placatory public service announcements, but Surnow has refused to blunt the show’s ruthless edge.

“For it to have any believability and resonance, we had to deal with the world we’re living in, and the terrorists are the jihadists,” he says. “It wouldn’t feel realistic if you did anything else.”

For Sutherland’s Jack Bauer and his fellow agents, there’s never any question of civil liberties or other liberal wimpishness taking precedence over the urgency of their mission. When Bauer’s Counter Terrorist Unit planned to torture suspects to extract details about a threatened nuclear attack on the US, the chief terrorist called an outfit called Amnesty Global (having presciently stored their number as a speed-dial on his phone), and, to Bauer’s disgust, they wheeled out a human rights lawyer to stall the ongoing atrocities.

For Surnow, there’s no question that torture can be a legitimate counter-terrorism tool. “If there’s a bomb about to hit a major US city and you have a person with information… if you don’t torture that person, that would be one of the most immoral acts you could imagine,” he argues. CTU do at least dispense torture even-handedly, since they’ll happily torture their own agents if they suspect they may be leaking intelligence to the enemy …

That’s a quote from an intelligent look at 9/11’s impact upon the output of Hollywood as well as the british TV channels. Free from series six spoilers.

source : news.independent.co.uk

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