Tuned In: 12-episode '24' returns to Fox in May


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PASADENA, Calif. -- The clock begins ticking again on May 5 when Fox airs the two-hour premiere of "24: Live Another Day," a 12-episode, limited series.

The show will still cover 60 minutes in each episode but will then skip a few hours here and there -- maybe poor, beleaguered Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) can finally take a nap.

"With [past seasons of] '24' we could never see the other side of the shore," said returning executive producer Howard Gordon on the benefit of having to come up with fewer episodes. "Here we are able to imagine the other side."

The new season, set in London, picks up four years after the 2010 series finale that saw Jack on his own as a fugitive. Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is back, but she and Jack are at odds.

"At the beginning of this show they are pitted against one another by a set of circumstances," Mr. Sutherland said. "It's also something that will evolve over the course of the show."

Other returnees include Kim Raver as Jack's love interest, Audrey Raines, and William Devane as Audrey's father, James Heller, a former U.S. secretary of defense who now is the U.S. president.

Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck") joins the cast as a CIA agent who's trying to track down Jack.

"Jack has disappeared, and he's hunted when the show begins," said executive producer Manny Coto. "When Chloe enters the picture, we will learn she has been damaged over the past four years and she has turned against the government, and for wont of a better term, she is almost a more radical [Edward] Snowden-type character."

And, of course, there's the threat of terrorism.

At one point there had been talk of a "24" movie, which followed a different story entirely and could still happen. But a reboot of the TV series with another lead character also sounds like an option.

"There are a lot of fantastic new characters," Mr. Sutherland said. "I always said from the beginning of the show I felt the star of the show was this concept. Very much like 'Law & Order' and 'CSI' had so many different branches, the format allows certain characters who have a moral objective within a world that may not be very moral is fantastic drama. And so if an audience were to latch onto a younger character that would be helping my character and you would reboot the show through that character, that's certainly an option."

More midseason on Fox

In addition to "24," Fox will roll out period comedy "Surviving Jack" (8:30 p.m. March 27), starring Chris Meloni ("Law & Order: SVU") as a tough dad in the 1990s (cute show but similar to ABC's "The Goldbergs"), and a reboot of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos."

Fox's "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" (9 p.m. March 9) revisits the PBS series, but this time it's executive produced by Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") and hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The series, also executive produced by Mr. Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, explores the discovery of the laws of nature and a vision of the cosmos. Although Mr. MacFarlane and Fox may seem like an odd fit -- episodes will air a day later on National Geographic Channel -- Ms. Druyan said it makes sense given that she and Mr. Sagan used to write for the mainstream Parade magazine.

"I think there's tremendous overlap between the 'Cosmos' audience and the Fox audience," she said. " 'Cosmos' is about opening the door to the widest possible audience to entertain them, to uplift them, to make them feel the awesome power of the scientific perspective. I don't see any contradiction here."

Fox chairman of entertainment Kevin Reilly talked up the end of pilot season and Fox's plans to go into production on series year-round, rattling off a list of programs that are in various stages of production before pilot season begins in earnest. That includes a "Smallville"-like "Batman" origins story, "Gotham," that introduces Bruce Wayne at age 12 along with junior Joker, Penguin and Catwoman characters. Mr. Reilly said the show, only ordered to pilot so far, will staff up its writers room in mid-February in anticipation of a series order, something that usually doesn't happen until May or June.

Mr. Reilly also confirmed that "Glee" will end with its sixth season during 2014-15.

DiMeo goes 'Wild'

Paul DiMeo, who attended Point Park University (then Point Park College) from 1977-79 and worked as a stage manager at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, is one of the stars of National Geographic Channel's "Building Wild" (9 tonight).

City slicker DiMeo, best known as the designer with black glasses who was prone to crying on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," partnered with woodsman/fabricator Pat "Tuffy" Bakaitis in the construction business Cabin Kings. They design and build cabins for guys in off-the-beaten-path locations, and now Nat Geo films the process for "Building Wild."

"I was working mostly with children on 'Extreme Makeover,' " Mr. DiMeo said after a Nat Geo press conference. "Now I'm working with older children!"

The guys who want the cabin have to help build it, but there are hundreds of fewer hands at work on these projects than on "Extreme Makeover."

"We're doing it with eight carpenters as opposed to 2,000 or 4,000 volunteers," Mr. DiMeo said. Episodes are filmed over six days as opposed to nine on "Extreme Makeover."

In other ways it's similar, Mr. DiMeo said. "I always try to fit what I do for who I'm doing it. You listen to what people like."

"I try not to cry, right?" Mr. DiMeo said to Mr. Bakaitis during a Nat Geo press conference.

"You do your fair share of crying," Mr. Bakaitis replied.

Starz prepares 'Outlander'

Starz is readying "Outlander," based on the 1992 Diana Gabaldon novel, for a likely August 2014 debut and previewed clips from it at the TV critics winter press tour. Four episodes have been filmed so far from the show's 16-episode first season.

"Outlander" executive producer Ron Moore ("Battlestar Galactica") and star Sam Heughan showed up wearing kilts, an ode to the show's Scottish setting.

"We all know who wears the pants in this relationship," joked co-star Caitriona Balfe.

"Outlander" follows the story of Claire Randall (Ms. Balfe), a married combat nurse from 1945 who time travels without explanation back to 1743 where she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser (Mr. Heughan), a Scottish warrior.

Ms. Gabaldon gave the TV series her blessing, voicing her support for Mr. Moore's approach and complimenting producers for sending her scripts and soliciting her opinion on occasion. She'll also have a cameo appearance in an episode.

"I'm not reinventing it," Mr. Moore said. "It's a matter of adapting it. There is an audience for it, a dedicated base of fans who love these books and I take that obligation seriously. I want to give them their story but I do have to translate it into a different medium. But in the writers' room we always start with the book. What's the book version of events? And then we go from there."

To say the book series has fans is an understatement. Starz showed footage of fans -- mostly middle-age women -- at a book convention carrying homemade signs and professing their devotion to the romantic story.

"I don't think I was aware of the magnitude of the fans and how enthusiastic they were," Ms. Balfe said. "It's a dream role."

Ms. Gabaldon said fans have been dying for a screen adaptation of the story for years.

"They want to be Claire," she said, before gesturing to Mr. Heughan, "and they sort of want to lick him."

Local reality TV stars

Pittsburghers continue to pop up on reality TV shows, including two announced Friday.

Jake Corrick, 21, from Belle Vernon is among the competitors on Syfy's "Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge" (10 p.m. March 25) about folks who compete in making movie monsters.

The network describes Mr. Corrick as a student and sculptor.

MTV's "House of Food" (10 p.m. March 31) features former Pittsburgher Amanda Shaw, 24, a 2008 graduate of Pittsburgh Allderdice High School.

She has lived in Los Angeles for a few years but has no interest in being an actress. She applied to be on this foodie show because of her family's love of cooking.

In "House of Food," a group of aspiring chefs with no formal culinary training live together and take culinary school classes. No one is kicked out, but only one person wins an apprenticeship at the end of the season.

"Before this I didn't do much cooking," she said, "but my family is really big into cooking. I was more into doing retail [work] until moving to California and then I started really wanting to cook."

Channel surfing

HBO will produce a third and final season of "The Newsroom," which will air this fall. ... Netflix has renewed "Lilyhammer" for a third season to debut in late 2014. ... This week's episode of Animal Planet's "Treehouse Masters" (10 p.m. Friday) travels to Farmington, Fayette County, to build an observation treehouse for two sisters who run a rural inn. One of the sisters is Kristi Leskinen, a top freestyle skier. ... Disney Channel has renewed sitcom "Liv and Maddie," executive produced by former Upper St. Clair resident Betsy Sullenger, for a 13-episode second season to air this fall.

 


A portion of this column originally appeared online in the Tuned In Journal blog. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com.

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