TV Week ahead

It may be spring, but this last month has taken on an elegiac quality in TV-land, with the final episodes of a number of iconic series, from the much-debated endings of Lost and Ashes To Ashes, to the barely noticed exits of Heroes and FlashForward (OK, maybe that one wasn't iconic so much as moronic). And now, after eight years of full days' work for Jack Bauer, saving his country over and over, 24 is also reaching its conclusion.

The final episode is quite a twist, revealing that Jack Bauer was actually dead all along, having been killed at one minute past midnight on Day One, all those years ago, and has been compulsively re-enacting his last 24 hours ever since. Mind you, it does explain why he's only visited the bathroom once in that time and never eaten a full meal.

No, obviously. Despite all its unbelievable elements, 24 has never been an overtly mystical show. The fact that Jack gets shot in the chest near the beginning of this finale, yet by the end is still running, barely an hour later, is just something you need to go with.

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Since it's been much discussed that the character will live on in a big screen version, it's no spoiler to say that he survives. Besides, if he made it through all the other nuclear explosions, prolonged torture, imprisonment, shootings and other events of the previous seven days, a little wrangle with a conspiracy led by a dodgy Russian president isn't going to hold him back.

During this last episode, someone wonders about the possibility of getting him out of the way by sending him to a high-security prison camp somewhere. There's no point, they're told: "He will find a way ... he will rise up out of the deepest hole in the ground, he will claw his way back from the ends of the earth – unless we stop him." And he would, and he will, so there's not much sense of closure to this series finale.

Yet it's still rather exciting. I gave up on 24 ages ago, but it's remarkable how easy it is to drop back in: the bad dialogue delivered through gritted teeth is still the same. The split screens, once so innovative, look quite old-fashioned now, but they still make what could be perfunctory, time-passing scenes seem more vital.

And he still even has Chloe, who came into the show back in series three as a whiny and annoying computer expert. She still looks like a pouty teenager who's just been told she can't go to a sleepover, but – presumably because everyone else is dead – has now become his most trusted ally. Even Jack expresses some surprise that this is how things have turned out.

It's almost impossible to take the plot seriously, especially the resolution, which magically solves everything through a baddie simply changing their mind, but it's a suitably unlikely ending for a series which revived serialised TV – when it began, no-one believed that audiences would commit to watching every single episode to keep track.

Father & Son, ITV's new drama, is another kind of elegy. Its writer, Glasgow-based Frank Deasy, caused a sensation when he wrote about the frustrations of being on the organ transplant waiting list, just days before his death from liver cancer, inspiring thousands of people to apply for donor cards. This, then, is the last act in a writing career that produced some memorable dramas (Looking After Jo Jo, The Passion, the final Prime Suspect) and so it's both fitting and a relief that it's a fine piece of work.

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When it was shown in Ireland last year (ITV's financial problems meant this had to be a co-production with RTE, something which will probably happen more and more often), it was compared to The Wire.

That's pushing it: this is a more conventional account of urban gangland, but the writing is subtle and it has a fine cast, led by Dougray Scott as a former Manchester hardman who has relocated to Ireland and changed his life, but gets sucked back in when his teenage son becomes a target for armed gangs; the cycle of his life may be repeating.

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Scott is good, though his accent is odd, and the story has hints of the film A History Of Violence as his pregnant Irish girlfriend, whom he met after leaving prison and reforming himself, starts to question the man she thought she knew. Ian Hart and Sophie Okonedo give sterling support, as usual. It's scheduled over four consecutive nights, as is the current fashion, but if you miss one it's well worth catching up on the ITV Player as this classy drama is one of the best for a while.

Rather more missable is Piers Morgan's World Cup South Africa, even though it does feature some interesting people reflecting on the changes in the country that have made hosting the tournament possible. I just wish it wasn't presented by the charmless Morgan, whose awful attempts at connecting with people are painful to watch. The continual efforts by the channel to foist him upon us in various formats are baffling: is he blackmailing someone? Or does there really exist the viewer who, upon seeing his name in the credits, thinks: "Great! It's straight-talking investigative journalist Piers, I must tune in"?


Sky1, tomorrow, 9pm

Father & Son

STV, Mon-Thur, 9pm

Piers Morgan's World Cup South Africa

STV, tomorrow, 10pm

• This article was first published in The Scotsman, Saturday June 5, 2010