McNewspaper's Robert Bianco today complains that 24 has this season lost its way. Plots are outlandish, characters are wasted, and the fun is gone.
We agree, but want to sharpen the complaint. The problem is not that the plot is outlandish (Wayne Palmer from flatline to frontline in the time it takes to advertise Fords). We've had outlandish plots before (Jack is twice resurrected, after all). It's that these are the same outlandish plots.
Characters have been wasted, namely disgraced ex-president Logan and his nutty ex-wife. But that doubtless is a consequence of the show's success: the superb duo of Itzin and Smart could likely only be contracted for an episode or two, given what their agents demanded and star/executive producer Kiefer Sutherland is probably dragging away from the show.
The fun is gone because of the first two phenomena. Writers are out of ideas and resources, so humor, they fear, will look like self-parody.
Bianca says that viewers are watching out of a sense of duty. We wouldn't call it duty, per se. We'd call it hope. I now watch 24 for the same reason that I watch baseball. I've seen it all before, but every once in awhile I see something that I've never seen before. Maybe just once more this season we'll see something that will remind us of Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland, nostrils mutually flared, staring each other down, a moment of such dangerous intensity that it makes the pulse race and the palms sweat.