Season premiere review: ’24: Live Another Day’ – ’11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m./12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.’

Jack Bauer is back. I published an advance review of the “24: Live Another Day” premiere this morning, and I have some spoiler-y thoughts on these first two episodes coming up just as soon as we sit the whole thing out in Greenland…

My plan is to cover “Live Another Day” weekly, depending on what travel and summer vacation allows, but I haven't yet decided whether it'll be full-fledged reviews, short talkbacks to prompt discussion, or something in between. But this is definitely an experiment worth discussing. And since I wrote so much about these two episodes this morning, let's go straight to the bullet points:

 * The premiere does a very good job of both reintroducing Jack while not letting him overshadow the introduction of a host of new characters. Jack gets to kick ass early, then is silent for half the episode, because everyone trusts Kiefer Sutherland to have enough screen presence to not need dialogue, and because everyone else's reaction to Jack tells us a lot about him. And anyone who knew the old show even a little would have understood everything about Jack's plan the second they saw Chloe being subjected to enhanced interrogation by the swell guys from Special Activities.

* Though Howard Gordon has always insisted to me that “24” is more of a thriller than an action show, they still do action exceptionally well, whether Jack's capture in the warehouse, his liberation of Chloe, or the shootout in the housing project where too many factions get involved at once, therefore allowing the real bad guys to slip away.

* Though I didn't especially miss Audrey, I do enjoy watching old pro William Devane work, especially playing a character who isn't at the top of his game but wants everyone to think he is. I fear that at a certain point, Heller's memory loss is going to turn into a cheap plot device, allowing Mark or some other shady character to get away with something that a POTUS with all his faculties intact wouldn't allow. But Devane's very good here; in the scene in hour two where Heller demands to formally address Parliament, I noted, “William Devane smiling is a wonderful thing.”

* As drone pilot and terrorist patsy Chris Tanner, future “Star Wars” hero John Boyega isn't so great with the American accent, but he has good screen presence despite that. And the show's collection of British actors playing American gets varied results as a whole. Some are good (Ross McCall, as Mark's aide, got a lot of practice in “Band of Brothers,” and Australian Yvonne Strahovski has been doing a good American accent for years), and some are not, and some are distracting because they're currently playing British on another show (like Colin Salmon on “Arrow”). But I give the show a whole lot of wiggle room based on the excellent casting of Stephen Fry as the Prime Minister.

* As noted in the review, a lot of the characters are presented as dumb in order to make Strahovski's Kate seem more impressive. And while some shorthand is required, Benjamin Bratt's Steve Navarro already seems like an idiot who will be in need of replacement by hour 7 or 8. And though he doesn't come across as dumb like Steve does, Mark seems to exist solely to cause trouble for Jack, all in the name of “protecting” Audrey (read: making sure she never again sees the love of her life).

* I'd rather not get too deep into the show's politics, given the usual No Politics rule here on the blog. But I do think these episodes do a good job of situating Jack and Chloe into a landscape more closely resembling the one we live in now, versus the one that existed around season 2 or 3. To an extent, drones and Edward Snowden are being co-opted in the same way fear of Jihadist terror was on the old show, but it doesn't feel jarring that Jack is operating in this strange new world, especially since he's meant to be an embarrassing reminder of an earlier era.

What did everybody else think? Did the show feel fresh after four years away? (Or, if you gave up before the end, longer?) Or did you roll your eyes at the same kinds of characters and plot devices as before?

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