So what's up? The hyperkinetic world of 24, where good and evil clash, torture is a necessary tool, and terrorist threats are everywhere, is indeed a paean to modern Bushian conservatism. But when the action switches to the Oval Office, hawks are almost universally portrayed as either ideologues who panic at the first sign of trouble or else scheming superpatriots who are desperate to push the United States into unjustified wars as a way of advancing their own mercenary agendas. If Joel Surnow's name weren't attached to the series, you might guess that it had been produced by Michael Moore.
So is 24 liberal or conservative? Schizophrenic, I'd say.
That's about right. The show does pretty much whatever it wants. I remember that after Season Two ended with Jack successfully averting a US military strike against a Middle Eastern country or two that had been implicated by false evidence for involvement in an attempted nuclear bomb detonation in LA, the Objectivist Loon over at the FSM message boards was beside himself because obviously when someone attacks you, you're supposed to go after anyone who might be kinda-sorta simpatico with your attackers but not actually involved with the attack, anyway. How weird.
But after watching last night's episode, I have to wonder why we keep talking about this, anyway. Last night we had the President of the United States in a medically-induced coma, and about two-thirds of the way through the hour (remember, 24's gimmick is that it takes place in 'real time'), he actually crashed. And not only were the doctors able to bring him back from the brink of death, he was actually able to carry on a lucid conversation with his Vice President just minutes later! And remember, back in Season Two, at one point, Jack fell into the grips of the bad guys, who tortured him to the point where he was actually clinically dead -- but of course, he rebounded minutes later to kill them and continue Bauerizing the world. And that's to say nothing of the fact that on 24, nobody ever gets stuck in traffic. In Los Angeles. During a nuclear scare.
As for Jack and the dark deeds he always has to commit (he was ordered by the President to shoot his own commanding agent in the head in Season Three!), I'm starting to think that if they ever decide that a given season's going to be the last season, I hope that all the bad stuff Jack's had to do finally wears him down to the point where he goes over to the dark side and has to be taken out by the next guy. Jack's last words should be "Tell Kim I'm sorry." Nobody could do the things Jack's had to do and not go insane.
I'll close with a complaint: was the assassination attempt on David Palmer that closed out Season Two ever referenced again in any substantive way? I didn't watch Seasons Four or Five, so I don't know, but Season Two ended with an assassin shaking Palmer's hand, and then with Palmer staring at his hand, and finally with Palmer writhing on the ground in agony. But when Season Three started the next fall, the calendar on the show had been moved up eight or nine months, and Palmer was out there Presidentin' his heart out. The only reference to the assassination attempt I recall was a shot of the scar tissue on his hands. WTF? Imagine if Return of the Jedi had opened with the Millennium Falcon and Luke's X-Wing rocketing away from Tatooine, with Han saying, "Hey Luke, thanks for rescuing me!"
Now that I've whined a bit about the lack of realism on 24, I hope you'll excuse me while I pop Thunderball into the DVD player. That's the stuff!