Well, after much speculation, including rumors that NBC would rescue the show, FOX has officially canceled 24. The long-running show, which led the way after its premiere in 2001 in revitalizing the FOX network , will air its final episode on the fitting date of May 24, capping off an 8-season run that also included the 2-hour 24: Redemption movie.
The show, which I gave an honorable mention in the Tufts Daily‘s Best of the Decade list, has certainly seen its ups and downs, both critically and ratings-wise. I watched the first season on DVD, and I just remember being completely enthralled by the real-time format and Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, the hero who will stop at nothing to save the day. There were parts that dragged (the mid-season amnesia subplot is better left forgotten), but the final jaw-dropping moments of the season finale made it clear that on 24, no character was safe. From there, we got some great supporting characters (Pres. Palmer, Tony, Michelle), some more awful subplots (Kim and the cougar), and the show’s season 5 high point with Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart as President and Mrs. Logan.
Season 6 was almost universally panned, but season 7 saw a bit of a resurgence when it located the action to Washington, D.C., and ditched CTU. This season, though, from what I’ve heard and read (I haven’t had a chance to watch for myself), is just going through the motions. Even though a new, “revamped” CTU was introduced, and Jack was once again relocated to New York, he’s still shouting every command, Chloe’s still pouty, and they’re wasting some talented actors, like Katee Sackhoff and Emmy-winner Cherry Jones, in predictable, eye-rolling story lines. Ratings have been dropping, while production costs keep rising, and FOX figured this one had run its course and it was time to pull the plug.
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Sutherland said, “It’s very sad, the only thing tempering this from being all-out heartbreak is the fact that we have this sense of accomplishment. That’s the only thing holding people up. Because, for me, and all these people who’ve been with us since the beginning, it’s a very special thing and it’s very sad to see it end.” He and executive produce Howard Gordon have been working hard on scripting a fitting finale to the series, with Sutherland noting, “it’s very definitive about where Jack is going to end up. It can be perceived as a cliffhanger on some level, but there’s no questioning his options.”
But Jack Bauer won’t necessarily be seeing his last hour ever. Plans are currently in the works at 20th Century Fox to carry the franchise over to the big-screen, where the standard 24-hour day would be told over two hours, giving the story some more freedom. Writer Billy Ray (State of Play) has been hired to pen the script, which is said to take Jack to Europe.
So while some fans may not be ready to see it go, 24 as a TV series seemed to be running out of steam, and this was probably the right move. Maybe it should have even happened a few seasons ago, since the premise inherently requires higher (and thus more unbelievable) stakes each year, but what’s done is done. Now, all we can do is wait for Jack to show up in theaters for the ninth longest day of his life.