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TV Review: Groundwork and no commercials cut into tension of '24' premiere

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The next longest day in Special Agent Jack Bauer's life begins tonight as the second season of "24" premieres with a one-hour, Ford-sponsored, commercial-free episode.

Counter terrorism agent Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) begins another bad day in tonight's commercial-free premiere of "24" on Fox. (Isabella Vosmikova, Fox)

That seems like cause for celebration, but "24" is a show structured around commercial breaks, a crescendo to each one. Without the breaks, the hour feels bloated and less relentless.

It's as if the plan was to do a 43-minute episode when Fox came to producers and said they needed to add 10 more minutes. You can almost pick out the scenes that will be trimmed with a hacksaw when the show airs again, with commercials, on FX (11 p.m. Monday and 5 p.m. next Tuesday).

Regardless, for fans of the series, it's good to have the characters and the novel format back as another relentless, tension-filled day begins. And what a doozy it promises to be, with more violence than in year one. As an act near the end of this hour demonstrates, "24" is not for the squeamish.

It's more than a year later, and Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) blames himself for the death of his wife last season. His daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), won't talk to him. Instead, she spends her time as a nanny to a young girl in a family headed by a violent psycho dad, Gary Matheson (Billy Burke).

David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), now president of the United States, faces a test of his leadership when a serious terrorist threat arises. He's helped by adviser Lynne Kresge (the excellent Michelle Forbes from "Homicide: Life on the Street") and hindered by National Security Agency chief Eric Rayburn (Timothy Carhart). His now ex-wife, Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald), doesn't surface in the first two episodes made available for review.


dot.gif WHEN: 9 tonight on Fox.

dot.gif STARRING: Kiefer Sutherland.

TV Preview
Countdown to '24': The real-time Fox series hurtles toward the start of its second season


A third story that so far doesn't connect to the others -- but almost certainly will -- features a family preparing for a wedding, but maid of honor Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter) fears that her sister's fiance, Reza (Phillip Rhys), may have ties to terrorists.

This season, Jack is more reckless, a man with less to lose, caring only about his daughter, his nobility shattered by grief.

"You want results," he tells Counter Terrorism Unit head George Mason (Xander Berkeley), "but you never want to get your hands dirty."

Next week's episode has more taut scenes than tonight's premiere, which has to lay the groundwork for the season. No surprise -- last season, it took several episodes before "24" began to live up to its promise.

The biggest hurdle: Conjuring a greater suspension of disbelief. Last season, viewers could buy that Jack would leave his family's safety to other counter terrorism agents while he took care of business. That decision cost him his wife, making it harder to believe when he entrusts Kim's safety to the Counter Terrorism Unit this time around.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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