Tuned In: New '24' just like old '24'

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Although the new "24" limited series carries the title "24: Live Another Day" in marketing materials, on screen it's just the same old "24," not only in title but in just about every imaginable way.

While the format has been altered a bit in Monday's two-hour premiere (8 p.m., WPGH) -- this new season is 12 episodes instead of 24 so some hours will be skipped -- everything else about the show is same-old, same-old. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) remains the righteous hero, always right when every other government intelligence operative is wrong.

You'd think with a few years away and an opportunity for a do-over that the show's producers, returnees from the 2001-10 series, would find some ways to change up the formula. But other than the shorter season and London setting, the story beats and types of twists are nearly identical.

This sameness highlights how the show's format, revolutionary when it premiered more than a decade ago, has become formulaic and a little stale.

When we last saw Jack Bauer, he was on the lam after considering assassinating the Russian president following the murder of Jack's girlfriend, Renee, by the Russian foreign minister under orders from the Russian president. Viewers last saw Jack in grainy CCTV video images, and that's how he's first glimpsed in "Live Another Day."

It's now four years later, and Bauer has been on the run all this time. His partner in antiterrorism, Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), has become the Edward Snowden of this alternate universe, releasing thousands of Department of Defense files on the Internet, resulting in a charge of treason.

Former defense secretary James Heller (William Devane), father of former Bauer love interest Audrey (Kim Raver), is now the U.S. president, and he's in London for a treaty signing with the Brits on drone policy. When the CIA learns Bauer is in town, too, it figures his presence has something to do with the president's mission, which of course it does.

Audrey, last seen in a coma, is now up and moving about and married to Heller's chief of staff (Tate Donovan, "Damages"), who promises, "As long as she lives, she'll never hear the name Jack Bauer." Good luck with that!

At CIA headquarters in London -- with its glass walls it resembles past CTU sets -- a station chief (Benjamin Bratt) deals with losing his best analyst, Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), after her husband is accused of selling secrets to the Chinese. (She was unaware of his criminal activities.) Of course, it's Kate who figures out what Bauer is up to and behaves in a rather Bauer-like, rule-breaking manner even while trying to take him down.

A clash over drone warfare drives the story this season. The U.S. president is not a fan but admits, "The ugly truth is, what we're doing is working."

And "24" has some fun with its past, widely commented upon use of torture.

"What have you done to her?" Jack demands upon finding a doped-up Chloe in CIA custody.

"It's nothing you haven't done," a CIA interrogator replies. It's a cheeky retort that winks at the audience, but Jack doesn't appreciate the irony and punches the guy out.

With only the first two hours available for review, it's too soon to say whether this will turn out to be a better- or worse-than-average season of "24." But what's all but guaranteed is that it is very much the same "24" as in the past.

'Louie' back on FX

After taking a year off, FX's critically acclaimed comedy "Louie" returns Monday with back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30 p.m.

The series remains one of the odder TV shows out there with a highly fluid format. The first episode features a series of thematically linked vignettes; the second episode is a more linear story.

The stories in both half-hours have a dream-like quality, although because this is "Louie," they are more nightmarish scenarios, the kind that rise out of fever dreams. At any moment you expect Louie (Louis C.K.) to wake up in bed and shake it off.

The first episode is pretty filthy, even by FX standards, with lots of sex talk among the comedians at Louie's poker game. This leads Louie to some sexual experimentation of his own, which leads to an injury, which takes him to an unsympathetic doctor.

"Come see me when you have something fun like a blood disease," the doctor tells Louie. "That's what I went to school for."

Monday's second episode features Jerry Seinfeld as a version of himself. He invites Louie to perform at a swanky benefit on Long Island without telling him it will be a black-tie affair. Louie shows up looking like a slob and bombs. But then a model Louie meets takes him back to her beach house, leading to perhaps the best night of Louie's life, until it takes a bad turn and becomes the worst night of his life.

Despite how outlandish some of the scenarios become, they remain relatable. That's partially thanks to Louie's hangdog persona, but it's also because the situations -- a well-meaning guy in a rough spot -- are how people like to see themselves, allowing Louie's flubs to serve as a proxy for the sort of missteps viewers have made or could easily see themselves making.

New 'Peg' on PBS

PBS's "Peg + Cat" (9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays, WQED-TV), from South Side-based Fred Rogers Company, will debut four new episodes next week, Monday through Thursday, including one where the heroes become Super Peg and Cat Guy and use math and creative thinking to defeat Arch Villain.

Also on the Mister Rogers front, one of this year's four Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarships, presented through the Television Academy Foundation, went to Nesra Yannier, a student at Carnegie Mellon University.


Sundance TV renewed "The Red Road" -- starring Tamara Tunie, who was born in McKeesport and raised in Homestead -- for a six-episode second season to air in 2015.

Disney Channel renewed its sitcom "Austin & Ally" for a fourth season and announced "Teen Beach Movie 2" will air in 2015.

TLC ordered eight more episodes of polygamist docusoap "My Five Wives" to air this fall.

Hallmark Channel renewed its daytime talk show "Home & Family" for a third season that begins in October.

Better pull out the Wayback Machine for this one: HBO renewed the movie-making competition series "Project Greenlight" for a fourth season. The most recent season aired in 2005 on Bravo (seasons one and two aired on HBO). This followed the news that HBO is close to ordering a new season of the Lisa Kudrow comedy "The Comeback," which last aired in 2005, too.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox canceled its sci-fi drama "Almost Human" this week.

Channel surfing

Just three new episodes left of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for the 2013-14 TV season with actor Andrew Garfield hosting this weekend with musical guest Coldplay; Charlize Theron hosts May 10 with The Black Keys and Andy Samberg hosts May 17 with St. Vincent. ... Fox Chapel native John Tabis -- CEO of the California-based e-commerce fresh-cut flower business The Bouqs -- will appear tonight at 9 on ABC's "Shark Tank." ... Syfy's "Sharknado 2" won't air until summer but the cable network already ordered "Sharknado 3" for 2015. ... Can't get enough of the syndicated "Judge Judy" in daytime? CBS, which distributes her daily show, will air a one-hour special, "Judge Judy Primetime" (8 p.m. May 20), featuring new cases and a profile of the judge. ... Cornerstone TeleVision debuts the half-hour "Sister 2 Sister" (10 a.m. May 7), a weekly spinoff from "Real Life," that sounds like a religious version of "The View" featuring a panel of women -- an attorney, a pastor, a missionary, a young mom -- talking about "hot topics" from a biblical perspective. ... The six-episode final season of "The Killing" will debut on Netflix Aug. 1.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "The Mentalist," "Nashville" and "CBS This Morning." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Those Who Kill," "Playing House," "24" and "Peg + Cat." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

Tuned In podcast has the week off.

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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