MI5 vs 24 – Smackdown!


I have to open this debate to everyone since three people, TODAY alone, described MI5 (Spooks in the UK) as the British 24. I couldn’t form words fast enough to verbalize a laundry list of reasons as to why there is no comparison between the two. MI5 is, without question IMHO, one of the best shows on television, if not the best. MI5 out-distances 24 in writing, acting, storyline, believability, editing, use of music and more.

Jack Bauer won’t  (or can’t) die

The fact that you watch every episode of 24 knowing full well that Jack Bauer won’t die no matter what happens is enough to place it well below the realistic nature of MI5. 24‘s only “bit” is that each season takes place in 24 hours. Having seen through season 7 of MI5, I’ve often wondered why the writers have never shied away from killing off characters or banishing them to Siberia, both major and minor, during a season. I finally came to the conclusion that as frustrating and as mind-numbing as it is to invest emotional effort into the characters only to have them “disappear” or actually die by an assassin’s bullet or explosion adds the realism that is lacking in 24.

It’s tough enough for any series to last 8 seasons (as both MI5 and 24 have). With MI5, it has to be a brain rush to write a series of this nature that gives you the freedom to be real, to be fresh and also keep the audience as tense as humanly possible with every explosion or every bullet leaving the chamber because we truly don’t know who is coming back each week. On 24, Jack Bauer always heals by the next week (or next hour since it all takes place in 24 hours).

Talk me down from the ledge

Tell me there are others out there that can’t wait for the next episode of MI5. Or, if you’re a 24 fan, it’s your turn. I’m willing to listen. Well, sort of. You have 23:59:45.

  • So, what happened to all the 24 fanatics? Leave town? Not a single comment or reason posted so far to convince me I’m off base. That was so easy. Can’t wait until I talk about how the British Office with Ricky Gervais is much better than the American version.

  • Bill – I have not seen the show 24 at all but I can comment on MI5! First and foremost – WOW – WOW – WOW, what an incredible series. I am not one who takes well to mysteries, serious detective dramas, or the latest forensic television series – I am a British comedy fan through and through. So when I had MI5 on the t.v. for background noise while doing some mindless task, I couldn’t help but to swept up in the incredible plot and storyline that MI5 seems to do with each and every episode and surprising the heck out of me with the its latest twist and turns.

    Thanks for sharing such a great show!

    • Susan Brown

      I’ve watched both shows and for me MI5 is far superior to 24 in many ways. The plots, acting, action, and details keep me fascinated and always wanting to find out what happens next. 24 reminds me of the “Jessie James” 15 minute serials I use to watch at the local cinema on Saturday mornings in the early 50’s. They always left you hanging in the air so you would come back to watch more, and the hero always came out OK. After a while the serials really got to be old and very predicatable. Not so for MI5.

  • Hello; I am hearing impaired and rely closely on closed-captioning for many programs. I have ejoyed for over a year now, the MI-5 programs that are on my Dallas,Texas KERA Channel 13 station; but since the new year — the closed-captioning feature is NO longer being done for this program. I have contacted someone by telephone, to no success, but thought I would try email. It is important for me to be able to have the closed-captioning for this fabulous program, as the action is very quick and often “lip-reading” is futile. I would be most grateful for your assistance with this, as I have now missed another entire section of the programs — most recently the “Virus – part one and part two”. Thank you again, R. Biggers

    • Grant

      Lol. I don’t think a blog called “tellyspotting” is the place to find people who like 24 better than MI5.

      However, google has directed me here, so I just have to say 24 is a much better series. It’s a full-scale, high budget thrilling series. It’s much more exciting, grittier, more powerful, and more interesting. I have such a hard time staying awake watching MI5. My wife likes to watch MI5 now and then and I watch with her. It’s a mostly painless way to spend a few hours, but you watch it and walk away without a significant change in your adrenaline levels. Not so with 24. It’s like pure concentrated excitement and intensity!

      I also have to say the acting and writing and especially the directing and effects in MI5 are much inferior. I like British TV and movies well enough but they just don’t put the time and money into their shows that Hollywood does. And it shoes. Lots of great British actors out there. British studios and production teams, not so much. Actors come to Hollywood to do things worth watching.

      Watch a few hours straight of 24 and you won’t be able to sleep because you want to see how it turns out and you are so high on adrenaline. That’s a true thriller. MI5 you can watch, eat a few crumpets, and then go to bed, forgetting what it was about.

  • Cesar

    I totally agree with Susan. There’s no way 24 is believable, and that by itself makes it inferior. It was exciting the first few seasons. But if you already KNOW that Jack is going to always end up OK, then where’s the excitement in that? I even think that the title hurts the show. OK. I’ve seen 10 episodes, 14 more until Jack saves the day. How can every crisis last 24 hours?

    Mi-5 on the other hand blew me away. There were times it left my heart broken. And it’s always left me at the edge of my seat. With Mi-5 you never know how the characters are going to end up.

    Mi-5 is not the kind of show where you can watch one episode and then miss a few others and think you haven’t missed anything. That’s like watching “6 Feet Under” or “The Wire” and thinking you’ve done the series justice critiquing it. (Both of which are FANTASTIC shows too. HEAVY in character development.)

    Add the better acting and writing and it’s a no brainer.

    • lynn

      I find that I actually have jaw dropping moments in MI 5 compared to 24.Sorry, the brits win this one.Plus Richard Armitage is wonderful in so many ways.

      • Lynn: No reason to be “sorry” about your declaration of a winner. Totally agree. Glad the producers of 24 finally agree too with their announcement that this is the last season for the series.

  • Chrissie Blaze

    I believe the 24 writers must have copied MI5. I am British and American, living in the US, i.e. unbiased. MI5 blows 24 away (and I also love 24, by the way); it is far superior in every way.

    • Chrissie: Exactly my first thought when I read that ABC had acquired the rights to adapt MI5 for an American audience. I thought they already had and it was called 24. Have never seen this written anywhere so just wrote it off as a random thought in my head. I liked 24 early on for the first several seasons, but then it seemed to drift and become really implausible from a story standpoint. To me, MI% was rooted in reality much more. Thanks for the comment.

  • I just wondered if anyone else wonders why so many people come and go on this show. Is it planned that way. Up above someone mentioned realism. Come on even in a real Spy agency I doubt there is this kind of turn-over. I want to know if people come on this set knowing they are only there for a brief time. is it on purpose or is it truly a case of actor turn over. Please answer. I love the show by the way…..

    • @Diane: Unfortunately, I don’t know anything specific that I’ve seen from producers in the past but will see what I can find out. I’ve always suspected that this is one of the reasons I found it to be superior to the likes of 24, etc. The thought that, at any point, a lead character may not make it does lend that realism to the storyline that you don’t get in other shows. Seems as though the lead character magically always escapes whatever situation they are faced with and they do it within the allotted 60 minutes each week. I always felt that it kept the story fresh. Difficult task to keep this level of intensity over 9 years, but by continually adding (and subtracting) cast and then having the one constant of Harry, they really do keep it fresh. Will try to find out more for you. Bill

  • Grif

    MI-5 is the British equivalent of 24, meaning it is superior in every way.

    • Zona Bob

      Having watched the entire ’24’ series via Netflix live streaming on my tv screen (no commercials, very nice, and from episode-to-episode without interruption) and now screening-in ‘MI-5’ (S2:E17), I can honestly say MI-5 is superior. Yes, there’s a lot more ‘action’ in 24 but that’s the appeal for sugar-jacked fans. MI-5 is considerably more cerebral and realistic. The few similarites (Jack/24, Tom/MI-5; Chloe/24, Zoe/MI-5 – even Tom having referred to himself as an alias character, ‘Jack’ in S2-E9; and finally, look-a-likes Glen Morshower as ‘Aaron Pierce’ on 24 vs Peter Firth as ‘Harry Pearce’ on MI-5) the series have vastly different qualities. You actually need some brain-power to digest MI-5 (it’s a thinking-persons series). 24 was cornflakes in a bowl with milk from pablum-producing Follywood (taking nothing away from Keifer Sutherland’s great acting abilities). MI-5 is steak & eggs. You’ve gotta quit eating frosted flakes if you want to appreciate real drama. And, most Brit drama is vastly superior to anything we put out in the US. Even Toronto television/film drama is much better than US’s – IMHO.
      ~Raytheon aerospace engineer, Tucson

      • @Zona Bob: excellent review. I think both shows have their place and you pegged both perfectly. I just cringe at those that continue to say 24 is the more realistic, more cerebral series. Thanks for the comments. Any suggestions on Canadian drama series to check out?

  • Zona Bob

    Bill…
    There were a few seasons of a purely excellent Vancouver-based crime-drama series, by name, ‘Intelligence’ – first aired in 2005 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_(TV_series)]. It was cancelled in 2008 and I LOATHE that decision. I watched every episode on my tv screen via Netflix live-streaming on the front edge of my recliner! The actors were terrific, the writing was absolutely superb, the scripts, the music, the editing — I mean everything — was wonderful. It’s one of the best television crime dramas I’ve ever seen, BAR NONE! Many fans were disappointed, disgruntled and disgusted at the withdrawal – including me. Please try to watch it – first, you’ll become absorbed, then you’ll become amazed at the writing and acting. It is just superior. What a shame! Trust me, you’ll love it!

    • Zona Bob

      Bill, ps/
      There’s another venue which makes MI5 more appealing than 24: it’s much more sexy.

  • Zona Bob

    Bill,
    Just one tiny element I neglected to add about MI5: it has more ‘Shock and Awe’ than Followood producers ever envisioned!