Tuned In

TV Weekend: Jack Takes Manhattan

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I don’t have a full-fledged review for you of the four-hour double-shot premiere of 24, which begins Sunday night. That’s partly because the kickoff, though it brings Jack Bauer to my city of New York and recruits Katee Sackhoff to CTU, does not have enough in it to convince me that the show has rebooted itself to the point where I’d want to watch it weekly again.

But it’s also because I’ve found, over the past few seasons, that good or bad, the four-hour openers often have little to do with the rest of the season to follow.

The opener of season 6, culminating in the nuke attack in California, was intense and focused; the rest of the season was probably the franchise low point. Last year’s opener seemed to indicate that the season would take an interesting look at Bauer and the torture question; but the rest of the season didn’t capitalize on it well or consistently enough.

That said, there’s some promise in the season opener, which finds 24—at least for starters—stepping back from the need to top each previous season’s threat. This year, the focus starts out on the leader of a Middle Eastern country (Anil Kapoor) in a negotiation at the U.N. over its nuclear program; a potentially groundbreaking piece deal is threatened by an assassination plot. Jack Bauer begins the season retired from CTU work, hoping to reconnect with daughter Kim and lead the life of happy grandpa. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say CTU pulls him back in.

If you accept that 24 is no longer the groundbreaking TV show it was but just an annual, extended, competent action movie, this installment seems to have some promise. (And Freddie Prinze Jr.? Actually pretty convincing in a badass role.) But who knows? By the end of the four hours, there are signs that the story could spin off into another mega-terror threat. And really, the storytelling in any season of 24 is so fluid—an improvisation, really—that it’s almost pointless assessing it until the whole season is over.

This has been my non-review of the season premiere of 24. Feel free to chime in with your own actual-review thoughts once it airs.