After four years out of action, last night saw the triumphant return of Jack Bauer to TV screens everywhere. Titled 24: Live Another Day, the 12-episode FOX event series marks the first appearance of Kiefer Sutherland's iconic character since the original 24 series came to an end after 8 successful seasons. From almost the moment 24's revival was announced, talk turned to the next logical question: If Live Another Day does well, will Jack Bauer saving the world once again become an annual event?
Based solely on the ratings for Live Another Day's premiere, the answer to that question may well be yes. Last night's two-hour broadcast earned a very healthy 2.6 in the key demographic of adults 18-49, and drew in just over 8 million total viewers. Not only is that way up from what shows like Bones, The Following, and the recently canceled Almost Human were putting up on Mondays, it is also encouragingly close to the 2.8 demo and 9 million total viewers that the final regular season of 24 earned back in 2010.
If 24 co-creator Robert Cochran has his way, we'll definitely see Jack Bauer fight through yet another turbulent day:
"I think if this does well, I can't see any reason not to do another 12."
Cochran also addressed the long-rumored idea of a 24 movie:
"A movie's possible. I believe the real-time format lends itself to television more than it does to a movie and it's its natural habitat. I'll take whatever happens, but I'd like to see it come back on TV."
Executive producer Howard Gordon also seems cautiously hopeful of more 24:
"In the world of '24,' it's always good to take it one day at a time. So we've had a good time doing this…assuming the audience embraces it and continues to embrace it, then we ask ourselves the question: Do we have another story to tell? Another day?"
While a 2.6 rating is indeed quite good - especially when one considers how down overall numbers have been for FOX this season - the bigger test will likely come next week. Almost every show drops from its premiere rating, it's just usually a question of how low things will go. With the built-in audience and hype 24: Live Another Day carries with it, it's easy to imagine next week dipping only slightly, perhaps to a 2.4 or a 2.3.
That said, big premiere numbers are not always a harbinger of a drama's long-term prospects. For example, ABC's supernatural drama Resurrection debuted to a massive 3.8, and just six episodes later had dropped to a 1.9. Fellow FOX series The Following premiered its season 2 to a gargantuan 4.4, and was down to a 1.5 by the end. Now granted, that's an extreme case, but if it can happen once, it can happen again.
If 24: Live Another Day's ratings stabilize well enough, and don't dip below a 2.0 during its limited 12-week run, Jack Bauer's 2015 return will likely become an eventuality. If they fall anywhere below a 2.0 though, FOX would need to do a cost benefit analysis as to whether the numbers justify 24's high budget and Kiefer Sutherland's large paycheck.
24 fans would be advised to keep their eyes peeled for next week's ratings, as they'll go a long way toward clarifying Jack Bauer's future.
24: Live Another Day airs Mondays @9pm on FOX.