Everyone involved in the series denied political motives. The show's villains, after all, were rarely Middle Eastern. Some of the best were a corrupt U.S. president, a devious first lady, and the boss (played by another Hollywood right-winger, Jon Voight) of a private security company group that was a dead ringer for Blackwater Security Consulting, the main source of U.S. mercenaries in Iraq. Those getting rough treatment came in all shapes and sizes. Bauer himself was frequently a victim.
Less conspiratorially inclined observers correctly saw an over-the-top entertainment, employing, and improving upon, the time-tested formulas of such edge-of-the-seat political thrillers as The Manchurian Candidate, The Ipcress File and Marathon Man.
The mistreatment, and nick-of-time defeat, of those who would threaten America filled an empty emotional space in some of the audience longing for the demise of Osama bin Laden, and made 24 only more satisfying.
The show was conceived, and some of its first season was filmed, before 9/11. It premiered Nov. 6, 2001. To demonstrate its concern for public perception, Fox pushed the premiere, which included the bombing of a commercial airliner and deaths of all on board, back a whole week from its initially scheduled start.
The NBC first-responder series Third Watch was much more directly affected by the real-life attacks. Following 9/11, it had to stop filming its third season on the streets of New York, as usual, for fear of alarming the populace.
FX's Rescue Me, which concludes its seventh and last season Sept. 7, fictionally focused on New York firefighters, and gave Denis Leary's career a boost, but Dennis Haysbert, who played David Palmer, that paragon of presidents on 24, may have been the TV actor who most benefited from the post-9/11 national mood. He went on to lead The Unit, a 2006-09 CBS series created by David Mamet about an elite military counterterrorist outfit, and garnered a lucrative contract as spokesman for the peace of mind supposedly provided by Allstate insurance.
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or email@example.com.