Has 24 always been a guilty pleasure?

redWith the recent airing of the first two episodes of 24 (this season entitled Live Another Day) we have the return of CTU and Keifer Sutherland’s most iconic character, Jack Bauer.

For some this means excitement. For others trepidation, or even a sense of weariness. ‘We’ve seen all this before.’ ’24 is so dated.’ ‘TV has moved on, it’s all about Breaking Bad these days.’ And so on, you might imagine audiences would exclaim before running for the safety of Game of Thrones or something.

The thing is, love it or hate it, you know what you’re getting with 24. Bauer, his face locked in a permanent scowl, on a one-man mission to threaten as many people as possible in a single day; moles inside CTU; a truculent head of station who refuses to listen to reason until the last possible moment, a chief of staff at the Whitehouse with an axe to grind. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It’s all part and parcel of what made the show so appealing. It was hardly mentally taxing, it reassuringly ticked the boxes each season yet… somehow it was captivating. And you found yourself caring about the characters, particularly Bauer. A man who puts himself through the mill time and again. The quintessential TV action antihero.

For this season they’ve shifted the action to the UK – specifically London – with the focus on the American’s use of drones in the Middle East (at least initially). Chloe is back looking a lot like Lisbeth Salander (she’s a European hacker now, what do you expect?). 24lad-enemyofstatetrailerWe’ve also got some new faces, including a new standard resident CTU hottie – previously we’ve had Nina Myers and Michelle Dessler, this time we get Kate Morgan played by Yvonne Strahovski – as seemingly the only person who is smart enough to figure out what Bauer is up to.

Oh, and of course Bauer is doing his usual, trying to save the President, a job – in the world of 24 – with possibly the shortest life expectancy of any you care to name, Bauer’s included. Yet, with all the organisations protecting this exalted position, you know it’s going to come down to one man to save the day and take the fall for all the people he’s killed along the way.

But that’s the point. It’s in much the same way Batman gets hunted at the end of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. We hunt him because he can take it. In fact this is probably why they brought the show back, there’s still life in Bauer yet.

The problem with resurrecting a show like this after a few years in the doldrums is twofold: you gave it new life because audiences missed it, they wanted more of that world and those characters. But they also want something new. And so the show’s producers have opted, in some ways, for the safest of risky approaches – set it in ‘edgy’ East London and make the baddies British.

Hats off to them for the first part, they largely avoided red buses and shots of Big Ben (they couldn’t resist a few), yet they couldn’t help themselves with the odd bit of casting with ‘cor blimey’ cockney accents. yvonne-strahovski-24-live-another-dayAnd also posh and mysterious uber-baddie shrouded in shadow (bit of a Sherlock nod there) is literally the safest bet when it comes to bad guys, at least Americans think so.

But this is nit picking. Like many others, when I first heard they were bringing Bauer and his gang back I sighed. Do we really need this show on the small screen again? Then you start to watch it, the little orange clock slams those seconds onto the screen – tick, tick – and I’m pleased to say I felt excited. And a little guilty, but still… excited.

Bauer, go do your thing. Just don’t expect us to praise you for it in public.

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