24 Official Site

The Time:
Mondays, 8:00 PM, Fox

The Show:

Jack Bauer is a former government agent, most recently assigned to the now-defunct Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), which was tasked with investigating and preventing threats to American national security.  Doing whatever it takes to get the job done, Jack is a dedicated and deadly instrument of justice who has saved the country on numerous occasions, though frequently paying a high price for his service.  Following Jack’s exploits over a full 24 hours of one day in real time, 24 is an award-winning political and action thriller that created a new format – and standard – in TV drama.

The Stars:

•  Kiefer Sutherland – Jack Bauer
•  Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O’Brian
•  Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor
•  James Morrison as Bill Buchanan
•  Annie Wersching as FBI Special Agent Renee Walker
•  Colm Feore as First Gentleman Henry Taylor
•  Bob Gunton as White House Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin
•  Jeffrey Nordling as FBI Special Agent in Charge Larry Moss
•  Rhys Coiro as FBI Special Agent Sean Hillinger
•  Janeane Garofalo as FBI Special Agent Janis Gold
•  Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida
•  Kurtwood Smith as Senator Blaine Mayer

The Episodes: “8:00 AM – 9:00 AM,” “9:00 AM – 10:00 AM,”
“10:00 AM – 11:00 AM,” “11:00 AM – 12:00 PM”

Taking place not long after the TV movie, 24: Redemption, and approximately 3.5 years after Day 6 (Season 6), Day 7 finds Jack Bauer in front of a Senate Panel investigating his role in the torturing of suspects by the now-decommissioned CTU.  The hearing doesn’t get very far as Jack is subpoenaed by the FBI via Agent Renee Walker to aid in the search for Tony Almeida, whom Jack is shocked to learn is still alive and suspected of being involved in recent technical materials thefts.  The tech is being used to build a device that can hack into the government’s CIP Firewall, which safeguards the entire American computer infrastructure that controls air traffic, the power grid, water treatment, etc.  Meanwhile, the new president, Allison Taylor, is planning a military intervention into the bloody civil war in the African country of Sangala, which has already claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.  It’s soon learned that Tony and his terrorist group is involved with other American conspirators working with Sangalan General Benjamin Juma (Tony Todd) to use the CIP device to blackmail President Taylor into calling off her planned military action. 

The Lowdown:

Unbelievably, with last year’s writer’s strike, Kiefer Sutherland’s unfortunate trip to the pokey for a DUI and a scrapped storyline involving the entire season taking place in Africa, it’s been a ridiculous two years between seasons for this show.  It was very apparent after Season 6, which again involved a nuclear threat (the third one in six seasons) and more Arab terrorists (lost count how many of those there were), that the show needed some serious revamping.  It looked like the show runners were attempting to do that, planning on setting the entire season in Aftrica, until that idea went the way of the dodo.  Commented executive producer Howard Gordon on that situation: “The fact is, it was a mutual issue…We struggled to do something new this year. We sent Jack Bauer to Africa and I wrote a script that honestly did not work. Before the network even saw it at the studio level, we were getting kick-back from the idea, especially once we budgeted what Africa would cost. It was a combination of the studio was not enthusiastic to shoot there for budgetary purposes and creatively, it didn’t feel like it warranted pushing our case. One day, at the IHOP, I sat across [executive producer] Joel [Surnow] and [executive producer] Bob [Cochran] and we all agreed this story wasn’t working and retooled it…”

Among the aforementioned ticking nuclear bombs and played out stereotypical bad guys (Kiefer Sutherland had to do a PSA one season stating that although the bad guys were Arabs again, Arabs and Muslims aren’t really all bad guys, they’re merely portrayed that way on the show), setting the show in L.A. every season started to wear thin, as did the inevitable mole not only inside CTU, but even the President’s staff…even if it was the President himself.  For a show that had reinvented the genre, it was in desperate need of reinvention itself.  So in this new season, the setting has been moved to Washington, D.C., and the bad guy is apparently one of Jack’s closest friends, who was thought to be dead: Tony Almeida.

First of all, the signatures of the show, the ticking clock, the multiple opening storylines and characters, the action (gunplay, car chases), government office intrigue are all back.  Although Jack is no longer with any agency, and in fact looks to be hung out to dry by his toes by the government he’s saved so many times, it’s not long before he finds himself back in the thick of the action, chasing down leads and questioning suspects, namely Tony.  It’s no spoiler now to say that Tony is indeed back and on the wrong side of the law.  But something happens involving the first terrorist act with the CIP device that immediately calls that into question and it’s no leap to rationalize Tony’s role this season.

We have yet another new president, with Wayne Palmer (DB Woodside) sidelined by an explosion in Season 6.  On a side note, it seemed inconceivable back in 2002 that David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), a Black Senator, could be President of the United States.  And now look where we are….  Anyway, Allison Taylor is the first female president, and quickly finds herself in the same situations that most of her recent predecessors did: being blackmailed by terrorists.  Her husband is involved in (what I’m hoping will turn out to be a more substantial) side story, investigating the alleged suicide of his son, whom we discover, may have found out a secret about people in the president’s administration.  Said people could be connected to the Juma / Sangala situation and it may have cost the president’s son his life.  Before we found out that tidbit, however, it seemed like it could be another worthless C-story.  Anyone remember Season 2’s Perils of Kim Bauer?  No mention is made of Wayne Palmer, whom we last saw in a coma in Season 6, and his VP Noah Daniels is also not mentioned.  Safe to say he probably didn’t win re-election.

With a new season, we have a slew of new characters, including FBI Agent Renee Walker, who looks good in a pantsuit and can kick some ass, as well as her boss, FBI S.A.C. Larry Moss.  We also have some old characters, including Bill Buchanan and Chloe Sullivan (honestly, would it really be 24 without Chloe anymore?).  Janeane Garofalo has a role as Janis Gold, the FBI’s version of Chloe.  However, she’s quickly put in her place when she goes head-to-head with CTU’s former computer bad-ass.  What Jack is in the field, Chloe is behind a keyboard.  Day 7 doesn’t start out as dire as previous seasons, lacking the assassinations of major characters and / or a nuclear explosion (FYI, I live near Valencia, CA and the area is recovering nicely from that suitcase nuke). 

Since practically every episode reveals an important plot thread or twist, it’s still way too early to assess the season as a whole.  However, Day 7 after four episodes doesn’t measure up to Days 1 and 2, which I still hold as the benchmarks.  I was hoping for even more of a redesign.  Having Jack find himself in the middle of some foreign coup with a Black Hawk Down situation, which was the initial plan, seemed very tantalizing.  All we’ve mainly gotten so far is a relocation with a lot of the same plot devices as before.  Still, even routine 24 is better than 90% of the crud on TV, so I’ll wait to see how things develop.

 7.0 out of 10