The Fox series 24 debuted on Nov. 6, 2001, weeks after the worst foreign attack on American soil. In the eight years since then, its fictional forecast of endless terrorism in this country has been a lightning rod for controversy and a source of inspiration for those who championed the fight against the "axis of evil."
Fox's cancellation of 24, announced on Friday and effective with the series finale on May 24, ends a signal moment in the national teleculture when fiction and reality fused in the fall of 2001. ...
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Fox show blazed fresh stylistic trails. Its real-time structure, with each episode documenting one hour in the life of national crisis, was joined with split-screen views, a noisy on-screen digital clock, and a relentless tension and foreboding. These signature touches (as well as characters with complexity and depth, people we actually care about) eventually made 24 the longest-running espionage-based series in television history.
The autumn of 2001 was thick with shows that anticipated the gathering storm of terrorism we live through today. Besides 24, other shows making their debut -- ABC's Alias, CBS's The Agency and NBC's UC: Undercover -- were the canaries in a cultural coalmine, transmitting the new national anxiety about our friends and enemies, foreign and domestic, and how each could trade places in a geopolitical eyeblink.
The Wen Ho Lee and Robert Hanssen espionage cases, the anthrax attacks, would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid and bureaucratic infighting at the FBI were all real-life examples of what 24 tapped into so effectively: the predictable unpredictability of life in an age of terrorism.
Since 2001, of course, other TV series have addressed our nervous Zeitgeist, from the lighthearted (NBC's Chuck) to the deadly serious (CBS's The Unit). But Fox's 24 remains the long-distance runner, the template for national-insecurity-as-prime-time-entertainment in the post-9/11 world. ...
Read the rest at TheGrio.com
Image credits: '24' intertitle card: Fox. New York skyline, 9/11/01: National Park Service (public domain).