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‘24’ Reflects Changing Times With Excellent Season-Seven Premiere

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CHICAGO – The world has changed significantly since Kiefer Sutherland and the rest of the team behind Fox’s “24” were forced to save it repeatedly over the first six seasons of one of the most popular shows of the last decade. Will “24” still be relevant with controversy over real-life torture dominating the headlines and a new regime getting ready to take office?

The new season of “24” picks up at 8am in the life of Jack Bauer and it will be after noon by the time the first four hours have unfolded over two nights on FOX, starting January 11th, 2009. In the opening moments of the first episode, the chief engineer of the government’s infrastructure and security system is kidnapped and a group of domestic terrorists has taken control of something very powerful - our nation’s air traffic control.

The clock is ticking for 24: SEASON 7 to premiere with a special two-night, four-hour event Sunday, Jan. 11 and Monday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
The clock is ticking for 24: SEASON 7 to premiere with a special two-night, four-hour event Sunday, Jan. 11 and Monday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Photo credit: Michael Muller FOX

Meanwhile, as he came home to do at the end of “24: Redemption”, Jack is being questioned by the government for the interrogation techniques that he used while he was an agent for CTU. At the same time a new President, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), is dealing with her first big crisis in office.

Controversy over the detainment of people without due process and the use of extreme methods to get answers from suspects while a new leader takes control of the White House. Anyone who thinks “24” shouldn’t be viewed in context of what’s happening in the real world is clearly missing the point. The writers of the show have very consciously made an effort to have “24” not only reflect the times we are in but to change with them.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. The clock is ticking for 24: SEASON 7 to premiere with a special two-night, four-hour event Sunday, Jan. 11 and Monday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. The clock is ticking for 24: SEASON 7 to premiere with a special two-night, four-hour event Sunday, Jan. 11 and Monday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal/FOX

Of course, it’s not all discussion and politics. Before the end of the first hour, Jack is putting his controversial techniques to use when he is brought from Capital Hill to the FBI to help stop the terrorists who have taken in-flight planes hostage.

Why Jack? Well, it turns out that the man behind the terrorist plot is someone that Bauer knows very well, the thought-dead Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), who Jack saw pass away in his arms near the end of season five. He didn’t die. (And, don’t worry, this is not a spoiler. It’s revealed within moments of the premiere. We would never spoil the end of even the first hour of the new season, much less any details from the three that follow.)

To stop Tony, Bauer is forced to work with several new faces at the FBI, including its head, Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling), two of its analysts (Rhys Coiro & Janeane Garofalo), and agent Renee Walker (Anne Wersching). Of course, Tony isn’t the only familiar face making an eventual return. Jon Voight will also return later in the season

Is Jack the only man that can stop Tony? What really happened to the now-dead son of President Taylor? The “First Man,” Henry Taylor (Colm Feore), doesn’t think his son committed suicide. And is the terrorist attack on air traffic control related to the President’s impending decision to intervene in a genocide in Africa?

And will interrogation and torture play a role through the entire season? It’s certainly a major part of the background of the first four hours. The government’s response to Bauer’s past has had very little effect on him, although he does seem a little calmer in these first four hours than he usually is in the two-night premiere of “24,” as if he’s been through this kind of crap too many times to panic again.

But, and maybe this is what “24” fans really want to hear, Jack is always going to be Jack. He will go to whatever ends necessary to save his country and there are several moments in the morning of the seventh season where he’s screaming, choking, and getting ready to kill to get the job done. In fact, an audience could definitely take from “8:00am-12:00pm” that the creators of “24” are condoning torture when an agent like Jack Bauer thinks its necessary. Case in point - When someone with necessary information says “I have rights” in one episode, the agent questioning him responds with “I suggest you use your last breath wisely.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer (R) and Annie Wersching as Renee Walker (L). Day 7 premieres with a special two-night event Sunday, Jan. 13 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and Monday, Jan. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer (R) and Annie Wersching as Renee Walker (L). Day 7 premieres with a special two-night event Sunday, Jan. 13 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and Monday, Jan. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal/FOX

At the same time, there’s a definite theme of consequences of government action, no better represented than in the character arc of Tony Almeida. Bernard’s return to the show, as soap opera-esque as it may be, gives a jolt to the series that was missing in season six.

With all the political issues aside, how’s the action? There’s a Bauer escape at the end of episode three that stands with his best and all four hours feel more believably paced than the cluttered action of season six. The first four hours of season seven may not be as “explosive” as some seasons, but it feels more like the first two seasons - confident and as tightly and expertly edited as anything you’ll see on television this year.

It’s not surprising that the action is well-done and “Redemption” hinted at how directly “24” would address real-life issues this year, but what’s most unexpectedly promising about the start of season seven is the expanded cast. At least at the beginning, this is not the “Jack Bauer show” by any stretch of the imagination. Great stage actors Jones and Feore are unlike any President and spouse we’ve seen on the show to date and I love the new team of “good guys” in Garofalo, Nordling, Coiro, and Wersching. (Although, on “24,” you can never be sure who’s actually “good”.) There’s not a single false performance in the first four hours of season seven.

A great ensemble, interesting political themes, and action as good as anything in movie theaters at this time of year. The debut of the seventh season of “24” is good enough to think that the changes in character and tone to reflect the changing times and the new administration might work well enough to keep this landmark show around for the years it takes to see another one.

‘24,’ which airs on FOX, stars Kiefer Sutherland, Carlos Bernard, Cherry Jones, Colm Feore, Jeffrey Nordling, Rhys Coiro, Janeane Garofalo, Anne Wersching, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. The premiere of season seven airs on January 11th, 2009 at 7PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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