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Reality TV

The TV show 24 is fast-paced and well-acted, and almost entirely without moral ambiguity

Issue: "Five-man legacy," Jan. 28, 2006

The new season of Fox's smash hit 24 opened with two-hour specials on Jan. 15 and 16. The ratings were very high, with 15.5 million to 17 million viewers watching the first show in the United States, and another 3.3 million in Great Britain.

Why the enormous success? Without giving away the plot, part of the program's success is its topic, the use of WMDs against the United States. Purportedly, 24 looks inside the government's response in real time. It is messy. It is intense. It is a nightmare most Americans have to reflect on at least occasionally.

The show is fast-paced and well-acted, with Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings) added to the cast this season. But 24 is also very judgmental and almost entirely without moral ambiguity.

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One fan, Melinda Penner, blogged this on the program's appeal: "I love the show because it's morally smart. Jack [Bauer] almost unfailingly makes the correct and necessary decision given the moral dilemmas he's faced with. But it also shows the cost of having to engage evil and the horrible choices it presents."

Imagine that. A hero who is unabashedly fighting for America and unafraid to use force in the process is beloved by viewers. Message to Hollywood: It is hard but not impossible to make a hit. It helps to know the country in which you'd like to succeed.

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