The synergy between news and entertainment was apparent in the Australian premiere of season 4 of 24 tonight.
The first episode begins with a train bombed and derailed by terrorists, then, cross to the first ad break: a news update which leads with the latest on the London subway bombing.
The double episode ended with the usual promo for next week with the announcer urging us to tune in to see “what lengths the terrorists will go to”. After the credits Seven led into an extended news update which included footage of London’s mayor Ken Livingston catching a train and a “back-to-work-we-wont-let-them-win” theme.
The dialectic between the visceral build up of tension produced by the “live” structure of 24 and its hero’s inevitable triumph is mirrored in the contrasting message of terror and hope embodied in a grim-faced Livingston boarding a train. Although 24 plays the traditional hero myth it also re-wrote the rules of this serial genre by allowing the death of key figures such as Jack’s wife in series one. We know that Jack will win but we can no longer be sure at what cost.
Similarly the news is constantly telling us that “we” will win even though we can no longer be sure “what lengths the terrorists will go to”.
Other news included John Howard’s denial that Britain was preparing a withdrawal from Iraq which would necessitate Australia sending more troops but a confirmation that Australia would be sending further troops to Afghanistan. This reminder of the nexus between Australian, British and US military operations highlighted the “reality” of the 24 terrorists claim that this was an “us” (muslim) against “you” (western nations) battle.
In this new world the best we can do is get up and get back on the train. Just like Livingston. Just like Jack.
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