With the revived 24: Live Another Day reaching the halfway mark of its 12 episode run, I figured it was time to chime in with a review of the series. I’ll accompany this with another review after the finale toward Summer’s end.
First off, I’d like to address the bullshit ratings articles that keep popping up all over the net about how poorly the show is doing. Let’s be clear- the initial weekly Nielsen ratings don’t include DVR numbers. They come a couple weeks later, but for some stupid reason, the powers that be still don’t add them to the live figures for a grand (and truly accurate) total on viewership. Why does this change everything? Some TV shows on the air today get up to a 50% boost in viewers with DVR ratings. That’s right. Nearly double the number of viewers for some shows aren’t counted in the figures. In the case of 24, it got a 42% DVR boost. To give you a better idea, typical Summer champ The Bachelorette rakes in 6.59 million viewers. As of this writing, Live Another Day is just shy of that with 6.33 million tuning in. Jack Bauer truly is back. And I can now say with absolute certainty- this is the best season they’ve ever done.
The best decision the producers made upon resurrecting the show was trimming all the fat. It seems to be a no-brainer. Cutting the season in half for a high-octane thriller keeps the show moving at a far more appropriate pace. While the sluggish two-hour premiere had a lot of fans worried, it turned out to be just set-up for the exploding rocket that ignited at the end of the third episode and hasn’t slowed down since. Kiefer is on fire right now, finally unleashing the Jack we’ve been waiting for since Day 1. The last season attempted this, but they went way too far. Producer Howard Gordon realized this was mistake, and after desperately attempting to launch a theatrical movie, he again took to the small screen to right all the wrongs and tie up loose ends. Bauer now does what he wants, says what he wants, and hurts who he wants. He no longer cares about the red tape or even cutting through said tape. He sets the tape on fire and walks away with a smile. This was thoroughly on display with this week’s episode. A partner of his (someone who has also walked the tight line between hero and criminal) was being apprehended by MI-6. Jack simply walks over, cuts him loose, and when MI-6 tries to intervene, he tells them to piss off. Back in the day, it would have taken quite a few episodes for him to pull a friend from custody.
With a late time slot in the summer, the show has gotten away with a lot more too. It’s as graphic as network television can get. And yes, that includes a fuck-ton of torture. As much as fans wished for an R-rated comeback (it was originally supposed to air on Fox’s new FXX network), this will certainly do. But the best compliment I can give the show- all the characters matter again. Chloe, Audrey, President Heller, Hannah from Dexter, even Benjamin Bratt has a juicy plotline. Everyone has great material to work with… something 24 hasn’t seen since its peak in Season 5 (the year it scored a Best Drama and Best Actor Emmy). Kiefer chews up the scenery as usual, but he may have met his match with Yvonne Strahovski’s Agent Morgan. I almost get the feeling she’s being vetted to take over the show, but who the hell knows? Kim Raver is also at the top of her game as vulnerable Audrey Heller. And Michelle Fairley is scary good as the female baddie. Is it too much to ask for the season to end with Jack finding out Tony is his cell mate in a hard-ass government prison?
Above all else, 24 has returned to its glory days as the ultimate thrill ride on network television. Once the characters start running in episode three, they never let up. From an assault raid gone bad to an undercover op gone bad to a hospital drone strike, it’s by far the best season of the nine. The new compacted mini-series format has already caught on with Heroes returning next year for a 12 episode run. Here’s hoping Jack will live another day for a Round 10, or at the very least a long overdue theatrical feature.