24: Season 8 Premiere Review and Discussion

As 24, Day 8 arrives on Fox this evening, Jack Bauer fans are hyped up about several things:

1. Jack is back. Do we REALLY need to know anything else?

2. We're set back in New York City, with a new pseudo CTU set up, electronified and ready to tangle with a new season of terrorist shenanigans.

3. Sure, we'll see Kim Bauer, but we'll also get a giant slate of acting talent that will help smooth out the waves of often-felt discord regarding Kim (and she wasn't THAT bad last season).

4. Jack's inevitable on-screen screams will be there at some point to kick-start our adrenaline.

Regardless of where the story, plot twists and injections of adrenaline take us this year, I and those of you that have been following 24 for years are jazzed, prepped and ready to take a trip on another of the worst days of Jack Bauer's life on 24.

I've been very satisfied with the lack of spoilers conveyed in the trailers and previews that have been offered this year - and hope they keep pre-episode spoilers to a minimum throughout this (possibly) final season.

And now, on to the review:

-- Review of Season/Day 8's hours 1 (4pm-5pm) & 2 (5pm-6pm) For 24 --

The hype has been bold, and non-stop for months. Small, generally-spoilerless but action-packed trailers and sneaks have paved the way for the return of Jack Bauer in New York and the night has finally arrived.

The Scenario: Jack Bauer, reasonably happy and trying to live life to its fullest is not-so-surprisingly jerked from his peaceful perch to hopefully save the day. He and Chloe brave technological speedbumps that they quickly overcome with skill sets, patience and episode-based time crunches. Barking screams from Jack encouraging people to give him answers, "NOW!",  explosions and gunfire of all kinds hypechallenge the in-home theater systems of Americans and the "ClUnK!" of terrorists who fall at the hand of Jack Bauer's hand. All this in-between commercials and product placements galore.

The Problem: This description is from season 5,6 and 7 of 24 on Fox.

I have had the distinct pleasure of reviewing 24 for a long time. I have watched it since its inception. I have real zeal and love for the character of Jack Bauer, his never-ending want for answers and his ability to get them - regardless of the means. Officially however, I am tired of listing of the same 16 different plot "twists" and "traits" that comprise a season of 24. Aren't you? Let me explain.

While I am a hater of spoilers in general, the dialog, and eventual discussion will be spoiler-ridden to prove my point. Readers beware.

This season we are in New York. Jack is playing with his now four-or-so year old grandaughter, Teri, who helps us understand, along with phone dialog from Jack's daughter Kim, that Jack has emerged from a coma, taken in the dangerous, life-threatening-all-around dangerous operation that Kim volunteered to partake in last season and now lives, happily. Hmm, Jack Bauer playing in the realm of happy life? That sounds familiar.

A former contact from Jack's past CTU-based life ends up being shot, and finds Jack Bauer to confess his role in a near-future murder plot of a leader of a nameless, middle-east-based country. Jack contacts Chloe, a newly-minted, apparently-neophyte tech comm agent at the new New York-based CTU to tell her of the plot and to engage the new CTU leader who has promised a new age of national security and protection with a new team in a new facility that all looks very familiar down the the surround-all glassness, giant video screens, subdued lighting, hot ladies with badges, secluded unlit areas - literally. Hmm.

Agents are sent to meet with Jack and the bleeding-to-death guest star who have been directed to a police station that is only 5 city blocks away. We know this because of the first use of the new, next-generation Eye Drone Technology (cousin of the Eye Traffic Camera technology), which will clearly be used a LOT in this season of the show. Jack's route is blocked by bad guys who are summarily killed by Jack without bullets of any kind. Those keeping tally: A fire ax and long clanking fall down a staircase kill the first of this year's baddies. Jack continues on dragging along Mr. SoonToDie. New, responsibility-laden CTU agents arrive at a Drone-Eye-designated rooftop where one of the fleet of black CTU helicopters arrive to take Jack and his informant to CTU to figure out the plan! An unwelcome rocket/missle is fired from someone across the way and destroys the helicopter in a giant explosion killing several agents and eventually the needed informant who has conveyed that there is "an insider involved in the hit on the nameless country's president" before his eyes roll back in his head and he dies with Jack hovering above him.

After the short less-than-10 minute- drive to CTU, Jack is taken into custo-- err is welcomed into the new CTU NY offices and will be debriefed by the woman that not only doesn't know how to do anything, not only can insult and derail discussion with anyone, but will be left with the responsibility to debrief the only lead CTU now has to the informant. All this while claiming that they have more important things to track down via a tasty bit of electronic detective work that fits together better than a security protocol and a scriptwriter's paycheck. All right! But wait, there is dissent. The young gun agent wants to tell the truth, but the man in charge of CTU wants him to keep it under his hat to avoid internal investigations that will only hamper the general goals of CTU. Can't have that! While the faces have changed, and the production designer has change, these too are terribly familiar.

Madam President (a woman who has somehow been re-elected after putting her daughter in prison, divorced her angry, vengeful, also-out-of-a-coma husband) has convened a grand, world-changing treaty discussion with President Hassan of - some country. These negotiations will change the way that country does - something, and it's really important because we couldn't possibly have a nuclear bomb go off on our soil. Thanks to all of the intel, debriefs and hand-held camera moves, we are able to take in the framed reporter into custody. CTU NY brings her to the all-new fresh from Logan's Run interrogation rooms and - asks questions! We've never seen things like this before, have we?

A phone call is received by one of CTU NY's crack agents, Jenny - err Dana, who has apparently left a former life to create this all new life where we'll be marrying a CTU NY Coworker (who just survived exploding helicopter death). That's interesting. She must really be skilled to pass the gauntlet of governmental investigation required for this new position. The man on the phone tells her that he knows what she did in her previous life, and that she needs to do what she wants or he'll tell the police about it! Ah ha, another NEW personal wrinkle experience for a sitting, prestigious CTU agent. Hmmm.

Jack has a conversation with Chloe where he not only debriefs, he also takes part in the first part of yet another bit of treason with Chloe. Ahh, what's a little treason between former CTU coworkers, right? Jack commands Chloe to give him access to the CTU NY armory, and while she's at it, hack into the new system she doesn't understand and review every piece of archival drone camera history here in the next few minutes while I go wander around CTU and fetch any firearm I want. While Jack is checking out the stock of apparently already-loaded weapons, he is taken into custody! Jack turns the tables on the new CTU NY head, using overhead knowledge from several conversations in the previous hour to leverage - well - anything he wants. In an hour and 35 minutes, Jack has been able to achieve full autonomy over the new CTU head, to command any resources he wants, and to have the incompetent, treasonous criminal Chloe O'Brian as his leader at Ops. What season is this?

The unnamed country's President's brother (did I just type that?) encourages his brother to have no more contact with the female reporter that will get him in trouble. It's best for the nation, it's best for his family and more importantly, it's best for his estranged wife and child. As President Hassan heads back to ponder his decision, the brother makes a phone call from his Sprint cell phone to the man that has, in the last hour, traveled to a house across town, used a personal laptop and hacked into the UN database, found and secured the vital security documents essential to success, acquired a rocket launcher, destroyed a helicopter from an anonymous rooftop, killed CTU agents and changed clothes at least once. Luckily, we know all of this because Jack and Chloe have illegally accessed the immense void of "drone imagery archives", seen the medallion on the hood of the taxi (from tens of thousands of feet in the air) the man took and traced his movements to a general part of New York City. Cool.

We find out that the previously Russian/Bosnian/IDontKnowWhatian master assassin and helicopter-destroyer has infiltrated the New York Police Department over a long period of time and is now involved/in charge of the security caravan that will be transporting the nameless country leader to his next vista of interest. Ah ha, a mole who has managed to fool everyone, including a large number of law enforcement officers in collusion with the brother of the man who is in the crosshairs who is on the inside! A brother on the inside? Hotly original!

Jack grabs his manpurse, tells his daughter, granddaughter and silent son-in-law that he'll see them in LA eventually, grabs the stack of incredibly important papers and orders the initiation of the search of traffic cams via the always-popular Jesus Eye technology. And the boop, beep, boop, beep continues...

With a very sharp but fat tongue in cheek, you now have the review of these first two general and familiar hours of Season 8 of Fox' 24. While I've enjoyed the first hour or so before we (in my opinion) completely erased the void of last season and this season, we are in terribly familiar waters. Where is the originality that made this show what it was at one time? How can other programs like SVU, NCIS and a litany of others provide us with shows that occur in only 42 minutes give us such original satisfaction, but something that so many want to be impressed by give us - this?

Another trait I see intruding on a show that I dearly love is the lack of SUSPENSE. Remember when you'd learn pieces of a puzzle, over an episode and perhaps at the end something is paid off? That is now apparently not "in the formula" of 24 and has been discarded and replaced with a literal televised display of Attention Deficit Disorder. The best sample of this is President Hassan's brother who goes from caring, best for the country advice-giving brother to bold and unabashed plotter of his own brother's death - in less than 3 minutes. How about peppering hints through several episodes and then paying those things off? Where IS that suspense I mentioned in general?

And so I ask YOU, the good readership, to help me understand where this season is going but more importantly, how can we get past the "well, that's what HAPPENS in 24, Mike" answer that I anticipate?

There ARE original stories that can fit into the 24 format.

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