Jack Bauer still having one long and very bad day on '24'

TV Review

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Fox's "24" returns for its eighth season, and the show is starting to feel as tired as weary, ready-to-retire Grandpa Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).

Viewers first glimpse Jack playing with his granddaughter, who calls him by his first name.

"You're supposed to call me Grandpa," he says.

"You don't look like a grandpa," the girl replies.

"Couldn't agree with you more," Jack mutters.

Jack, living in New York and recuperating from last season's very bad day, plans to move back to Los Angeles with daughter Kim (guest star Elisha Cuthbert) and her husband, but then an old informant (guest star Benito Martinez, "The Shield") stumbles into Jack's apartment spilling blood from a gunshot wound and secrets from bad guys who plan to kill the president (Anil Kapoor) of a fictional Middle East country who's at the United Nations for nuclear disarmament talks with U.S. President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones).

This time, Jack tries harder to resist getting sucked back into CTU, whose New York branch looks like an underground Apple store, but the return of a damaged Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) ensures he'll again work to save the day.

Fan favorite Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is back working at CTU because her husband lost his job -- everybody's hurting in this economy, even in the fictional world of "24" -- but initially she's written as out of touch with the newest technology, which some viewers may take as a slap in the face to the character.

There is a new crop of CTU techies with their own tangled histories -- it appears CTU's background checks are as insufficient as those for reality show contestants -- including Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff, "Battlestar Galactica"), who sports long, blond hair perfectly draped over one shoulder and carries secrets from her past. She's waiting for fellow CTU agent Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to put a ring on it.

When Jack tries to get CTU boss Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson) to listen, Hastings barks, "I need more than your instinct, Mr. Bauer. CTU isn't the organization you knew."

What? It's not the incompetent government agency that bungles attempts to prevent assassinations leaving Jack to clean up the mess? Sure seems like it is the old CTU.

In addition to CTU intrigue, there are also political machinations with President Taylor's staff and with the family of President Omar Hassan (Kapoor), and by the end of the first four hours (9-11 tonight; 8-10 p.m. tomorrow, WPGH), somebody loses a hand, but this time it's not Jack brandishing the hacksaw.

There has been some chatter that this could be the final season of "24," and that sounds like a good idea. From these four hours it's clear there are few new stories or twists for the show to employ. Its time has come and gone.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. First Published January 17, 2010 5:00 AM


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