24 – Season 8

For those unfamiliar with 24, here’s the plot:

Counter-terrorist super-agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) reluctantly gets pulled into another plot against the United States, often involving the president and national security. Frustrated by the bureaucracy of his employer CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit), Jack eventually breaks all the rules, thwarting the crisis within 24 “real-time” episodes. There is a lot of yelling and cell phones with unbelievable battery life as Jack kicks some serious terrorist ass.

Hard to believe, but this plot is now in its eighth season. This is because each year, the creative team does a terrific job providing a plot wrinkle or a new cast member to the parade of suspense cliches and overacting, keeping the whole thing fascinating. Sutherland has made Bauer the closest thing to Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp on screen today and a cultural icon of sorts. He plays the role with a most sincere intensity and is terrific every year, even when he’s on heroin (as he ridiculously was in season 3). Why no Emmy? Maybe Sutherland needs to talk to the Emmy judges, Jack Bauer style!

While all the seasons haven’t been equal in terms of quality, they are pretty interchangeable in plot, structure, and implausibility. Cherry Jones, who won an Emmy last year for pursing her lips, returns as President Taylor. The good news is that the much better and slimmer President Logan (Gregory Itzin) will return from fan-favorite Season 5. How they bring him back from nearly dead will be an interesting two lines of dialogue.

Also back is Bauer’s love interest, Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), now a psychologically fragile expert on the Russian mob. 24 never really entirely stops the action for romance, but there is always some looming potential for Jack to go off into the concealed weapon carrying sunset, should the world achieve world peace.

New to the cast is Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica (Katee Sackhoff), who plays Dana Walsh, rival to cyber-geek Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) with, and here’s a new twist, a checkered past. Does she also have a heart of gold or a spirit of cold? We’ll have to tune in a find out.

Also new is Scooby Do veteran actor Freddie Prinze Jr. as Cole Ortiz, who looks to be the latest CTU agent to get a “real world” education from Jack Bauer, falling under his rule-breaking spell. Rut Roh!

24 is all silly nonsense that can wear you out with cliffhanger upon cliffhanger – despite its high entertainment value. What was once very new and exciting, and one of the first great serialized TV shows kicking off its Renaissance is now a bit tired. Viewers feel the same way as while ratings were good for the debut, they slid the next night, losing to Two and a Half Men. Maybe American prefers guys who break the rules off-camera?

With extraordinarily high production costs and Sutherland’s weariness for playing Bauer, one wonders if season 8 will be the last. This may be your last chance to decide if you should cut the green or red wire for the eighth time.

Monday on FOX.

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