Stay Tuned
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

"24" Review: Have I Outgrown My Favorite Show?

I watched the four-hour premiere of “24” weeks ago, but it’s taken me this long to write the review.

That’s mainly because I didn’t know what to say. You guys know that “24” is my favorite show but after watching all four hours, my immediate reaction was one of ambivalence. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

Then I read what a lot of other people had to say about the show and they all seemed more excited about it than I did. And that got me a little scared. Had I actually outgrown my favorite show?

I just couldn’t accept that. So today I watched all four hours again so I could write my review. And I’m happy to say that it's not true. I have not outgrown my favorite show…

Season 8 of “24” opens with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in a place we have never seen him before—happy. It’s nice to see him enjoying time with his granddaughter Teri, especially since Claire Geare is quite possibly the cutest child actress I have ever seen. But this being “24” you know that happiness isn’t going to last and before you can say “we’re running out of time” Jack is dragged into another CTU crisis involving an attempt on the life of President Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor, “Slumdog Millionaire”) who is involved in peace talks with President Taylor (Cherry Jones).

But CTU NY is a VERY different place than what Jack—or we—are used to. Instead of the cold dark place we remember from LA, it now more resembles the Starship Enterprise with its giant video screens, clear desks, cone-like interrogation rooms and Bluetooth headsets where everyone can communicate with anyone they want with a tap of the temple.

There are a lot of new faces too including Director Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson), Field Ops Director Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and data analyst Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff). Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is still around, but for the first time she’s not the expert in everything as she struggles to adapt to the changes as much as we are.

But you can’t keep a good woman down and soon Chloe is challenging Hastings’ methods with Jack’s help. And Cole, who is clearly a Jack fan himself, jumps into the fray as well.

“24” season premieres tend to start out slow while they set up the plot and this one is no exception. But Kapoor is outstanding as the leader of an unnamed Middle Eastern country. And his chemistry with Jones is so fantastic you’re willing to sit through their semi-boring discussions of weapon inspectors.

However, the slow pace does not last long as the soap opera-type elements that exist in every season find their way into the show by episode one—which is a little unusual. There are accusations of an affair and someone is confronted with their secret past. Normally, I don’t have a lot of tolerance for that stuff, but for some reason I’m willing to go with it mainly because of the actors involved (Somewhere along the line I’ve become a huge fan of Katee Sackhoff and I never watched “Battlestar Galactica.”).

In fact, I’m willing to go along with most of what happens in the first four hours. The red herrings seem way more obvious this time around, but I think that’s actually on purpose. There are several times where the show seems to be poking fun at itself. And that’s a nice change.

One thing I was not willing to go along with though was the hideous stall tactic that takes up much of the third episode. There’s at least one of those each season, but this one is one of the worst—if not the worst—I’ve ever seen. That’s not only because it doesn’t make sense, but also because it involves a bloody Jack and I am always opposed to any damage to his face. I actually fast-forwarded through all those scenes when I re-watched it.

But as bad as that is, I encourage you to stick with it because once we get past the stalling, the show really gets humming as we welcome back an old friend from last season with a brand new attitude that I am totally digging. By the time the fourth episode ends, you’ll be completely psyched for the rest of the season.

I’m still not sold on Williamson because he brings a completely different style to this year’s CTU head idiot who has yet to realize that Jack is always right. And I’m still not past my concerns that Prinze will be another Rick Schroder. But with Sackhoff and Rajskub offering solid support, I’m willing to play along for now.

I think because I watched all four episodes at once the first time, I might have overwhelmed myself a little. And I let the disappointment of the third episode make me forget the good parts of the first two. Yes, there are some been there, done that elements but you have to expect that with a show in its eighth season. And at times, I admit I found that familiarity downright reassuring.

Jack is back, kids. And isn’t that what’s really important?

“24” premieres with a two-hour episode Sunday, January 17th at 9 p.m. The final two hours of the premiere air Monday, January 18th at 8 p.m. on FOX…

Photo Credits: Brian Bowen Smith/FOX & Kelsey McNeal/FOX