Thursday morning, a "24" cornucopia (sort of, anyway) as we offer you a look at last night's Kiefer Sutherland interview on "Late Show with David Letterman," and, following that, 24 questions answered about the forthcoming "24: Live Another Day," which arrives a week from Sunday.
(App readers, watch the video here: http://nwsdy.li/1mhnom5)
"24:Live Another Day" starts May 5 as a two-hour special, and will wrap 11 weeks later. But will Jack live another day, beyond this one, and why 12 hours instead of the hallmark 24? Many questions, or at least 24.
1.) Where is the new edition set? "Live Another Day" shifts from New York, where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was last seen, to London. And this is no "second unit" job -- where a few scenes were taped, then spliced into footage from a sound stage in Hollywood. London is a major star.
2.) Who's back? Besides Jack, we have three key returning stars: Jack's friend and confidante, Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub); Audrey Raines Heller (Kim Raver) from Days 4, 5 and 6; and James Heller, her father, (William Devane), also Days 4, 5 and 6. He was secretary of defense back then, president now.
3.) Any special guest stars? "24" always had many of those, right? Right you are, and this iteration is no different. Besides Devane and Raver, expect Tate Donovan as the president's chief of state, Mark Boudreau; Benjamin Bratt as Steve Navarro, CIA field chief in London; Gbenga Akinnagbe ("The Wire") as Erik Ritter, a CIA operative; and Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck") as another CIA employee who ...well, we don't want to give away too much, do we?
4.) Because this is set in London, does "24" take advantage of the talent pool there? It does, and in style. Stephen Frye, the immensely gifted British comedian and TV writer, has an arc, as does Michelle Fairley of "Suits" and "Harry Potter" fame -- and enormous fame from "Game of Thrones," as Catelyn Stark.
5.) How did Day 8 -- season 8 -- end back on May 24, 2010 (at 4 p.m. to be exact)? Jack's a wanted man, very wanted. He's killed the CTU mole (Katee Sackhoff), the Russian foreign minister and another bad guy -- also Russian -- who killed the Love of His Life, Renee (Annie Wersching). A predator drone is tracking him as he escapes, but Chloe (umm) pulls the plug. Jack makes a clean getaway.
6.) What has dear Jack been up to the last four years? On the run, on the lam, under the radar, off the grid. Take your pick -- but he's been everywhere and nowhere, wanted by the country he saved (the United States) and by the Russians.
7.) What does he look like after all these years? He doesn't look tanned and relaxed. That much we can tell you. He looks older ... and grimmer. The lines on that troubled Bauer face have deepened.
8.) Between what hours is the next season set? That digital clock begins ticking at exactly 11:06 a.m. which means it ends the next day at ... any guesses?
9.) How will "24" hours get compressed into 12? Yes, "24's" classic conceit remains, in which 24 hours of a single day (invariably a bad one for Jack) play out over the course of a season. But this season will be but 12. How the show will accomplish this is a bit unclear, but expect gaps in the timeline. (See the next question and answer.)
10.) Why only 12 hours instead of the usual 24? Manny Coto, one of this season's executive producers, addressed this very question recently, saying, "this remains a real-time series but all we are doing is representing 12 hours out of a 24-hour time period. The idea has a lot to do with the success of 12-hour limited series like [CBS's] 'Under the Dome' which was something that spiked the studio's and network's curiosity about doing this. Plus, this makes it more of a special event, something to watch [as it unfolds.]"
11.) Are there still moles, rats and no-do-gooders in the CIA (there is, alas, no longer a "CTU") and in the highest levels of the administrations? To answer this with a question -- a rhetorical one -- is there still water in the sea? Of course -- "24" wouldn't be "24" without the well-positioned fiend who makes Jack's day just a little bit longer.
12.) Is the same production team on board? For the most part, yes. Jon Cassar, who directed so many "24s," is back for this ride, as are series creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. Coto and Evan Katz are among the executive producers. All are seasoned "24" hands.
13.) What is going on with Chloe? No spoilers here. Nevermind -- let's spoil away. She's been on the run, too, just like Jack, and -- with that new haircut, deep black eyeliner, and all-black sartorial fashion style choice, she is also looking very downtown, or very Williamsburg. But what has she been up to? That would be giving too much away. Sorry.
14.) What is going on with Audrey? Like all Friends of Jack (FOJ's), she ended up in bad shape at the end of day 6 -- catatonic, in fact. Jack, her lover, was going to kidnap her at the end of that dreadful day, even threatening to kill her father, James Heller, if he stopped him. But there was a change of heart. Despite her ordeal, Audrey looks spectacular, and is happily married. (Or is she?)
15.) Why did "24" end anyway back in 2010? Hit shows begin to get very expensive after eight seasons, and when the ratings go down, as they had here (though not a steep drop by any means) the numbers no longer make sense. Creatively, the show -- to use the polite phrase -- had also run its course.
16.) Why even bring "24" back at all? I mean, we can't even get a "Friends" reunion, for crying out loud! Classic franchises do not always go quietly into the good night (and in fact, NBC is rebooting "Heroes" for a special "miniseries event.) Fans remain and Jack's story is unfinished.
17.) Do we, meaning you, me, still care? This is a complicated question, but the answer is almost certainly "yes," if -- as a fan -- you felt the 8th season had not completed Jack's story, which it most assuredly had not.
18.) Why did "24" even matter in the first place? "24" was one of those great post-9/11 commercial TV enterprises that seemed to reflect the "zeitgeist" -- that forbidding Teutonic term that essentially means "the way we all think and feel at the moment." Furious, angry, heroic and retributive, Bauer was All of Us as our best (and worst) idealized selves.
19.) Does it still matter? Certainly not in the same way. And as the "days" passed, "24" and its highly capable production team struggled to keep self-parody at bay, only half successfully. The 24-hour day turned out to be too long, which is why the 12-part season at least promises the possibility that the story will not be murdered by the implausible.
20.) Torture was a controversial part of the original, in that "24" at times almost seemed to offer an endorsement? Interestingly, yes, torture is here ... But in ways that might surprise you. (Enough said.)
21.) What other contemporary touches can one expect? Many, and as always, "24" strives for both relevance and contemporaneity; there is even a story that appears to echo Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency leaker/whistle-blower.
22.) Will there ever be a "24" movie? Probably not. "Live Another Day" is the "in lieu" of project. Besides, "24" just seems better suited to the small screen.
23.) Could there be another "24" series after this one? Says Coto, "Nothing is impossible, but we are treating this season as a one-time series event, with a beginning, middle and end."
24.) Well, what's the bottom line? By all means, please read the review, but the initial read is ...yes. Jack is back in style.