From the BPI Squirrel:

That’s what NBC football commentator Cris Collinsworth said last night about the thankfully defunct 24, Fox’s espionage-conspiracy series that was less drama than torture porn. Super-agent Jack Bauer repeatedly abused other characters to get information, and it always worked. And Collinsworth watched this with his family?

Squirrels don’t usually watch football, but the baby is coming into his teen months and was excited about the contest between the Brothers Manning. So we stretched out in front of my Blewberry with a bowl of macadamias and watched the first half. At halftime all the buzz was about NBC’s new espionage-conspiracy series, The Event, which debuts tonight at 9pm. The show’s ads say it will be a cross between blockbusters Lost and 24, and The Event‘s executive producer also worked on 24. According to production notes, The Event will be about:

… a man who, while investigating the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, ends up unraveling the biggest cover-up in U.S. history; a coverup which shapes the very core of mankind as a whole, whose implications are lifechanging.

Okay. Conspiracy thrillers can be good entertainment. Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and now Fringe are television examples. There are many in novels as well, including the Office 119 series. So long as you don’t take them seriously, conspiracy theories offer a rich vein of mythology for fiction writers. Maybe The Event will do it well.

But 24 was hardly what I’d call family entertainment. Fox broadcast it in the 9pm slot because it wasn’t family viewing. The torture aside – and it’s impossible to set that aside with 24 – the show invoked brute force as the solution for almost every problem. In one season the trailer announcer’s voice boomed: “All hail the power of Bauer.”

The show’s villains were implacably evil, and America’s only defense was shoot-first-ask-later Jack Bauer. If his superiors at his fictional CTU, or even the president or Congress tried to rein him in or hold him accountable, they were portrayed as weak, or perhaps even part of the conspiracy he was investigating. Small wonder that more than one Tea Party Republican in Congress cited 24 in hearings about banning torture. The show popularized their worldview, so much that military officers finally asked the show’s producers to tone it down … because too many service members were treating it as a training video.

Not everyone who watched 24 supported torture as policy. One of the show’s writers even claimed to oppose torture, though he still rationalized writing it into the series. But the show helped shape a culture wherein there was a serious debate about whether the U.S. should permit torture … a debate I would never have imagined even a decade ago.

Again, The Event has a different premise and may be fun entertainment. But I won’t be watching it with the baby, if I watch it at all. I may be a mere squirrel, neither a former football star nor a network commentator, but I have a pretty good idea of what “family entertainment” is … and isn’t.

Or maybe I’m just cranky. It has been a few hours since breakfast….