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TV Review: Promising Eighth Season of ‘24’ Starts With a Bang

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CHICAGO – Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) returns tonight in the eighth season premiere of one of the most influential shows of the ’00s, the often-brilliant “24”. At its best, FOX’s “24” is visceral entertainment, an adrenalin-pumped hour often unmatched by its many copycats. Unlike most programs in their eighth season, the first four hours of the new “24” often features the program at its best.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

Jack may have tried to retire from life in the anti-terrorism game but, as someone says to Bauer in the first episode, “You’re the guy who always does the right thing.” That’s clearly the main charm and draw of the show and always has been. If our safety is on the line, we all want to think we have “the guy who always does the right thing” on our side. “24” opens with a calm, family-oriented Jack but he’s back in full form before the bottom of the first hour.

24.
24
Photo credit: FOX

How does a show that has had as many explosive opening arcs as “24” top itself this late into its run? Wisely, the writers of “24” realize that this is not the goal. If every day was crazier and more over-the-top, Jack Bauer would be fighting terrorists on the moon by now. Instead of merely turning up the volume, the writers of “24” have created very individually contained seasons, much like each James Bond film stands as its own adventure. The influence of “24” is in the way the producers have never delivered something that looks “like TV”. With theatrical film quality production values and storytelling, each season of “24” has been practically like a feature film in serial form.

24.
24
Photo credit: FOX

One of the more interesting aspects of “24,” and a way that the creators of the show have been able to keep it fresh, has always been the revolving door of the supporting cast with great performances from actors like Dennis Haysbert, Gregory Itzin, and Carlos Bernard in past seasons. Really, the only ensemble members guaranteed to stay the same are Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe. Another familiar face or two may pop up (Elisha Cuthbert guest stars in the premiere), but an influx of new stars always injects life into the start of a new season.

This year’s new faces include Mykelti Williamson (“Forrest Gump”) as the head of CTU New York and Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Galactica”) and Freddie Prinze Jr. (“Scooby Doo”) as CTU employees. Benito Martinez (“The Shield”) appears as an informant who sets the plot for the eighth very long day into motion. He arrives with intel about a potential assassination plan for a Middle Eastern leader (Anil Kapoor of “Slumdog Millionaire”) who is on the verge of signing a peace agreement with the U.S. President (Cherry Jones). The quality in the new ensemble varies with Kapoor easily making the most initial impact while Prinze Jr. is still a bit unconvincing as a member of the CTU team. Sackhoff plays a woman with a mysterious past, but sometimes appears to be a bit of a distraction to the main plot, but one assumes she will play a bigger role as the season advances.

24.
24
Photo credit: FOX

The level of detail in just the first hour of this season of “24” is nearly overwhelming. There are so many new faces this season with their own subplots - including a strident new advisor for the President, family problems for her foreign counterpart, and new work subplots among the characters at CTU - that one practically has to take notes to keep up. Action junkies may be turned off by the first hour, one that is ridiculously dense with new characters and conversation, but, of course, they need not wait long until Jack is dodging gunfire and returning his own. And you won’t have to wait until 5pm (this season starts at 4pm) to see something big go boom.

What’s most remarkable to this critic about the opening quartet of “24” is the screenwriting juggling act that this show maintains at its best. The season premiere introduces multiple characters and arcs and yet never feels overcrowded or rushed. “24” is still one of the most expertly paced programs in the history of television, always keeping the viewer entertained but not overwhelmed.

Overall, this is one of the best opening quartets in the legacy of “24”. As we’ve learned in the past, it can be tough to predict how a season of this show will progress. Some have opened strongly and sagged in the middle. Some have taken time to develop after limping out of the gate. But the opening of the eighth season feature such confident writing, interesting new characters, and perfect pacing that I’m personally amped for hour five of this day more than most seasons past. How many shows are even remotely near their peak in their eighth season much less arguably at it? “24” continues to defy expectations.

The eighth season premiere of ‘24,’ which airs on FOX, stars Kiefer Sutherland, Cherry Jones, Freddie Prinze Jr., Anil Kapoor, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Annie Wersching, Chris Diamantopoulos, John Boyd, Mykelti Williams, Katee Sackhoff, and Elisha Cuthbert. The show premieres with back-to-back episodes on January 17th, 2010 at 8pm CST and two more back-to-back episodes air the next night, January 18th, 2010 at the same time.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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

Steve's picture

Living Dangerously

Kiefer is back on top!!! The new season of “24” should be exciting and his new book, “Kiefer Sutherland: Living Dangerously” is so good. I can’t put it down.

Thet TV Obsessed's picture

Average

The season started off kind of slow, and I’m still waiting for the action to pick up. None of the stories particularly interest me right now, so I’m waiting to see how all the different stories develop. I’m just happy 24 is back, and we’ll see if the season is any good.

Review of the episode on my blog:
http://th3tvobsessed.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-24-season-8-episode-1-2…

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