Fox's hit show '24' returns with a bang next week

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Fox TV's hit show "24", starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, start its sixth season with a four-hour, two-night premiere Jan. 14 and 15. (KELSEY MCNEAL ~ Fox Broadcasting)

NEW YORK -- For Jack Bauer, saving America is all in a day's work.

But early in this new day on the Fox thriller "24," his calling as the counterterrorist go-to guy has clearly taken its toll.

"Tell the president I'm sorry," Bauer sobs into his cell phone just four hours into the current daylong ordeal. "I can't do this anymore."

By now, even staunch "24" fans may feel the same way, having suffered with Jack -- and with the preyed-upon nation whose survival depended on him -- for the past five seasons.

But he will carry on, of course. And so will we, answering the call of the explosive first four episodes of "24" when they air Sunday and Monday from 7 to 9 p.m.

Two years have elapsed since last season's crush of crises du jour, a day that saw Bauer (Emmy winner Kiefer Sutherland) bring down treasonous President Charles Logan -- and then, in a cruel twist, get kidnapped and thrown in the hold of a China-bound tanker to face punishment for raiding a Chinese consulate.

The present day finds the United States in turmoil as, moments after 6 a.m., an L.A. city bus is blown up by a suicide bomber. Thought to be the work of Islamic militants, it's the latest in a series of bombings that have pushed Americans to the brink of hysteria.

"They're afraid to leave their homes," says President Wayne Palmer (younger brother of former President David Palmer), reaching out to Bauer in desperation. "They're actually starting to turn against each other."

The president has managed to get Jack sprung from the Chinese and returned to L.A. He needs him for a quid pro quo to stop the carnage.

It will mean (what else is new?) Bauer's almost certain death.

"It will be a relief," says traumatized, tormented Jack.

But relief is something Bauer never gets. Always in motion and obliged to cheat death, he's a slave to against-all-odds endurance. For the sake of America. And at the price of high anxiety for "24" devotees.

The first season, "24" wasn't a hit. It ranked 74th place in viewers. Its ratings ascendancy has come in recent years (last season it was tied for 24th), maybe owing to the passage of time since 9-11.

But, more likely, it's thanks to the series' knack for somehow raising the apocalyptic stakes of each crisis Bauer confronts.

Now it's a new day dawning, and if 6 a.m. through 10 a.m. proves anything, this season will up the ante even further.

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