IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME: Back when the last episode of 24's sixth season aired, subprime mortgages were a good thing, and Barack Obama was the underdog candidate in the Democratic primaries, expected to lose gracefully to Hillary Clinton.

But the way some TV critics have been writing about the return of 24 in the midst of a very different time, you’d think that, sometime in the interim, gravity had been repealed and an extra day had been added to the week. “Can Jack Bauer make it in the age of Obama?” asked the New York Times last week.

Two days later they told readers that, as ethical dilemmas about torture persist in the first four hours of the new season, the spirit of soon-to-be-former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney “is staying on in spirit on the new season of 24.” Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle went one step further, insisting in a review that the imminent Obama presidency had made 24 “pointless.”

“If there's audacity in hope and nationwide belief in the necessity of change, nobody sent the memo to producers of 24,” Goodman writes. “This is a series where presidential assassinations were the norm and presidents were corrupt or evil (if they weren't, then they were assassinated). Cynicism about politics and especially the presidency are the currency of 24 - beyond the whole terrorist bogeyman conceit. Hey, they brought back Almeida, why not dig up Dick Nixon, too?”

Goodman, only slightly more than his contemporaries, is being unconvincingly naïve. What no one can be bothered recalling is that 24 was written and conceived at the end of the Clinton presidency, after Waco, Vince Foster, Bosnia, Kosovo and the “Wag the Dog” missile attacks on Sudan, though it had the bitter luck to premiere just two months after 9/11.

Goodman ignores The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days In May, and seems to think that cynicism and political paranoia were legislated into existence by John Ashcroft. At a time when Zimbabwe is printing $50-billion notes and butchery continues in Sudan despite years of pleas for intervention, 24 is asking us to imagine a rogue African regime covertly attacking the U.S. to prevent military intervention in a genodice; it is, to be sure, the purest of fantasies.

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