5 on 24, Pt 2: Climate Change

A five-part video essay about the real-time action series
by Aaron Aradillas and Matt Zoller Seitz  posted May 19, 2010
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The May 24 finale of the political-action series 24 marks the end of one of the most stylistically fresh and politically controversial programs in broadcast TV history. The video essay series 5 on 24 examines various aspects of the show, including its real-time structure, its depiction of torture, and the psychology of its hero, counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. To view part 1, click here; part 3, click here; part 4, click here; and part 5, click here.

The following video essay takes place in real time.

In the iconography of American politics, the Democrats, with their belief in empathy and inclusion, and their conviction that government could solve problems, were sometimes referred to as the "Mommy Party."

The Republicans, whose post-Reagan image embraced go-it-alone foreign policy, up-by-your-bootstraps domestic policy, and an overriding conviction that government WAS the problem, were known as the "Daddy Party." 

After 9/11, the Twin Towers and America's confidence lay in ruins.

It was daddy's turn to shine. And George W. Bush, with his swagger and ready-for-prime-time sound bites that came across as homegrown words of wisdom, wanted to be everyone's daddy. And by successfully convincing the public that it was necessary to invade Iraq in order to prevent ANOTHER 9/11, the president found a way to finish what HIS daddy started.

The first successful American network series set in the upper echelons of government was The West Wing. Created by Aaron Sorkin, and set in and around the White House, it was about the mix of political cunning and one-world humanism that characterized eight years of Bill Clinton. But although The West Wing sometimes dealt with national emergencies and constitutional crises, for the most part it was a warm and relaxed program. Part screwball comedy, part psychological drama, and part Frank Capra-style populist fantasy, the show mirrored life in an affluent, isolated First World country.

When 9/11 hit early in The West Wing's third season, the show suffered an identity crisis. Sorkin and his team rallied with "Isaac and Ishmael," a self-contained episode that turned the national debate over how to respond to 9/11 into an earnest morality play. It felt almost like a piece of televised theater time-warped in from the '50s.

The West Wing soldiered on for several more seasons, but it never really got its mojo back. How could it? It was a relic of a vanished era, as irrelevant as plaid shirts and Monica Lewinsky jokes.

The Jack Bauer Power Hour was a different story. 


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San Antonio-based film critic Aaron Aradillas is a contributor to The House Next Door, the founder and publisher of Rockcritics.com and the host of “Back by Midnight,” an Internet radio program about film and television.

More articles by Aaron Aradillas

Matt Zoller Seitz is a writer and filmmaker whose debut feature, the romantic comedy Home, is available through Netflix and Amazon. His writing on film and television has appeared in The New York Times, New York Press, and The Star Ledger, among other places. He is also the founder of The House Next Door, a movie and TV criticism website.

More articles by Matt Zoller Seitz
Author's Website: The House Next Door