Haven’t watched the final 24 yet – it’s still sitting in the video machine, and may just stay there, I find after 23 episodes I just don’t have the energy – but when I get round to it, I might have something to say on that series.

But to be more general…. When this series began on UK terrestrial TV, it was followed by the last, lamentable, series of the X-Files. Which was striking, because here you had two extended US thriller series about government agents and agencies, but from two very different US mindsets. The X-Files is very definitely peacetime TV: government agencies are not to be trusted, they lie, they murder, they conspire, we’re all being duped, none of us is safe, the enemy is within. They use technology to obscure, and bury the truth, as well as to create threats to civilisation. Surveillance is bad – trust no-one.

Yet 24 is post-11th September. It’s War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iraq. It’s wartime TV: government agencies (and agents) are good. OK, the name of the FBI has become so besmirched on TV that they have to come up with a new set of initials – CTU – but the principle is still there. Look how cool all that surveillance technology has become. With their Apple G4s (natch) hooked up, CTU can seemingly access any bit of information about anything, instantly. Forget the sinister warehouses of biometric data cards in the X-Files, this is serious. But never once is the validity of all this data access, liberty infringement, etc etc ever conceived of critically. (Of course, I’m talking here about the CTU side of things here – obviously the Washington administration aspect is more complex in the second series). The whole programme supports the idea that open government access to anything ever is wholly acceptable, and desirable.

And against this vision, the X-Files seems even more absurd than ever, which of course it is. But don’t ever stop asking where your liberties are going, because common wisdom is being shifted.


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