I’ve mentioned on several occasions the turn toward "darker" programming on network TV this year, and one of the pioneers and models for that approach, the Fox series 24, will become even darker this season. An article in USA Today notes that protagonist Jack Bauer will reach a new low to begin the season:
Central character Jack Bauer isn’t dead, but he’s feeling that way going into Season Six (premieres Jan. 14, 8 p.m. ET/PT), said Kiefer Sutherland, who won an Emmy in August for his portrayal of the stoic counterterrorism hero. Bauer, whose kidnapping by Chinese agents closed last season, returns in the premiere, set 20 months later, as a haggard, beaten man.
"Jack’s at his darkest place. He’s dead inside. Even in Season Two, when he was terribly mournful at the loss of his wife, he was feeling pain but he was alive. (Now), there’s an indifference which is almost primal. It’s absolutely a new place to start with the character," Sutherland said on the red carpet.
As I’ve noted earlier on this site, "darker" new series primetime programming has had a bad run this year, as viewers have not responded favorably in general to the new shows that tried this tack.
The reason 24 has had such success is that even though the stories are full of interlocking conspiracies and betrayals, at the center of the show we have unabashedly good characters, led by Jack Bauer, a real modern-day hero. That’s what makes this show so special, and as long as Jack doesn’t turn "complex," meaning morally compromised (which he never has been, despite the awful things he has regularly been forced to do), the series will retain its central warmth and decency that ultimately dissipate the darkness.
TV producers and other genre writers would do very well to remember this simple fact.