The Shield and 24

Two of my favorite shows returned to television with new seasons the past week and I would be remiss if I don’t comment. The early part of my week is set with 24 at 8p Monday and The Shield at 9p Tuesday.

I got into The Shield late, but I quickly caught up. I love the realism of The Shield versus the impossibility of 24. The moral compass of both Vic Mackey and Jack Bauer behaves as if they both live in a magnetic storm and that’s what makes both shows so much fun. You never know what either of them are going to do.

This season of The Shield, the rumored last season, Forest Whitaker joins the cast as an internal affairs officer with a weird and oft-putting speech pattern going after the strike team for a murder from the first season. It’s hard to root for Whitaker to take down Mackey and the team, even though Mackey’s done some pretty terrible things. Whitaker’s interrogation of what he considers the weakest link on the team is gloriously manipulative.

Michael Chiklis is mesmerizing as Mackey. He can turn on the charm, be wonderful to his kids and shake down an innocent bystander all at the drop of a hat. It’s one of the few shows where you root for the bad guys to win.

On the other hand, 24 is cliffhanger television. The question at the end of every episode is, “what the hell now?” The continuous use of impending danger brings with it a frantic pace and dramatic energy, which translates into turn-your-brain-off-at-the-door television.

This season, the murders of at least two long-running series characters was jarring and wonderful at the same time. Bauer, the connection between all the hits, is now out of his self-imposed exile and after the bad guys and their ludicrously complicated terrorist plot. There are plenty of unanswered questions with each installment, but everything moves so fast you never get a chance to think about it too much.

The Shield, being on cable, gets away with a few more harsh expletives then Fox would allow for 24. However, they both push the envelope about as far as television will allow without being on HBO.

I can’t recommend these shows high enough. Go out and rent the first season of both shows if you’ve never seen them and let me know what you think.