Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), our quintessential American action hero, returns Monday night in the new twelve-part series, 24: Live Another Day. This time, on the run from his own country, Bauer has relocated to England, home of another unstoppable action hero with the initials JB.
In the same way that TV watchers are awed by Bauer’s ability to survive all kinds of explosions and torture, many are surprised to see that the 24 saga did not die out after a, frankly, disappointing season eight finale. Four years later, Bauer pops up in London, and the advance reviews trickling in are saying that the new season isn’t half bad. So, assuming Bauer survives this season, it’s possible he’ll continue to crop up on TV, in books, and maybe even in a movie, the way James Bond has been unceasingly rebooted over the last sixty years.
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In some ways, Jack Bauer has the stamina to keep pace with 007. First, he’s played by a big name movie star. With The Lost Boys and Stand by Me’s Kiefer Sutherland carrying 24, Jack Bauer became a household name immediately after the show first aired in 2001. Bond didn’t have such name recognition, as Dr. No was long before Sean Connery’s Oscar, Golden Globes, or BAFTAs.
Secondly, 24 tapped into the anxiety of a post-9/11 America, making it an irresistible television sensation. In 2014, the show is going to adapt to the new anxieties of American politics, just as the world of Skyfall adapted to the twenty-first century (even if Bond himself was viewed as a barbaric dinosaur by his superiors).
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Although Bauer and Bond share a relentless pursuit of a higher good and duty to their countries, the two do share their differences. “Bond felt no real guilt in killing the enemy as it was merely a part of his job,” says Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Everyone’s Favorite Superspy (Applause Books). “Like any soldier, he was proud to serve his country and did whatever was needed to achieve success in his mission.”
Bauer certainly shares this “for the greater good” attitude, but it doesn’t come without guilt. See his breakdown in the final scene of season three, if you don’t believe me. He’s been emotionally injured by the murder of his wife and physically scarred along the way. Although rage makes him less perfect than the sophisticated and cool-headed Bond, Bauer is more relatable, and perhaps viewers care to see more of him in decades to come. (The question is whether Bauer is easily transferred to other actors the way Bond is.)
Whether or not you think Live Another Day is the new Die Another Day, one thing is for certain: We’ve got Jack Bauer for at least another twelve episodes, starting Monday on FOX.
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Jaime Nelson is the editor of Anglonerd.com, a blog about British TV and comedy for Americans.
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