Bret McCabe pens an interesting essay in the Baltimore City Paper about the contemporary success of a series of crime shows—Cops, the Law and Orders, and 24.
I'm not saying there's a cabal of political and television suits who decide how to spin news-cycle talking points into TV drama (Fox News would have to be the subject of a completely different examination). I'm just saying you can draw parallels between a culture and how it chooses to represent itself. I'm just saying that there's something to consider in the fact that, although obviously developed in a Sept. 10th world, 24 premiered after contemporary American domestic and foreign policy on terrorism was irrevocably and cataclysmic forever changed. I'm just saying that surely it's not incidental that a show about the most competent and effective U.S. military personnel ever appears in the fall of the third year of one of the modern military's most incompetent, disorganized, and stalled occupations of the modern era. I'm just saying that when Jack Bauer sticks a knife into the knee of a potential subject and momentarily loses his cool and turns to his unlikely Arab accomplice and confesses that he doesn't know if can he do it anymore and the guy replies, "You'll remember," maybe I shouldn't chortle as hard as I did.
The torture-solves-problems and terrorists-are-under-my bed narratives of 24 are pretty well-trod territory, which paleocon Michael Brendan Dougherty ran his tractor over back in March. The most interesting show of the decade, though, from a policy- and public mood-altering perspective is probably To Catch a Predator. I remember voting in Virginia's Fairfax County in 2005, a little bit after the first episode of Chris Hansen's show debuted with a sting in… Fairfax County. Not long before the election Republican attorney general candidate Bob McDonnell started running ads and sending mail declaring he was "tough on sexual predators" (the TV ad had a nice Kubrickian long shot of a sad, creepy criminal bowing his head as jail doors clanged). McDonnell, who'd been down in the polls occasionally, won by less than 1000 votes. I don't know how many campaigns or legislative sessions the show and its induced hysteria have affected since then. I'm guessing "lots."