The Legacy Of 24

Hampton Stevens takes stock of the show that just ended its eighth and final season:

24 is the most influential TV drama of all time. There isn't even a close second. No other seriesnot The Sopranos, The Wire, Hill Street Blues, or ER, has had a tenth of the cultural impact. There simply has never been another protagonist as loved and hated as Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauerlambasted by a Brigadier General and defended by a Supreme Court judge. There has never been another television show that so profoundly and directly influenced how this nation fights a war, and discussing the significance of 24 without mentioning the political debates that swirled around the show is practically impossible.

And now a Senate candidate is explicitly blurring the line between fiction and reality by pretending he interacted with Jack Bauer during his military career. James Parker's column on 24 and Jane Mayer's profile of creator Joel Surnow from 2007 are still worth reading. Thoreau complicates the normal reading of the show's politics. But that it formed a critical backdrop to America's embrace of torture in the Bush-Cheney years is indisputable.