Fox brings back one its biggest hits of the past decade with a new, if shortened, season of "24" (8-10 p.m. Monday, WPGH), the terrorism drama starring Kiefer Sutherland as American counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer.
Most of the new season's producers worked on previous seasons of the series.
"I think there was a feeling amongst all of us -- even though when season eight finished, and we were tired and we were kind of ready to move on -- I think all of us felt that there was more to this story and that Jack Bauer's character was not quite ready to shuffle off the stage," said executive producer Manny Coto in a recent teleconference with reporters. "Of course, there was talk of a movie, so it was generally agreed that there would be more. So when this came around, I think a lot of our thoughts that we had been kind of percolating over the years kind of bubbled forth. Particularly exciting is because he is a fugitive -- he was a fugitive -- and on the run from his own government. A man who had saved the United States multiple times, that same country has turned its back on him. So that is a fantastic dynamic to start a series and something that we seized on and really energized us."
Mr. Coto said the writers also liked the idea of making Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) an Edward Snowden-type character.
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"At the same time, the idea of Chloe O'Brian also being, kind of, a fugitive, almost as much a fugitive as Jack, having turned her back against the government, as well," Mr. Coto said. "You take these two characters and you say to yourself, you know, there is an event that requires the two of them to work together to come back together and save Americans, but at the same time fighting the very government that gave them this opportunity. It's a great dynamic we've decided to explore."
Executive producer Evan Katz said viewing habits have changed since "24" premiered in 2001. A shorter, 12-episode season might be more palatable than the 24-episode seasons of old.
"Asking people to devote 24 consecutive weeks to a highly serialized show, you know, maybe is a bigger ask than it was 10 years ago," he said.
"The idea for this, to do a 12-hour season, I think has a lot to do with the success of 12-hour, limited series," Mr. Coto said. "I think 'Under the Dome' was something that probably sparked the network and/or the studio's curiosity about doing something like this. It makes it a special event; it makes it something to catch."
Mr. Coto said the shorter season also helps the writers avoid some terrible plot tangents that plagued earlier seasons (see: Kim Bauer vs. mountain lion).
"When we look down the runway of the season, we don't have 24 hours to fill, whereas in the old series, very often we might try to stretch things out because we knew we had so much time," he said. "Now we're finding ourselves with the end in sight and really working to resolve all of our storylines. So it becomes more compressed and more exciting, we think."
Just don't ask Mr. Coto when Jack Bauer has time to go to the bathroom. He has given the question a lot of thought and rejects its premise.
"I've always found that the strangest comment," he said. "Jack is offscreen for huge amounts of time on this show. I mean, he is. So why couldn't he be going to the bathroom then? It's not like the camera is following him around and he's on-screen the entire season. So people constantly quote that as if it's the most pithy revelation. And I always look at them and say, well, Jack's going to the bathroom when we're on the president, which sometimes takes an entire act.
"The answer is so obvious, it boggles me as to why, actually, people puzzle over it," Mr. Coto said. "He actually does go to the bathroom; we just don't see it. By the way, the other characters go to the bathroom, as well, and we don't see them either."
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.