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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 24 is a very addictive series all about terrorism. The violence is relentless, albeit usually somewhat bloodless (with the notable exception of some gory torture scenes), and the lead character is rarely remorseful for anything he does in the name of duty/accomplishing his goals. Villains are sometimes portrayed stereotypically, although, in general, the show depicts women and minorities without bias. Discussion of sex is common, but not a major plot element. Because 24 is expressly designed to be addictive, parents not wanting their teens to watch every episode should probably avoid letting them them get started at all.
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What's the story?
In an age of both real and imagined terrorist threats, 24 brings us Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), a rugged hero who works with the U.S. Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) to fight those who threaten the country. His methods of fighting terrorism are often repugnant, but his quest is always driven by duty and honor. What makes this series unique and compelling is its structure. Each season follows just a single day -- each episode accounting for one hour (i.e., playing out in real time). The CTU is thrown into action by a major threat, such as nuclear bombs, viruses, or plots against the president. But even as Jack fights the bad guys (who have included Arabs, Russians, and Americans), he finds the time to make intimate connections with others, so viewers can find empathy for him despite his outrageous circumstances.
Is it any good?
With its breathless pace, moral dilemmas galore, and an innovative format, 24 is an extremely exciting show ... for adults. With its frequent gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, explosions, high-speed chases, double-crosses, deception, and some sexual content, 24 is definitely not for younger kids, though some teens may be able to handle the violence.
While Jack is the hero of 24, his aggressive tactics diminish his character as a role model. Sometimes the series' formula wears thin, with certain scenarios playing out over and over again, but well-developed characters, especially CTU agent Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), keep it interesting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the series' frequent moral quandaries in 24, which can provide good jumping-off points for talking to teens about right and wrong. Does the end justify the means? What would you do in Jack's position?
How does the show make you feel about the way government and politics operate?
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