By Alan Pergament
I suppose the key question concerning the return of Jack Bauer in the Fox series "24" is: Does it pass the test of time?
But it isn't the only question concerning "24: Live Another Day" starring Kiefer Sutherland as the incredibly powerful CIA operative who saved the world for eight seasons and 192 episodes before the series was canceled four years ago.
The two other key questions as the 12-episode season kicks off at 8 tonight on WUTV with back-to-back episodes are: Can you understand what is going on if you missed the first 192 episodes? Are you better off if you haven't seen it before?
First questions first.
I was a huge fan of "24" until the final few seasons, well after the innovations of the multiple screens, the ticking clock and having each episode supposedly representing an hour in real time had worn off.
By the time of its death, the patterns of "24" had been so well-established that it was easy to see where Jack was going and how he was going to get out of impossible predicaments and somehow survive injuries and torture scenes that were as impossible to beat as they were to look at.
And that remains the problem with "Live Another Day."
If you were a regular fan of "24," you can see just about everything going on in London as we meet Jack, with his heroic reputation destroyed, trying to save the world from being destroyed by assasins, drones and hackers.
Unlike Benjamin Bratt, who plays the new clueless CIA bureaucrat who misjudges Jack and his co-workers, it is easy for regular fans to be one step ahead of Bauer.
In that sense, one is better off never having seen "24." I imagine the two hours tonight will be much more surprising and entertaining if you have never seen the show before.
But there also is a downside. If you haven't seen it before, you also won't have a clue about Jack's past ties with the characters played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kim Raver and William Devane. Rasjkub plays Chloe O'Brian, an oddball former CTU tech expert who always believed in Jack when others didn't.
Even having seen every episode, I was a little shaky with how Jack's relationship with Audrey (Raver) and her father James Heller (Devane) ended. And I forgot that Jack was a fugitive from the United States and Russia when he left the series until I read the story about "24" in Sunday's TV Topics.
My guess is viewers who have never seen the show will be able to catch up quickly on the past and will enjoy this season more than regular viewers.
Audrey is now married to the president's chief of staff, played by Tate Donovan, an actor who started the season on CBS' "Hostages" and never stays unemployed for more than a day. Audrey's dad is now the president. President Heller is experiencing early signs of dementia, which scares his son-in-law and would also frighten everyone in the free world if they knew about it.
The cast also includes Yvonne Strahovski of "Chuck," who appears to be on her way out of the London-based CIA office for a past offense. Faithful "24" viewers instantly will be able to guess that she is a rule-breaker and her punishment won't last long. Besides, you don't cast someone as beautiful as Strahovski and dismiss her after one episode.
I won't reveal too much else about the first two hours in the hope that you will be surprised by something. I wasn't surprised by much at all. (If you want to know more, read the TV Topics story, which reveals more than I would have about the season.)
I'd conclude that the new "24" barely passes the test of time.
But the late spring and the summer -- when network TV pretty much dies -- is the perfect time for it even if it isn't as exciting as it had been. Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4
The return of the Emmy Award-winning FX comedy series "Louie" tonight with back-to-back episodes starting at 10 illustrates how much times have changed when it comes to allowable content.
The first episode in 19 months of the semi-fictional version of the life of standup comedian and father Louis C.K. is loaded with sexual dialogue from Louis and his card-playing fellow comedians.
I'm no prude, but I could pass on that scene and another one in a sex toy shop.
But there are some very funny moments in this dark comedy when Louis hurts his back and goes to a pessimistic doctor played by Charles Grodin.
Louis also supplies some good lines in his standup routine scenes, including this classic: "Lots of things happen after you die. It just so happens that none of them include you."
If you aren't the type to be easily offended, fans of "Louie" will include you.
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