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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 13:24 GMT
24 continues to thrill
Cast of 1st series of 24
The first series of the show was a huge hit

Jack Bauer is having a bad day and that is good news for the faithful followers of Fox's adrenaline-pumping 24, as it returns to American screens for a second run.

This groundbreaking series, that tells its story in real time, is so action-packed in the first fifteen minutes that it feels like a big-budget movie.

The fast paced editing adds to the rollercoaster quality of the programme.

Blink and you will be sorry because there is a lot of good stuff to see here.

24 continues to rely heavily on split screens, a style you either love or hate.

The jerky hand-held camera work helps build the tension of the various unfolding storylines. But the star of the show remains federal agent Bauer, played to understated perfection by Kiefer Sutherland.

We catch up with Bauer a year after he has left the government counter-terrorism unit he once headed.

He is a mess - still mourning the death of his pregnant wife at the hands of his former lover and also dealing with the fact his daughter Kim wants nothing to do with him.


Sutherland is utterly convincing in his role as a tortured man. His sulleness contrasts well with the drama of the life-threatening plotline that will soon overtake the next 24 hours of his life.

But you do hope he gets the opportunity to laugh at some point.
Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland stars as Federal Agent Jack Bauer

In America the network's decision to air the premiere without commercials was like manna from heaven.

With a rip-roaring storyline centring around a planned nuclear bomb attack on Los Angeles, being interupted by adverts for cars or dog food really would have taken the biscuit.

Parallels with America post-11 September are hard to ignore. A terrorist group from the Middle East called Second Wave is behind the bomb. Make that shorthand for al-Qaeda.


And President Palmer vows to retaliate against an unnamed Middle Eastern country that has harboured the group in much the same fashion that President Bush has done with anyone giving shelter to those behind 9/11.

The action jumps around a lot and with so much going on, it might seem confusing to the first-time viewer. Surprisingly it is not. Have faith.

The writers have gone hell for leather laying out as many possible scenarios as they can. But remember 24 is famed for its twists and turns, so everything may not be what it seems.

While Bauer's life is at a real nadir on this first outing, you know he can look forward to some loving down the line.

The seemingly unrelated introduction of a beautiful blonde called Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter) is proof that she Jack are bound to get hot and sweaty together soon enough. Well, in the next 24 hours at least.


One flaw with the new series is Bauer's estranged teenage daughter Kim, who has embarked on as an au pair in a household where the father leers at her, hits his wife and terrifies his daughter. Too cliched and unimaginative for words.
Elisha Cuthbert
Elisha Cuthbert returns as Bauer's daughter

When the show made its debut last autumn, many critics feared that it would not last a full season.

While it became the buzz show last year, that did not translate into as many viewers as the network had hoped.

The series garnered an average of 8.5million viewers each week, which ranked it below America's Funniest Home Videos.

But the following was devoted and 24 was critically acclaimed and won all kinds of awards.

From the moment the clock starts ticking at the bottom of the screen, you are hooked. There is a reason why this sort of drama is called "appointment television".

See also:

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