Review: 24 – 8×1-8×4

Teeny weeny changes to the formula, but not much more


In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox. Started Sunday 17th January 2010
In the UK: Starts Sunday January 24 2010 on Sky 1/Sky 1 HD

Well, we’re eight seasons in and, seriously, what do you expect me to tell you that you don’t already know about 24? In this new season/’day’, Jack Bauer comes across some epically scary terror plot in typical US intelligence fashion – 24 hours before it’s due to happen – he runs around a lot, in real time. He shoots lots of people, usually Muslims (if it’s an even numbered season, Europeans if it’s an odd-numbered season). He says damn it a lot, and he tortures lots of people, all in the event of necessity. And you end up with a weekly adrenaline addiction.

What? You think they’re going to change the formula now? Oh wait, they have, just the teensiest tiniest bit.

One of the most innovative and acclaimed dramas on television, 24 returns for a remarkable eighth season in January 2010. The suspenseful series has been nominated for a total of 68 Emmy awards, winning for Outstanding Drama Series in 2006. Over the course of seven seasons, Sutherland has garnered seven Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Lead Actor; while Season Seven co-star Cherry Jones earned an Emmy nomination for her highly praised work as PRESIDENT ALLISON TAYLOR.

Season Eight of 24 promises to combine the show’s unique and trend-setting format with compelling new elements, including a new setting, new threats and new cast members. Each episode will again cover one hour of real time as viewers follow JACK BAUER (Sutherland) through another astonishing day.

Set in New York City, “Day Eight” unfolds amidst the shadows of the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations as President Allison Taylor (Jones), alongside new chief of staff ROB WEISS (Chris Diamantopoulos), negotiates international security with OMAR HASSAN (Anil Kapoor), a determined Middle Eastern leader visiting the U.S. on a peacemaking mission. As the new day begins, an upgraded CTU operates under the command of M.B.A.-schooled, razor-sharp head honcho BRIAN HASTINGS (Mykelti Williamson), who supervises quirky CHLOE O’BRIAN (Mary Lynn Rajskub), expert data analyst DANA WALSH (Katee Sackhoff) and systems analyst ARLO GLASS (John Boyd).

COLE ORTIZ (Freddie Prinze Jr.), an ex-Marine who wants to follow in Bauer’s footsteps, leads field operations while Agent RENEE WALKER (Annie Wersching) returns with an agenda of her own. Created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, 24 is a production of 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television in association with Teakwood Lane Productions.

Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, David Fury, Manny Coto, Brannon Braga, Brad Turner, Alex Gansa, Kiefer Sutherland and Brian Grazer are executive producers, while Chip Johannessen and Patrick Harbinson serve as co-executive producers. Brad Turner directed the season premiere episode.

Is it any good?
As I said, you know the formula by now. We start off a year or two after the end of the seventh season with Jack having sworn off his crime-fighting ways for good, in favour of being a grandpa. He’s in New York now, where a brand new CTU of extreme shininess is resurrecting the same old tropes as previous years (lots of techs bickering, flirting, messing with computers, talking in jargon, being over-ruled by a CTU boss who just doesn’t get it).

But then up pops one of Jack’s old season three informants to say there’s an assassination attempt being planned on Omar, the leader of IranThe Islamic Republic, a mysterious Muslim country in the Middle East ruled by Indians that wants a two-state solution or something but has lots of nuclear centrifuges. Omar is a softie who’s going to abandon all that in favour of UN inspections. Guess who doesn’t want that.

As a result, and despite promising Kim that he’s going to be flying out to LA with her that evening, Jack gets lured back into the job. Cue lots of gunfights, explosions and torture.

There is, it has to be said, despite the mix of old and new cast, nothing here we haven’t seen in 24 before. Freddie Prinze Jr is surprisingly un-teen idol as the young Jack Bauer who heads up field ops; Katee Sackhoff from BSG is surprisingly girly as his fiancee/CTU analyst with a bad ex-boyfriend; Chloe is even more Aspergers than usual; security is a joke, no matter how much jargon is thrown around; there’s almost certainly a mole in CTU who we haven’t spotted yet. It’s all much of the same mix that’ll have your eyes rolling and your pulse racing simultaneously.

Where we do have wrinkles in the set-up is in the torture. This time, everyone except Jack is into the torture thing, which after last year’s massive soul-searching is at least a good way for the writers to have their hero doing all the same stuff as before without actually doing it himself. Now Jack can say ‘Damn it’ because someone’s doing too much torture, which is at least a slight novelty.

Not much though.

Unlike the disappointing season six and the exceptional (until the end) season seven, this looks more average, neither too little nor too much – it’s the little bear’s porridge of 24 seasons. The move to New York is a good one, I grant you, since neither LA nor Washington worked especially well for the show – LA was too unlikely as a terrorist target, DC is too small and subdued for the energy of 24. and NY is going to have among the most sophisticated anti-terror set-ups in the country.

But we’ve seen most of the plot acted out in previous seasons (nukes on US soil, attempted assassination of Middle East leader, etc). Despite the good supporting cast, including Nazreen Contractor from Canadian 24-knock-off The Border, Jürgen Prochnow (Das Boot) and the guys who played Herc on The Wire and Tooms on The X-Files, there’s nothing really stellar going on, no one standing out in the acting or charisma stakes.

Maybe things will really hot up later on – although, fair dues, there was more action in the first two episodes than in the whole of this season of Heroes – but at the moment, it looks like it’ll neither offend you nor inspire you with its awesomeness. It’s nice to see all the old characters again and it’s going to be a fun ride, but even with Renee going mental, I’m pretty sure that by the end of the season, while we’ll all have enjoyed it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.