Tuned In

Jack Bauer Moving to the Left?

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Kelsey McNeal/FOX

One of the more interesting bits of strike fallout news: 24 co-creator Joel Surnow is leaving the show to develop new projects. Surnow, students of 24 know, is a rare Hollywood conservative, and the chief point of ire for critics who say the show is a shill for a hard-right, torture-em-all-let-God-sort-em-out view of the War on Terror. This leaves the show in the hands of Howard Gordon, Surnow’s erstwhile partner on the show, and a not-so-rare Hollywood Democrat.

I’ve generally been of the belief that 24 gives equal opportunity to right-wing and left-wing paranoia alike: for every terrorist-protecting ACLU lawyer there’s a dirty oil executive trying to gin up a phony war. And I think that’s not because of anyone’s politics but because it makes good, ridiculous entertainment.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Gordon has been the Colmes to Surnow’s Hannity. How could this shakeup shift the balance of 24’s politics?

Season 7: A mysterious virus has been released, killing Americans by the thousands. Jack Bauer must trace the disease to its source: a pharmaceutical company offering the government a secret deal to end the plague–but only if it abandons its plan for universal health care! Bauer foils the virus outbreak by securing government funding for embryonic stem-cell research in TV’s most thrilling 24-hour lobbying campaign ever.

Season 8: Bauer races across the Los Angeles area to foil a series of attacks on abortion clinics, while also advocating better sex education and the responsible use of contraception. “Damn it, Chloe, you need to use protection! Abortion should be safe, legal–and rare!”

Season 9: Production suspended to conserve energy.

Seasons 10-14: Because torturing suspects is counterproductive and yields false confessions in the real world, Bauer patiently but humanely interrogates a suspect connected to a planned suitcase-nuke attack against the United States. The questioning takes 120 hours and five TV seasons, including mandated meal breaks and eight-hour sleep periods (scheduled during non-sweeps months). But it pays off in the dramatic finale, when it turns out there was no nuclear plot to begin with, and Bauer’s rational handling of the situation and respect for international conventions of due process moderately enhances America’s standing in the Muslim world.