The Fall Season 2016: Designated Survivor


I hadn’t intended on adding anything new to my TV schedule, at least not until iZombie returns, but the reports on the pilot episode did make me curious about Keifer Sutherland’s new starring vehicle, Designated Survivor. And it’s Sunday morning, and I’m all relaxed, so I thought I’d give it a look, and for the next few weeks at least, I’ll be watching to see how it develops.

At the very least, it’s a refreshing change to watch Sutherland in something where I’m actually enjoying both the story and his own performance. 24 was played out a very long time ago, and whilst Live Another Day proved that there were still stupidities that hadn’t been plumbed, unbelievable as that may have sounded, Designated Survivor enables Sutherland to play a much more rounded character than the exceedingly limited bundle of cliches Jack Bauer had become.

Apparently, when he was handed the script for this pilot, Sutherland send that he instantly realised that this was his life for the next ten years. How right he’ll be we will know in 2026, but the show has a fascinating premise and has given itself a brief to sort out a potentially tremendous story.

Designated Survivor makes use of a real-life American political concept and situation. Each year, when the President delivers the State of the Union address to Congress, one member of his cabinet is excluded from the event, and is taken to an unknown, secure location, to be the Designated Survivor. The theory is that, in the event of some massive – and successful – terrorist attack on the government, the chain of command will not be severed and the Survivor will be forthwith sworn in as President.

So we are introduced to Tom Kirkman, Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development, and this year’s Designated Survivor. At home, his daughter is refusing to go to bed and he’s talking her down. Dressed in sweatshirt and jeans, Kirkman and his wife Helen are watching President Richmond delivering his address when the screens go blank. Seconds later, the Secret Service bust into the room, grab all their communications devices, and hustle them off, but before they leave, Kirkman opens the blinds, to look across night-time Washington towards the Capitol Dome.

It isn’t there. Instead, there’s a blazing fire.

After the credits, we get a flashback or two to set us up with some background. Earlier in the day, Kirkman and his executive assistant Emily discovered that every single one of their department’s proposals had been cut out of the Address and indeed, despite his loyalty, President Richmond wanted Kirkman out, offering him an ‘Ambassadorship’ to some UN-sponsored Civil Aviation Authority things based in Canada.

Over Helen’s – a lawyer – objections, Kirkman is going for this, a true loyalist, though it’ll bugger up their Washington life more than somewhat, when he gets the call: what, he asks, is a Designated Survivor?

The rest of the episode is fast-paced and deliberately confusing, to match Kirkman’s response to being pitched into the biggest job in the world at a moment of greatest chaos in the world. Not everybody thinks he’s up to it: hell, nobody, least of all Kirkman, a ‘glorified real estate agent’ who’s never been elected, believes he’s up to it.

Seth Wright, his chief speechwriter, openly tells him to resign, though that’s when they’re in adjoining toilet cubicles, both throwing up, and Seth doesn’t know who he’s talking to. But the Deputy Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs does know who he’s talking to and he’s already planning a military coup to overthrow Kirkman.

Elsewhere, there’s Leo Kirkman, a teenager and dealer in drugs who’s sudden;y snatched from a club and brought in to the White House, and there’s Hannah Wells, an FBI analyst who’s probably lost her partner in the bomb, who’se dropping heavy hints that this is just the beginning.

There’s nobody claiming responsibility, and enemy nations ringing in to disclaim involvement. The Iranians have moved ten destroyers into the Straits of Hormuz. Our self-important Hawk is already exceeding his authority by sending in warships, and is less than impressed when Kirkman asserts his Presidentship to make him wait, though you, I and the rest of the audience get to see our man start to lower his voice a la Jack to give the Iranian ambassador an ultimatum; if they’re not back in dock in three hours, the morning papers won’t be talking about the attack on America’s capitol, they’ll be featuring America’s destruction of the Iranian one.

We close on President Kirkman about to make his first television address to the Nation, but that’s enough to be going on with. Intriguing set-up, some nice pot-stirring, and let’s go back next week to see what starts to poke its head over the trenches. It’s on Wednesday nights in America, so that should fit in, there’s only¬†Arrow that night…

24:Live Another Day – 9.00 – 10.00pm


Happy Ending? Nah!

Ok, I assume you’re all waiting for another snark-fest from the the only blogger on the ‘net who thinks that 24: Live Another Day is a piece of overwrought, ludicrously written crap. Well, you’re not going to get quite what you wanted from the penultimate episode, large parts of which were well-handled, tense and, dare I say it, not merely plausible but logical. Oh, but when it went below the waterfall, it scraped the bottom of the Marianas Trench, so I’ll be making a few comments about that.

To begin with, I’ll admit to not remembering Cheng Tzi at all last week. 24 fans all over the Web were having kittens of recognition at that heavily scarred face, but not me. My only excuse is that that was Season 5, which was eight years ago: in another country, and besides the wench is dead, as the wistful phrase goes (originally from Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta): 2006/7 was very much another country for me.

Once the episode begins, everything moves at a terrific pace, one of the bonuses of a) having only 12 hours to play with and b) upsetting allprecedent by having everyone going around believing Jack Bauer all the time. Jack and Barbie Kate hold off the Russian task force and their overwhelming numbers and firepowers without anything more than a cut eyebow on Jack’s side, in the sure and certain knowledge that the very moment the pair simultaneously run out of ammo, the back-up will arrive and shoot anyone left standing. Which they do.

However, the commotion draws Cheng’s attention to the fact that Jack’s about. He’s doing a runner, taking Chloe for no apparent reason than her place in the cast list but leaving behind the tracker. But Jack discovers who is behind everything when Chloe manages to set a leftover smartphone to recording Cheng’s dulcet tones for Jack to recognise.

Everybody assumes Cheng’s working with the Russians, and, guess what? He is: with that self-same Anatoly who’s been hassling Creepy Mark about handing Jack over all day. Cheng’s purpose is to start a War between the US and the China that turned on him, a War that will leave the Russians stronger for the damage done to both sides.

This assumes that the damage will be survivable. The President of China doesn’t believe the President of the USA and the Chinese are pretty bloody fast at setting up a military response: fleet steaming towards the US base at Okinawa, squadrons in the air to cover them,missiles knocking out the US surveillance stations and blinding Heller and the Generals, who want to edge quickly to a nuclear response.

This part of the show is handled creditably and credibly, and with some tension. Heller (who we should all remember is giving orders illegally, having resigned the Presidency wef two hours ago) is resistant, is fumbling his medication – thankfully we have nowhere near enough time to whip out the 25th Amendment YET again – and reluctantly has to concur.

Meanwhile, Jack has learned that the Russkies have been tracking him through his comms. A smoking gun aimed directly at Creepy Mark’s head materialises with breathtaking speed and, with nothing delaying him except a heartfelt phone conversation with Old Flame Audrey, during which she tells him to kill Cheng-the-equal-opportunities-torturer causing Jack to bottle out of telling her he’s en route to shopping her hubby fpr treason and the electric chair, turns up at the Embassy to speak to Heller and Boudreau alone.

Creepy Mark coughs on the spot. Heller wants him charged but Jack wants him as a decoy to get them into Anatoly’s residence so they can find out where Cheng is (he and his truck are on their way to Southampton Docks where, at about 10.15pm, a ship is going to take them away, or at least that’s what the audience thinks.

It’s one of those Sacrificial Lamb ploys: no-one really gives a shit about Mark living or dying as long as his pretencc at being on the run and wanting to defect gets Jack and Kate and their silenced guns inside. It’s all bang bang, shoot shoot until every guard is dead. Unfortunately, Mark doesn’t quite understand that he’s supposed to take the loaded gun and do the decent thing, and he fights Anatoly to stay alive, until the two crash through the glass doors onto the landing and Anatoly gets a jagged sliver of glass through the carotid artery.

As I say, it’s fast-paced, decently gripping and, if the series hadn’t ruined any chance of taking it seriously a hundred times over before now, it would be mostly a good, exciting penultimate episode. But it’s 24: Live Another Day and it cannot resist fucking the whole thing over with a bit of arrant lunacy.

As I said, Cheng Tzi, his men, the override device and Chloe O’Brian are in the back of a truck heading down a country road towards Southampton Dock. Now the thing about Southampton Docks is that it’s in Southampton, on the South Coast, in the County of Hampshire, which is just short of 70 miles and involves a drive time of 1 hour and 32 minutes in average condition, and this truck’s supposed to get there within an hour? But it’s bowling along the highway merrily when, all of a sudden Chloe – a computer analyst – grabs a shiny steel pipe that happens to be within reach and lays about her with such force and dexterity that that she downs no less than four armed professional kilers and confuses the rest into letting her open the back door of the truck, set herself and jump into the bushes before any of them can recover sufficiently to just fucking shoot her.

And out of sheer luck, she happens to jump off a embankment and go rolling downhill into the bushes until she knocks herself out on a tree (with no scratches, cuts or bruises) after falling far enough to be out of sight so far as Cheng and his minions are concerned, and they can’t stay to find her because this is apparently a no-parking country highway and there’s a handy truck driven by some bod in army camouflage slowing down to tell them you can’t park here (has there been a military takeover? Where’s the bloody Police in all this?).

So Chloe is left to sleep the sleep of the conveniently knocked out until the very end of the episode where her eyes open and she no doubt wakes up without the least concussion. And Cheng races on to his escape from England.

Except that he doesn’t. Audrey, having hung around being supportive to her Dad all day, has decided to get in on the action. She has a contact in the Chinese Embassy, a young woman who trusts her, and whose Dad is in the Politburo. Audrey’s going to pass on as much information as she can gather to prove that her country is a patsy for terrorists in all this in the hope that President Wei will be persuaded to row back on Mutually Assured Destruction. They meet after dark in the Park, or at least in a London square somewhere.

Except, this being 9.59pm, a hidden sniper takes out the young Chinese extra and Audrey’s guards, leaving a transfixed President’s daughter stood there all alone, presumably in the cross-hairs. Her phone rings. It’s Cheng: well, who else could it possibly have been? I mean, he’s in London instead of being on the Southampton road, he’s discovered Audrey’s secret mission and set up an ambush with not the slightest of clue as to how he could have done so – magic? – and he’s menacing Jack’s bird, alright?

So, no cliches going into the final muss-’em-up hour then, and no set-up, logic or even a semblance of rationality to sustain us in getting here. Even the good episodes cannot resist diving headlong into lunacy a five year old would reject as stupid.

One left, people. Twelve years ago, when the first series was running, my then-wife and I were so absorbed that, when we worked out that the final episode would fall on the Sunday night as we flew to Mallorca for a week’s holiday on the Saturday, we not only set up our video recorder and left tapes with two different people to ensure it was recorded, on arriving in the Balearics we asked my wife’s Mum and Step-Dad if they could pick up BBC2. They couldn’t, but friends of theirs in the southeast of the island could. The tape was available on Tuesday so we drove to their apartment and threw everybody – the parents too – out into the kitchen so we could watch the last episode without interruption.

That was how good it was then. This time I’m not holding my breath.

24: Live Another Day – 7.00 – 8.00pm


A spoiler?

Sigh.

Ater last week’s dramatic drone attack on Wembley, there were plenty of people on-line convinced that Heller wasn’t dead: that Chloe had doctored the feed, fed in a cloned loop and that Jack had spirited the President away from the centre spot in the nick of time. I hoped they were wrong. I’d rather admired Heller’s quiet dignity in going to his death and this kind of convoluted, oh so clever trickery was, in dramatic terms, flat and banal. Needless to say, the internet got it right, despite 24‘s usual trick of leaving William DeVane’s credit out of the opening titles.

At first, it looked like a success: everyone hung around in mourning, Stephen Fry paid tribute to the late President (I’m sorry, I cannot give credence to Stephen Fry as anyone except Stephen Fry, which is why he just doesn’t work as Prime Minister Alistair thingy), Audrey refused to be consoled by Creepy Mark and, most importantly, things started crashing into the sea off Dover. Yes, Mama Terrorist Margot was keeping her side of the bargain, despite Smartarse son Ian’s fanatical reservations. Five down, one to go, until Smartarse sussed out the trick. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so the wrathful Mama Margot sent the last drone to bomb Waterloo Station, where people were desperately trying to get out of London in the wake of the Wembley bomb.

Fair enough, thinks I, at least it’ll get Sky’s poisonous Kay Burley, who’s down there lending her own special branch of ignorance to the scene.

But we are failing to take into account Jack Bauer. Browbeating the still pub-bound Chloe into tracking Mama Margot to an otherwise deserted office block in Hackney, Jack calls in the Cavalry in the form of Barbie Doll Kate and the much-chastened Eric (plus an entire truck of guys with tommy guns) to clean out the guards whilst Jack inflitrates from the roof, climbinmg down the outside of the building on a makeshift rope of cables. Envisaging his making the traditional dramatic entrance, shattering glass as heswings into the room, I could think of nothing more than the legendary Stan Freberg in ‘The Banana Boat Song (Day-Oh)’ and that lovely line ‘I come through the window’.

However, Smartarse Ian, having shot the windows to buggery on sight, makes the mistake of leaning out, whereupon Jack grabs his hand and hauls him out for the fall (fifth floor). Time being tight, he shoots Mama Margot through the shoulder and, with the Waterloo bound missile already in flight, uses the override machine to divery it into a nearby lake at the literal last second.

Then, with Mama Margot screaming at him about all the deaths today that have been at his hands, he wraps up the plot by throwung her out the window too! Eight and a half hours, a new World Record!

But this show is called 24 (and there’s something like a twelve hour leap between episodes scheduled yet), so there’s time to kill (heh heh, poor choice of words there, sorry). This is not, however, to be three and a half hours of mopping up operations, do not fear, action lovers. First there is a suspiciously timely call to Barbie Kate from her Police contact, who’s just found the body of the late Jordan Reed, plus dead assailant, over in Camden.

Consternation spreads. She and Eric head over there where the total lack of any identification on the killer makes them suspect a Pro (and what was Jordan doing in Camden anyway?). Jack, who is securing the override device to bring in to CIA, suspects a connection to the now obliterated El-Harasi family (incidentally, the late Mahmoud, in whose name dear Mama has been working, turns out to have been only a second husband, stepfather only to Smartarse and Baby, in case anyone had been worrying about their genetic purity). And Mole Steve Navarro is shitting bricks over his eventual exposure.

Monotonous Adrian offers him a way out: escape, money, safety, on condition Navarro brings him the override device. This means getting it off Jack, not to mention out of lockdown in a secure CIA facility with the DoD already there to remove it for analysis. Navarro is sweating, knowing that Jack’s back-channel detection of the dead Pro’s fingerprints is going to lead to him. So what ingenious plan does he deploy? In a glass-panelled office, under the view of staff starting to look at him strangely because he’s being a bit wierd over Jordan’s death, he knocks out the DoD man with a sleeper hold, stuffs the override device into a holdall and – Station Chief that he is amd constantly in emand – walks unnoticed out of a back door. A back door in a secure, lockdown room. A back door in a secure, lockdown room that leads to deserted corridors, the basement and a fire exit (with no apparent security) into the back streets.

There are people who are taking this show seriously, who think it’s actually exciting.

Jack, of course, is hot on his heels, but just not quite hot enough. He was decoyed out of the way by a phonecall from Audrey, thanking him for saving her pa. There is an old flame seriously a-kindling there, possibly timely since Chloe, who has gotten out of that pub unmolested, after about three hours saving the world without apparently drinking even half a shandy, has finally brushed him off. Jack wants her to come in to CIA HQ to analyse the override device (a magical weapon, it transpires, that can override anything military, not just drones): that’s CIA HQ where, nine hours ago remember, Chloe was being tortured. No, Chloe’s done her bit and she’s not doing any more. Chloe’s going back to Monotnous Adrian.

Who, as the clock ticks, is driving her to Finsbury Square, to meet the runaway Steve Navarro…

Before we go, let us not forget (since the split screen reminds us in timely manner), that the President’s Lazarus-like reappearance spells all sorts of shit for Creepy Mark, in the shape of a forged Executive Order handing the now pardoned Bauer over to the Russkie’s.

And let us also not forget, since the scripters obviously have, that James Heller is no longer President of the United States of America: he resigned the post as of 7.00pm this evening. It will be interesting to see if anyone remembers that little wrinkle…

24: Live Another Day – 5.00 – 600 pm


Do NOT vote for this man.

Last week’s unexpected excursion into genuine tension and interest does carry over into the second half of 24: Live Another Day yet, in the way you know the show can’t resist being fatuously improbable, it couldn’t help dropping back into complete farce.
The first of these related to Baby Terrorist Simone, last seen having a head-on discussion with a London bus that sent her flying at least five yards in a horizontal direction.
Needless to say, the fragile-looking, pre-Raphaelite Simone was rapidly surrounded by Ambulances and all those head brace and splint thingies that prevent seriously injured people from moving any muscle still in an active state. She has multiple fractures, contusions and internal injuries, enough to have her rushed off to the nearby St Edwards Hospital in a critical condition.
Equally needless to say, Jack and Barbie are also rushing headlong towards St Edwards, anxious to keep all knowledge of Baby Terrorist’s incarceration from Mama Terrorist (some hope: Mama Margot phones Simone to find out why it’s taking so long to slaughter her sister-in-law and niece, only to find that St Edwards is the place to be).
Our anxious heroes’ only chance is to get Baby to turn against Mama, especially as little Yasmin confirms that, before killing Farah, Simone did urge them to get out of London.
But Simone is all battered and banged-up and in no fit state to speak: until, that is, Jack persuades the Doctor to administer that wonderful wake-up drug that drags patients back from death’s door with enough presence of mind to not only undergo interrogation by Jack Bauer, but also undergo torture from him.
This isn’t the bit where the episode goes lurching into improbability, though. No, this is just the bit where Simone wakes up, spits (metaphorically) in Jack’s eye when he asks her to betray her ever-loving mother, thus inducing him to unwrap her maimed left hand and start twisting Simone’s little finger: you know, the one that, not three hours ago, Mama lovingly had chopped off with a cold chisel, and which hasn’t yet been treated.
Simone’s loyalty to Mummy and the cause is impressive. Unfortunately, Mummy has no trust in her betraying daughter any more and has the next drone diverted to blow the shit out of the Hospital.
This is where it does get loony. Jack dedicates himself to getting Simone out. On foot. On Simone’s feet that is, with Jack supporting her, but she’s stumbling quite adequately out of the hospital. More than adequately, given her multiple fractures… Gah! I say, and gah!
Anyway, Mama spots that her beloved traitorous daughter has been got away and sends the drone after Jack’s car, through a wild chase through London traffic, side-streets and extreme parking that’s merely unrealistic in any practical sense and perfectly standard for 24. Jack somehow manages to avoid hitting at least fifty different cars, whilst stealing two others en route, until the last drone missile is used and Mam realises she’s still not killed her lovely child.
That’s where we’re up to in the principal plot, so it’s time to go back to the Residence and catch up with Heller and his circle. They don’t get too much play this time out, but when they do, it’s a doozy. Heller gives Stephen Fry a much needed bollocking. The Russian contact still wants Jack, ASAP, and if thwarted will use his knowledge that Creepy Mark forged Heller’s signature to an Executive Order.
And we’re on our way to major, bull goose loony notion number two. Heller witnesses the scenes of carnage at the hospital. He gets changed into a suit, and uses a hitherto wholly unsuspected backchannel to set up a Skype call with none other than Margot El-Harasi. The deadline still hasn’t passed for her ultimatum for Heller to hand himself over to her tender mercies. Heller’s been looking at the devastation caused at the hospital: he’s all set to hand himself over.
No, I’m sorry, not even in the world of 24 is that notion even remotely plausible. In a foreign country, the President of the United States of America is prepared to hand himself over to a vicious, brutal terrorist, who will stop at nothing to inflict brutal torture upon him and use him as the greatest propaganda coup terrorism has ever had. Ok, yes, he’s going to have Jack Bauer accompanying him, but even so, this one is so far-fetched it’s circling the sun somewhere outside the orbit of Pluto. Even assuming that Mama Margot’s word not to kill anyone else today can be trusted (and even if it can, she never promised not to start again tomorrow).
But let us not forget that there is now a sub-plot. For new readers, CIA Station Chief Steve Navarro has been revealed as the real traitor passing secrets to the Chinese, not Barbie Doll Kate’s disgraced and dead husband. However, puppy dog analyst Jordan, who worships Kate, is now running a retrieval program that will expose the CTU Mole (well, you know what I mean).
However, Navarro’s contact warns the baddie that his orders to ignore this are being ignored and Jordan needs to be disposed of. With a sense of shock that lasts for all of 0.2 seconds, we discover that Naughty Steve’s contact is Adrian the Monotone Hacker.
As for poor Jordan, he suddenly finds himself sent out into the field for the first time ever in of-course-not-suspicious circumstances, to retrieve a parcel from a message drop down on the canal. Where a thuggish looking thug shoots him in the chest, causing him to collapse, Dirty Den-style into the canal.
But fear not, something in all of this has triggered Puppy Dog’s sense of self-preservation and, despite having been shot at point blank range by a professional assassin, he swims hundreds of yards underwater, under canal water too thick for him to be seen, before pulling himself out with a flesh wound, a mere scratch. Currently being worked on by every kind of nasty bug ever to have lived in a British canal, so that’s him done for…
My overall verdict? One step sideways, three colossal ones downhill.
More idiocy next week, unfortunately.

24: Live Another Day – 3.00 – 4.00pm


So, where were we?

Episode 5 is a bit of a breather for Jack, who gets to do no more than sit in a room at the American Embassy, under token guard, interrupted only by private interviews with, firstly, President Heller, and secondly, First Daughter, Chief of Staff Creepy Mark’s missus, ex-lover and torture victim (this girl’s been around), Audrey Heller Raines Boudreau. Considering that she’s not seen him for three full seasons and the interregnum, and that she was last seen virtually catatonic after extensive Chinese torture incurred through looking for Jack, Audrey gives a more-than-creditable impersonation of someone who’s not even going to wait to be asked to drop them, whilst Jack plays the noble, masculine, save-her-from-herself role.

Actually, both actors play the scene with considerably more skill than it deserves, which almost redeems it whilst in play, but it’s still risible, much like the rest of the cartoon events.

The Jack role for this hour is taaken up by Barbie Doll Kate. Kiefer Sutherland’s apparently said this will be his last outing as Jack (so will we end the series with The Main Man being killed off?) but that Fox are planning some kind of spin-off. Everybody is pointing at Yvonne Strahovski’s character as the blatantly obvious choice, whilst simultaneously suggesting that she’s so damned obvious for the part that she’s going to be this half-season’s Justly Famous CST Mole: come on down, Kate!

This is the episode where Jack is proved to be right. Kate nicks the Flight Key (and as it’s known to be lost, and was last seen in a locked room that she invaded with total lack of authorisation, no-one so much as thinks of asking her of she’s got it: duh!), uploads the rest of it to Chloe. Creepy Adrian – who mumbles the unconvincing words ‘I love you’ to Gothic Chloe in a manner that suggests that even he can’t believe tis latest plot twist – spots the over-ride code, and Kate immediately convinces everyone.

Which is the most unbelievable moment 24 has ever tried to pull off.

Meanwhile, what’s going on at Terrorist Luxury Mansion Central with Mama Terrorist and her little band of tools? I could accept Margot Al-Hasari, who’s being played with fanatical steeliness and self-righteousness by Michelle Fairley, if anyone involved with writing this series could put over any suggestion of her beliefs. It’s a serious failing: Mama Terrorist is a terrorist because she’s a terrorist and does terrorist things, but what the fuck is she doing them for? We may not agree with terrorists but they are usually fighting for some cause. Mama Margot isn’t even being shown as having an unreasoning, irrational hatred of America and all it stands for.

True, she’s out for revenge for Daddy Terrorist getting killed by a drone attack, but it wasn’t that that turned her into a terrorist, so what is she about? She’s about being evil, heartless and fanatic, that’s what she’s about. It’s a fucking cartoon, that’s what it is.

After making sure that Baby Terrorist Simone, she of the four fingers on her left hand after Mama’s impromptu surgery, knows that she’s not to blame for getting her finger chopped off with a cold chisel, Mama makes sure that fearful husband Naveed knows that he is the one to blame for his wife’s disfigurement. Naveed hasn’t given up hope yet: he’s dropped a tracer that will lead the CIA to Terrorist Luxury Mansion Central. Unfortunately, he confides in his loving wife, and his loving wife confides in Mama. So, as was predictable from the moment we saw him in episode 3, Naveed ends episode 5 with a bullet in his head, with Simone’s blessing: ooch, that smarts.

And, get this, Mama Margot just so happens to have a second Terrorist Luxury Mansion Central tucked away under her pinny. Despite the fact that Naveed doesn’t confide in Simone until after the tracer has gone out, Simone’s betrayal has enable Margot and son Ian to change the tracer to misdirect the CIA hit squad to the deserted Spare Terrorist Luxury Mansion Central, where fast learner Ian directs a drone strike that’s probably wiped out CIA Station Head Steve Navarro (thus explaining why Benjamin Bratt has only been on the Guest List, and not Cast, so far).

Incidentally, I’ll leave to others to explain how, having left Central London at about 3.37pm, the CIA squad can deploy at Spare Terrorist Luxury Mansion Central – a large and isolated country mansion – by 3.55pm.

So: that’s one drone used to strike at the UK, leaving five more under Margot’s control. Heller has refused to allow Jack to go into the field to pursue the only contact, an arms dealer who can contact Mama Margot, but next episode he’s going to be forced to do so, with Bauer-manque Kate as his partner, even though she got re-suspended in this episode. Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, oops, wrong show, to find out if I’m right. Or don’t bother, because you know I’m going to be.

24: Live Another Day 11.06 am – 1.00 pm


Me and Jack go back a long way, all the way to when Mandy the Lesbian Assassin bailed out of that jetliner that the blew up off-screen, because between filming and broadcasting, 9/11 had taken place and there was a certain sensitivity to film of planes blowing up at that time.

Back then, 24 was an innovation. It was only 13 to begin with, because Fox were scared the audience couldn’t concentrate for long enough, or would rebel against the idea that they couldn’t just dip in once or twice a month and find everything exactly the same each time. That meant that Day 1 was a little lop-sided structurally, because Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran had to write a thirteen episode series onto which another eleven episodes could be bolted without the join showing so much (oh, you know that assassin Bauer foiled? Guess what, they sent a second one…)

But it was great: fast, frenetic, tense, hyperactive, innovative, and it’s final hour was one of the best ‘hours’ of thriller television ever made, and 24‘s finest hour of programming.

We watched them all, eager each year for the latest series, to see how the ante could be upped yet further. Day 2 was much more structurally holistic, and came very close to equally Day 1, but a bit of a rot started to seep in with Day 3 (Kim Bauer, CST Agent: seriously? SERIOUSLY?). And despite the fact that Gregory Itzen was authentically slimy from his first appearance onscreen – silver pools used to just leak out of the telly whenever he appeared – President Charles Logan was the sign of serious degeneration.

The nadir was Day 7, the video game series: introduce threat, defeat after three episodes, go to next level, introduce threat, defeat after three episodes, repeat until bored. After that, even Day 8 was an improvement, though not by such that anyone really minded when the plug was pulled and the show was cancelled.

But 24, apart from its insanely enjoyable thrills and spills and maverick killings, was massively important in US television history. Though it was far from the first series to tell stories that reqired attention and concentration, it did more than any other programme to convince the television audience that it could commit to watching every week, to concentrating and working for their entertainment.

That was long ago, and in another country, and besides, the wench is dead. I’ll be honest, my first reaction to the idea of 24 coming back was why? It had died a death, killed by its own inescapable repetitiveness and its excesses. Jack Bauer had burned all his boats, and all his bridges, in fact burned everything that could possibly be at stake: where had it left to go?

The first answer was London, and the second was that the story would only last half a day, 12 episodes, 12 hours. Both those concepts seemed to make an absolute mockery of any revival. 24 had become the ultimate American supremacy reinforcement series, the entertainment justification for every nasty, degrading, inhumane,obscene thing America did to those it decided were its enemies. To me, at least, you can’t hope to juxtapose an enterprise that exists only in a Republican Fairyland with real, downhome England. The disparity’s just too wide to be believed.

And 12 hours but still calling it 24? Is he having a laugh? You’re having a laugh.

Anyway, I’ve finally got round to catching up with Jack’s re-emergence and judging the new series on evidence, not supposition. As to the London setting, it makes it impossible for me to take seriously all this CIA activity, chase scenes, gunfights, all these bloody Americans heedlessly racketing around London. But then there’s not much in these first two episodes to enthrall. Just the same old tropes, looking extremely tired and threadbare: Jack the renegade, plans to assassinate the American President, a dodgy Chief of Staff. We have seen it all before.

Isn’t there at least the glow of nostalgia,a flickering flame reminding me of when we used to love this sort of thing? So far, no. One reason for this is what Jack Bauer has become. He has rid himself of everything, and in the process he’s become nothing. Or, dare I say it, he’s become pathetic. I have no friends, he says, and it lacks the energy of bitterness, even though he still has one friend, dear old faithful Chloe O’Brian.

Chloe, who has changed style to become a kind of tattooed, black-haired puk/goth who now disseminates free information, Julian Assange-style, works in London. She’s wanted as a terrorist and in fact she’s been captured and is being tortured (by that special kind of destroy-the-mind-and-body, excruciating pain and confusion torture from which you recover absolutely in about a quarter hour), which is why, after four years, the CIA has finally not only uncovered a whisper about Bauer, but catches him when any smart-thinking Agent of half his seniority would have easily escaped.

It’s not too difficult to suss out that Jack’s let himself be captured in order to break Chloe out, though the revelation is clumsily handled. Long before Jack acts, whilst he’s still going through this extended silent routine, we’re shown Punk Chloe undergoing torture in the section we know Jack’s being transferred to: it would have been far better to only show some goth/punk being injected and shock us by being Chloe when Jack frees her.

Though the connection is simple to make, no-one at CTU… sorry, I mean CIA London, makes it except for in disgrace Agent Kate Morgan (a fine-looking performance from Yvonne Strahovski, being very Bauerish), who despite being a shit hot agent and the only analyst with their eyes open, failed to spot her beloved husband was a major Russian spy.

Anyhow, Jack’s out to foil an assassination on President Heller (see Days 4 and 6), whose daughter Audrey, his former lover, is now fully ecovered from her mindless catatonia at the end of Day 6 and has married the aforementioned dodgy Chief of Staff. It’s going to be done by taking over American drones with a device invented by a British hacker/activist/heroin addict who tests it out by shooting down a military convoy in Afghaistan, killing British as well as American officers and putting a crimp in President Heller’s attempt to negotiate a treaty extension for a drone base on British soil.

It just isn’t capturing my enthusiasm, no matter what twists you throw in, and it is so fucking depressing that the series’ idea of the British Prime Minister is Stephen fucking Fry (at the last head-count, it was determined that only three people in the whole of the country don’t think Stephem Fry is a National Treasure, and I would so love to meet one of the other two).

The problem is that since 24 died a merciful death in 2010, things have changed. The world has changed, I have changed, and what could once be seen as entertainment now rings too clearly of the behaviour of madmen and psychopaths. It’s most clearly seen in Jack’s evident and self-righteous contempt for the whistle-blowers who do not join in the any-means-to-an-end wotrld that Jack has so wholly embraced from the start. I can’t doublethink my way like that any more, but 24 has learned nothing.

I’ll stick with it, that is unless it gets too bad to bear, but it’s a mistake in every respect to have done this.

And on one curious note:note many people will realise just how far in the future this story is taking place. Assuming Day 1 took place in the year 2000 (as it would need to have done for a Presidential Election to have been taking place), and adding together all the spaces between Days, this story is taking place in the back half of 2018. No wonder Keifer Sutherland looks so haggard.