The creators of “24” know there is both excitement and skepticism awaiting the return of indefatigable counter-terrorism-agent-turned-fugitive Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).
Near the end of the first hour of the reboot of the Fox thriller — now dubbed “24: Live Another Day” and premiering in a two-hour block Monday at
9 p.m. — an ambitious field agent turns to Bauer and says snarkily, “We used to study your missions back in training. You were really something, Bauer. Back in the day.” Ooh, burn.
Indeed, “24” was must-see TV at one point, its relentless ticking clock helping to quicken the pace of many shows that followed. But after nearly a decade of saving the world, Bauer was last seen in 2010 hitting the road after going on a retribution rampage and giving the slip to both Russian and US pursuers, along with many viewers, as the show declined in the ratings.
There are promising signs of life in the first two hours of the new series, which take place between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in London.
Bauer has come out of hiding just as President James Heller (William Devane) and his daughter, former Bauer paramour Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), have come to town. Heller is there to meet with the British prime minister and deal with protests over his operating — hot-button issue alert! — drones. Audrey is there presumably so she can be gobsmacked by Bauer’s reappearance; she has been married off to her dad’s chief of staff, Mark Boudreau. (We know Boudreau is probably a bad guy because he’s played by the great Tate Donovan in oily-creep mode a la “Hostages,” not the genial screw-up mode he displayed on “The O.C.”)
The show starts with pulse-pounding action, setting in motion several stories that will hopefully collide in interesting ways. These include Bauer’s impending reunions with Audrey and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), now an embittered hacktivist taking her fashion cues from girls with dragon tattoos and her mission statement from Edward Snowden. There’s also his face-off with a disgraced-but-tenacious intelligence agent (Yvonne Strahovski, “Chuck”) and the tale of a drone pilot who is having nearly as bad a day as Bauer.
The other promising development is the producers’ choice to retain the single-day conceit but compress it into 12 episodes instead of the titular 24. If that means there will be less filler, artificial obstacles, and detours down unfortunate side streets — or cougar-filled mountain paths — it could prove useful.
For those who grew weary of the tedious exposition, repetitious themes, and credulity-straining time-space-logic leaps of the original series, well, those are here too. It remains to be seen if familiarity will breed contempt. But after four years off, something about all of those elements — like analysts blathering about uploading schematics or a hail of bullets from the guns of trained agents never finding their intended target — feel like old friends, almost like listening to a greatest-hits album.
The first two episodes are a welcome invitation to the same old song and dance, but everyone involved will need to freshen up the choreography.