If you’re looking for a great action comedy, look no further than “24.” The series, told in real-time, features Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), a practically invincible secret agent who can kill 10 men in about five seconds, disarm nuclear devices and even kidnap heads of state.
After a one-year hiatus due to the writer’s strike, the show’s seventh season returned Jan. 11. The premiere began where “24: Redemption,” a two-hour special that aired in November, ended. This time, the show is set in Washington, D.C. because terrorists were getting just as sick of Los Angeles as we were.
In this edition, the FBI enlists Jack to track down an old friend, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard). Tony died in a previous “24” season, but the show’s producers thought fans would like to see him return. It turns out that Tony was only dead “for 10 minutes,” but that isn’t even the most absurd twist in the premiere.
The undead Tony has betrayed the U.S. and is a leader in a terrorist cell aiming to hack the United States infrastructure. Apparently, a special “CLP device” allows terrorists to hijack Air Traffic Control, our water supply and our power grid. Maybe the U.S. should buy a better firewall.
The show’s side plot features just-elected President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), who must decide whether the U.S. should topple a genocidal African regime. To make matters worse, she must cope with her son’s recent suicide, which we soon learn wasn’t really a suicide. Perhaps the sub-plot wouldn’t have seemed as trite if Jones‘ delivery of her lines wasn’t so cliché.
“24“ was once a taut thriller, but it has descended into the realm of guilty pleasure. The characters have cookie cutter personalities, the plot is preposterous and there are so many twists and turns that nothing comes as a surprise anymore. The show lacks consistency, depth and direction.
Still, “24” does just enough to satisfy the appetites of hardcore fans. After all, most people watch to see Jack Bauer do what he does best: beat bad guys. Newcomers will appreciate the comedy of an indestructible super agent ready to conquer whatever task the whims of the writers dictate. But can Jack save “24” from another drop in ratings? Even he may be incapable of that.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.