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Terrorists have successfully smuggled a nuclear bomb into Los Angeles. The Counter Terrorist Unit of the United States Federal Government has seized the bomb before it is set to go off, but is unable to disarm it. Someone must fly it out into the desert to be detonated with the most minimal damage possible. That man is Jack Bauer.

TV has been blessed. If you haven’t caught Kiefer Sutherland’s small screen debut, tune into Fox on Tuesday nights for the searing drama 24. The show centers on CTU agent Jack Bauer: soldier, friend of the president, widower, father and all around good guy. Set in real time, 24 is the first show of its kind—each hour-long episode depicts a real hour in a danger and conspiracy filled day of the CTU and its governmental affiliates. Now in its second season, 24 has won critical acclaim, as well as Golden Globe and SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) nominations.

For viewers, 24 has much to offer. The “real time” setting is unique and invites intense audience involvement. In order to get the full story, you must watch an entire season: There are no quick fixes, summaries or happy and easy endings. The ensemble cast is as strong as television has ever seen—there are no “weak links” among the actors. And the writing is unbelievable. Weaving plots with infinite subplots, the script never gets dull and remains surprisingly concise and clear for the intricacy of the series.

For those looking for spiritual themes, 24 offers even more. The show deals with complicated issues realistically, and although war, death, treason and violence are included by the nature of the plot, there is no gratuitous sex or foul language, and among several primary characters there exists a definite concern for objective morality. The writers and players are presenting the viewers with an absolute sense of right and wrong.

As the age-old battle between good and evil rages, viewers can be assured that no matter who may “turn coat,” at least Jack Bauer and President David Palmer are vigorously fighting on the side of good. Bauer himself embodies much of what I believe America wishes to recapture: sacrificial bravery, unwavering courage, intelligence balanced by sensitivity, commitment to fatherhood, love for country and responsibility to duty. President David Palmer, an African American, represents the future hopes rooted deep in each American for moral leadership, racial equality and valued honesty.

The show also unknowingly illustrates several biblical principles, from the outward signs of respect for authority that Bauer gives to Palmer (Romans 13:1-7) to the need for and willingness of one to die for many—seen when Bauer volunteers to pilot the plane on which the nuke is to be detonated. 24 is not sugarcoated, G-rated, romantic, simple or always happy, but then neither is life. The show illustrates the complex decisions, competing loyalties and moral choices that we all face everyday. It’s relevant because it reflects current political dangers and social tensions while giving us glimpses of things we can, and should, believe in—providing much more than entertainment to a post-9/11 world.

[Leah Smithey is a graduate student in creative writing at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and co-owner of independent label Vindicated Records.]




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