Can 24 get out of its rut?

Simon's spoiler-tastic views on season six on 24, with one eye on what's got to happen in season seven...

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24

For the past five years, even through the ropey seasons, I’ve been as passionate an advocate for 24 as you’re likely to find.

Season one, for my money, was 70% superb, party fuelled by a strong narrative, partly by strong characters, and partly by us learning the conventions that we know now underpin the show.

Seasons two to four were okay in varying degrees, each with their own problems and highpoints. But there was always something to enjoy.

Then came season five. Six episodes in, it was borderline useless (save for an astonishing open episode), having dragged out silly conventions to bring Jack Bauer back working for an organisation that by all rights should have given him his P45 years ago. But then the Logans came in, and an enthralling second half ensued, which resulted in arguably the strongest season of the show to date.

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Having finally got to the end of the sixth season, however, months after it finished on the telly, I can’t help thinking that enough’s enough. So muddled and confused were the first eight episodes of this season, that it’s taking me months to polish the series off. But having witnessed 24 episodes that only sporadically peaked, and that lacked the compelling characters that power 24 at its best, you just can’t help but suspect that the tank is out of juice. Even Chloe, surely one of the planet’s finest female geek icons, was left sneering and pregnant.

Once we got over the conventions that Jack Bauer is indestructible, 24 has always been powered by wonderful side characters. David Palmer, Sherry Palmer, the Logan family, Nina Myers: terrific, scream-at-your-TV fictional folk that pretty much dare you to look away. I lost count how many forgettable villains season six threw in our direction, even pissing away the likes of James Cromwell and Powers Booth in an effort to find something new to say or do as it scuttled its way through turning over the usual stones.

Here’s the thing, then. Kiefer Sutherland is signed up for two more series. Then need to do one of two things in season seven to give 24 any hope of remaining interesting.

The first is to kill him. Because, let’s face it, if Kiefer buys it, then anything can happen. Anything at all.

The second is to turn him, and to reveal him as the one pulling all the hidden strings all along. That’d be great. They’d never do it, as there’s a movie at the end of all of this no doubt, and movies need heroes. But it’d be great.

Instead then, it’s another round of blatant, over-the-top rug pulling in store for us. Because while 24 remains interesting when Jack Bauer is pushed to the side, the truth is that it won’t sell without him. I’m almost at the point now, though, that I’d watch a CTU: NY or CTU: Vegas over another season of 24, replete with a man who can’t die in the middle of it.

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News so far on season seven hasn’t been encouraging. Fox has seemingly ripped up the story for the season by refusing, at a late hour, to fund large scale filming in Africa, which gives the storyliners not much time at all before cameras are due to roll again.

Trurthfully, you kinda get the feeling that they didn’t spend much time on a narrative arc for season six, though, instead throwing six or seven together and hoping to glue them together with Pritt Stick.

One further piece of news is that a female President is in place for season 7. If it’s Mrs Logan, I take everything I said back, and will be sat on my arse next January with my Sky box quivering with anticipation. More likely, we’re going to get a season of a show that used its best tricks years ago.