Saturday, January 13, 2007

24 / American Idol - Jan. 13, 2007

THE 24
Sunday and Monday; Fox, Global
Tuesday and Wednesday; Fox, CTV

A strong one-two punch for a struggling network.

Just in the nick of time

Here we go again! Jack Bauer faces another bad day, while Paula, Randy and Simon brace themselves for another parade of bad singers.

By Eric Kohanik

January seems to have come along just in the nick of time for the battered executives at the Fox network.

The fall TV season turned out to be one bad day after another for those execs. It was a nightmare of failed new series (Justice, Vanished, Happy Hour) and struggling new shows the network has kept on the air (’Til Death, Standoff). Even worse were the ideas that didn’t make it. (Remember the O.J.Simpson debacle?)

So Fox programmers can’t help but be excited about the one-two punch they have in store for viewers this week.

Leading the way, of course, is Jack Bauer.Now there’s a guy who really knows what it’s like to have a bad day.

Jack has had a few really bad days. In fact, they’ve been the worst days of his life. And viewers have seen each one played out over the past five TV seasons on Fox’s Emmy-winning 24.

When last we saw Jack Bauer – played, of course, with Emmy-winning, steely intensity by Kiefer Sutherland – he had reached the end of the fifth worst day of his life. He had been nabbed by enemy agents and was acaptive on a slow boat to China.

And as the sixth worst day of Jack’s life begins to unfold this week, we’re about to find out that a lot has happened since then.

In fact, it’s almost two years later and Jack has been the victim of a lot of torture in thattime. Physically and emotionally, he has sunk just about as low as he can go.

Fox rolls out the sixth-season premiere of 24as a two-parter Sunday and Monday. It will be one of the most star-studded seasons in the show’s history.

Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart, who scored lots of critical accolades last season as the evil U.S. president and first lady, will put in return appearances. Also back in the picture are Mary Lynn Rajskub, James Morrison, Jayne Atkinson and DB Woodside.

This season will see a parade of new faces, though. James Cromwell joins the cast as Jack’s estranged father. The rest of the stellar lineup will include: Chad Lowe, Regina King, Rick Schroder, Peter MacNicol, PowersBoothe, Harry Lennix and Alexander Siddig.

Of course, it’s a different parade of talents that judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell encounter as American Idol begins its sixth season this week.

The formula is well known by now, of course. The first few episodes of the show offer highlights of auditions that took place in the summer and fall. After that, the show clicks into performance mode as it wends its way toward crowning the next Idol in the spring.

Viewers always seem split on which portion of the show’s run they prefer. Either way, they tend to watch it all, making the entire show seem stronger than ever.

And, no doubt, that will suit those battered Fox executives just fine.

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