Tube Talk: Another day in the life of Jack Bauer
By Paula Hendrickson
Jack’s back. Chloe, too. After years of rumors that Fox’s iconic series 24 would spawn a feature film or two, 24 is coming back as a 12-part limited series titled 24: Live Another Day.
You might not remember the timing, but the original 24 premiered just eight weeks after the devastating Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. No doubt watching Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) spend a jam-packed day unraveling a terrorist threat — and stopping it in the nick of time — gave millions of viewers a much-needed sense of security that someone like Bauer was out there working 24/7 to ensure their safety.
The show wasn’t created to capitalize on our national tragedy. It was conceived of well before the all-too-real events of 9-11 unfolded. Sadly, global terrorist threats are still all too frequent and all too real. That’s maybe one reason behind 24’s return. But the popularity of binge viewing, shorter seasons and limited series are what have really opened the door for a 24 redux.
One of the original series’ main selling points was its novel “real-time” gimmick. Each 24-episode season covered one day in Bauer’s life. While intended as a tension-building storytelling device, that ticking clock actually weighed down the momentum of the plot. Bauer needed time to get from point A to point B, but that stalled the action. Fans even joked about how Bauer never ate or went to the bathroom.
[My biggest pet peeve was that he never set his phone on silent while sneaking around or surveilling bad guys, even when he knew Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) would be calling with crucial information. Nothing gives away a spy’s position as fast as a ringing cell phone.]
Despite such real-time challenges, 24 ran eight seasons before Jack Bauer went off-grid in 2010.
May 5, Bauer and Chloe resurface in London in 24: Live Another Day.
For this go-round, the real-time gimmick has been dropped. The entire season will still span one 24-hour period — which means we won’t have to watch less-exciting B-stories and C-stories that helped run down the clock while Bauer was battling traffic or locked up somewhere waiting for his captors to torture him some more.
Ah, torture. And killing. Violence was always way over-the-top on 24, and will likely remain a key part of the show — as will Chloe’s hacking skills, no doubt.
If the new format is a hit, additional seasons of 24 could be ordered. As long as Bauer isn’t killed off at the end of this run. Not that he hasn’t been presumed dead and returned before.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to email@example.com.
From the April 30-May 6, 2014, issue