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Tuned In: Plot thickens on '24'

Friday, July 18, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

HOLLYWOOD -- Fox drama "24" received 10 Emmy nominations yesterday, including outstanding drama series and lead actor in a drama for series star Kiefer Sutherland, who learned of his nomination while in a car on the way to meet the press.

"We really focused on wanting the show to get nominated," Sutherland said. "When I won the Golden Globe, it really did come as a shock to me. I remember looking out in the audience and seeing people I want to work with someday. You put that in your pocket as a really nice moment and move on."

Sutherland said he's gotten in trouble discussing upcoming plot turns on "24," so he was fairly tight-lipped about the new season.

"Jack is dealing with a huge conflict at the outset," Sutherland said, indicating the concept of moles will return to the show. "This season really does turn on itself a lot. The second season did not as much. This season really goes back to the first season. It gets back to a real espionage feel."

"24" will have its third season premiere Oct. 28 and, like last year, it will air commercial-free and will be sponsored by Ford.

Executive producer Robert Cochran said the new season will be set two-and-a-half years after the conclusion of season two and will begin the 24-hour real-time story in the early afternoon (season one began at midnight, season two at 8 a.m.).

He said hints planted at the end of season two may or may not come to fruition.

The guy on the boat? Cochran doesn't know if he'll play a role. Mandy (Mia Kirshner), who blew up a jetliner in season one and poisoned the president in season two? Ditto. What about the threat Marie (Laura Harris) made to her sister (Sarah Wynter)? It won't play out early in the season at least.

"We know we can use that stuff or not as we please," Cochran said, acknowledging there was no particular plan in place when the season finale was written. "We had all we could to do the season we were doing without trying to figure out this season. We know we can take things and weave them in if we need to but if we don't need to, we won't."

Did President Palmer (Dennis Hasybert) survive? "I know, but I can't say," Cochran teased. And his manipulative wife, played by Penny Johnson Jerald, did she go to jail and will she get out for good behavior? Jerald is not yet signed, but she could return.

"Everybody wants to know that and so does Penny," Jerald said earlier this month. "I really am an unemployed actress at the moment. I can't promise anybody I'll sit around and wait for them, but I really would like to continue playing Sherry."

"We think of ourselves as completely story driven," Cochran said. "When we think of a good story, if it means somebody has to die, they die. If it means we have to bring in a new character, we bring in a new character."

What about CTU operative Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard)? "I can feel that slippery slope happening," Cochran said, hestitating at confirming any other casting decisions. "I'm starting right down the slope."

This much he would confirm: Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) is back, as is Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert), a character viewers love to loathe.

"How do you get that character into the main story? Kidnapping worked great but we did that on year one, but how do you do that in year two or any other year?" Cochran said. "We think we came up with something this year that may solve the dilemma."

Cochran said the CTU headquarters has been repaired and this year there's another "tentpole mission, comparable to stopping the assassin or finding the bomb, that Jack and his colleagues will be focused on, but of course I won't say what that is."

At least one new character, a young CTU agent named Chase, will be added. And, inevitably, Fox's promos are sure to spoil the show as they did last season, giving away upcoming plot twists.

'IDOL' CHATTER

"American Idol" was nominated for an Emmy yesterday in the outstanding reality category, which is now called "reality/competition," which fits "Idol" slightly better.

"They didn't know where else to put us," said executive producer Ken Warwick.

"We are a variety entertainment television program," said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. "The reality is we're on live television telling it like it is. We're not going behind the scenes."

Lythgoe said he thinks the show isn't considered a "variety" program because "in every country in the world variety is dead, so let's not call it that.

"If there were a category for reality shows with the most talent in front of the camera, we'd walk [away with] it."


Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com .

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