New 24 promo stokes yearning for a real-life Jack Bauer
Hours before the release of a report on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner that a White House aide says will "shock" the American people, I'm feeling a certain yearning for Jack Bauer.
That, of course, is the ultimate appeal of 24 and the hero that perpetual real-life screw-up Kiefer Sutherland have inexplicably created.
In this fantasy world, the intelligence community can track cellphones within minutes, mobilize strike teams on a moment's notice, and -- most importantly -- one dedicated, talented man can overcome a heartless bureaucracy's worst decisions to save the day.
I've seen the first four episodes of the new 24 already, and that's the basic script -- familiar territory for longtime fans, but set in a new environment; the glass and steel jungle of New York City.
Returning on Jan. 17, the show once again recreates Sutherland's Bauer as the ultimate reluctant hero, trying to catch a plane to Los Angeles to live with his daughter in peace (Elisha Cuthbert in another appearance where writers seem to have no idea what to do with her character, other than to have her stand around looking concerned or threatened; why do they keep hiring this woman?)
Instead, he's drawn into a plot to kill a Hamid Karzai-style Arab leader -- if Karzai was, you know, not corrupt and actually helping Americans build peace.
That's another appeal of 24 that's readily apparent. This is a simple world, where leaders are mostly good or mostly evil; the inept show their colors early and often, while the virtuous and talented are always vindicated.
At least we have a few new characters to suss out this season, with Freddie Prinze Jr. on board as the latest Bauer-in-training, leveraging a bad New Yawk accent to play an action-oriented field agent. Mykelti Williamson is the latest anti-P.C. 24 villain; an African American boss more concerned with covering his own behind than facing the truth of a situation; Battlestar Galactica alum Katee Sackhoff is an intelligence operative was a shady past, facing blackmail from someone who knows her secret.
It's all delicious intrigue and thrilling fun, linked by the constantly flouted concept that every scene plays out in real time (Bauer uses lots of helicopters and cars with sirens to subvert Manhattan's notorious traffic jams.
It's also a fantasy likely to go down much easier than the troubling, conflicted reality we're seeing in our own airports and security checkpoints.
Check the preview here: