Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
"24" is about to join a very small, very elite club.
The show and its characters are returning to television four years after the series ended thanks to a 12-part event series, "24: Live Another Day." In doing so, the "24" franchise joins a small list of TV shows that returned with new stories after being canceled.
"A lot of things excited us," Exec. Producer Manny Coto said in a recent phone interview. "I think there was a feeling amongst all of us - even though when season eight finished, and we were tired and we were kind of ready to move on - I think all of us felt that there was more to this story, and that Jack Bauer's character was not quite ready to shuffle off the stage. Of course, there was talk of a movie, so it was generally agreed that there would be more."
"Star Trek" and "Firefly" - two television shows that failed to find ratings success - built such a following after their initial airings, that they became feature films. "Veronica Mars" recently returned, but it took a Kickstarter campaign and fan funding to bring Neptune's favorite detective to the big screen.
Throughout its eight-season run on FOX, "24" was a ratings success - something those other shows could not claim. Plus, its main character, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), was widely regarded as a TV icon.
A "24" movie seemed likely and, in recent years, Sutherland told interviewers such as David Letterman he expected Jack would be back in that capacity.
When the idea of feature film flamed out, fans were disappointed. Fortunately, FOX opted to bring the show back for a limited run.
"I spent my whole career with '24' dealing with 20th Century Fox Television production company, which is a very separate entity than the film company. And I dealt with the network, so there wasn't a lot of conversation with regards to the film, other than we had expressed a real desire to make one," Sutherland said Thursday. "And I think that they were interested on some level and, for whatever reason, and I have no idea whether it was our story, whether it was what they had already in stock and ready to go out, I couldn't exactly tell you why it didn't happen. I just know that it didn't."
In the end, a 12-part series is better than a two-hour movie. "24: Live Another Day" brings Jack Bauer back for another edge-of-your-seat story, and reunites him with his sidekick, Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), his former boss, James Heller (William Devane) - who's now president - and a love of his life, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver).
"When this came around, I think a lot of our thoughts that we had been kind of percolating over the years kind of bubbled forth," Coto said. "I think both of us (he and Exec. Producer Evan Katz) experienced people coming up to us saying, 'I wish that show were still on the air; I miss the show; I miss Jack Bauer.' And I think, you know, when the opportunity appeared, we had kind of a reservoir of ideas and thoughts about this character and where he would be now that we were able to draw on. Particularly exciting is because he is a fugitive - he was a fugitive - and on the run from his own government. A man who had saved the United States multiple times, that same country has turned its back on him. So that is a fantastic dynamic to start a series, and something that we seized on and really energized us.
"At the same time, the idea of Chloe O'Brian also being, kind of, a fugitive, almost as much a fugitive as Jack, having turned her back against the government, as well. You take these two characters and you say to yourself, you know, there is an event that requires the two of them to work together to come back together and work against the very (government), and at the same time try to help the government. Save Americans, but at the same time fighting the very government that gave them this opportunity. It's a great dynamic we've decided to explore."
Sutherland said he agreed to return to "24" following a meeting with Exec. Producer Howard Gordon. Katz said the lead cast was game once the actors understood where the new story would take them.
"24: Live Another Day" is set in London, where an exiled Jack Bauer has learned a plot exists to kill the president on foreign soil. Tough he's on the run, Jack considers the threat to his country - to his estranged family, and the people he cares about - and takes up arms once again.
"I think that Kiefer wanted to make sure that he understood where the character had been, and (had) somewhere interesting to go with the character when we sat with him," Katz said. "And for Bill Devane the same was true; we're doing something interesting with his character we don't want to reveal. He's president, but there's another big issue he's wrestling with.
"And the same for Kim Raver and Mary Lynn. Mary Lynn's character has had quite a radical journey, which over the first three episodes becomes clear. For Kim Raver, the last time we saw her (character), she was catatonic. So, of course, she came in and we chatted with her about what she had been through.
"So everyone, kind of before they shipped off to London, we were all on the same page."
The next chapter of the "24" series begins Monday at 8 p.m. on FOX.