R.I.P. Jack Bauer

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th March 2010.

This weekend has seen the announcements that two very popular television shows will meet their demise in 2010. Both 24 and The Bill will cease production after long and successful runs. Featuring very different styles of crime fighting, these shows will be missed by Australian audiences. The Bill is somewhat of an institution in the UK, having been in production for an amazing 27 years. It has also been a high rating staple of ABC TV programming. Set in the fictional Sun Hill police station, located somewhere in East London, this procedural drama focuses on the lives of one shift of police officers. Over 2300 episodes, almost no subject has been left untouched by The Bill. From corrupt politicians to gay officers, from violent crime to the mandatory police station fire, the Canley Borough Operational Command Unit is certainly an eventful place to work, although the chances of a police officer making it to retirement alive is rather slim, with many characters biting the dust over the show’s 26 seasons. Once commanding UK audiences of 7 million viewers in 2002, ratings have now slumped to half those numbers in recent years. This has prompted broadcaster ITV to put The Bill out to pasture. Iconic hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) burst onto our screens in 2001. 24 was revolutionary in its real time approach to television storytelling. Told in 24 episodes of 44 minutes each (the fight against terrorism still needs commercials), each season followed the events of a single day as the US came under attack from terrorists. A product of 9/11, Jack and the Counter Terrorist Unit controversially used torture and endorsed sacrificing lives for the greater good of the American people. Over 8 eventful days (or seasons), Jack has fought off Middle Eastern terrorists, Mexican drug cartels and American conspirators to prevent nuclear bombs, deadly virus attacks and Presidential assassinations, respectively. Don’t forget that he also overcame heroin addiction in season two. The real time storytelling style of 24 worked well in a weekly episodic format. Watching several episodes together however, often revealed huge plot holes and lapses in logic. No-one seemed to eat, drink or go to the toilet during the 24 hour period either. Maybe they did this in the commercial breaks, just like the audience. Similarly to The Bill, which English actors saw as a rite of passage due to its high turnover of performers, 24 has also provided employment for almost every ethnic looking actor in Hollywood. The only catch, you almost certainly needed to play a terrorist. I’m sure that despite any reservations from actors regarding ethnic stereotyping, the need to eat and pay rent won out each time. So the fictional towns of Sun Hill and Los Angeles will soon be without their crime fighters and law enforcement agencies. Loyal fans and viewers at least can take some solace in the fact that the cancellation announcement has occurred early enough for the producers of The Bill and 24 to give their shows a proper send-off. There is nothing worse than a final episode that ends in a cliffhanger.

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Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 10:49  Leave a Comment  
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