About 35,000 hours later, new ‘24’ is just like old ‘24’
The format has been altered a bit in the May 5 two-hour premiere of the limited series on Fox — this new season is 12 episodes instead of 24 so some hours will be skipped — but everything else about the show is same-old, same-old.
‘24: Live Another Day’
Premieres 8 p.m. Monday, May 5, on Fox
Although the new “24” limited series carries the title “24: Live Another Day” in marketing materials, on screen it’s just the same old “24,” not only in title but in just about every imaginable way.
While the format has been altered a bit in Monday’s two-hour premiere (8 p.m., Fox) — this new season is 12 episodes instead of 24 so some hours will be skipped — everything else about the show is same-old, same-old. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) remains the righteous hero, always right when every other government intelligence operative is wrong.
You’d think with a few years away and an opportunity for a do-over that the show’s producers, returnees from the 2001-10 series, would find some ways to change up the formula. But other than the shorter season and London setting, the story beats and types of twists are nearly identical.
This sameness highlights how the show’s format, revolutionary when it premiered more than a decade ago, has become formulaic and a little stale.
When we last saw Jack Bauer, he was on the lam after considering assassinating Russia’s president following the murder of Jack’s girlfriend, Renee, by the Russian foreign minister under orders from the Russian president. Viewers last saw Jack in grainy CCTV video images, and that’s how he’s first glimpsed in “Live Another Day.”
It’s now four years later, and Bauer has been on the run all this time. His partner in anti-terrorism, Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), has become the Edward Snowden of this alternate universe, releasing thousands of Department of Defense files on the Internet, resulting in a charge of treason.
Former defense secretary James Heller (William Devane), father of former Bauer love interest Audrey (Kim Raver), is now the U.S. president, and he’s in London for a treaty signing with the Brits on drone policy. When the CIA learns Bauer is in town, too, it figures his presence has something to do with the president’s mission, which of course it does.
Audrey, last seen in a coma, is now up and moving about and married to Heller’s chief of staff (Tate Donovan, “Damages”), who promises, “As long as she lives, she’ll never hear the name Jack Bauer.” Good luck with that!
At CIA headquarters in London — with its glass walls it resembles past CTU sets — a station chief (Benjamin Bratt) deals with losing his best analyst, Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), after her husband is accused of selling secrets to the Chinese. (She was unaware of his criminal activities.) Of course, it’s Kate who figures out what Bauer is up to and behaves in a rather Bauer-like, rule-breaking manner even while trying to take him down.
A clash over drone warfare drives the story this season. The U.S. president is not a fan but admits, “The ugly truth is, what we’re doing is working.”
And “24” has some fun with its past, widely commented upon use of torture.
“What have you done to her?” Jack demands upon finding a doped-up Chloe in CIA custody.
“It’s nothing you haven’t done,” a CIA interrogator replies. It’s a cheeky retort that winks at the audience, but Jack doesn’t appreciate the irony and punches the guy out.
With only the first two hours available for review, it’s too soon to say whether this will turn out to be a better- or worse-than-average season of “24.” But what’s all but guaranteed is that it is very much the same “24” as in the past.