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Scott D. Pierce: '24' started strong, ended super stupid

Published May 28, 2013 10:10 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kevin Reilly was president of Fox Entertainment when the last two seasons of "24" aired, but maybe he wasn't watching the show.

When he announced recently that "24" will return as a 12-episode "event" in May 2014, Reilly gushed about how it remained "creatively vibrant" and finished "strong" after eight seasons.

Reilly must have had taken a recent blow to the head because "24" did not go out strong, it limped away, a shell of its former self.

(Actually, Reilly is one of my favorite network executives. It's his job to sell TV critics and advertisers on his shows.)

It's probably true that he has heard "an outpouring of love" from fans since the revival was announced. But those fans are remembering the early seasons, not the later ones.

Apparently, these folks forgot about the frogmen who took over the White House in the middle of Season 7. That's right — frogmen swam through a secret tunnel; drilled into the basement undetected; and emerged and quickly took control of presumably the best-guarded site on Earth.

It was beyond insane. It was beyond stupid. It was laughable. It was embarrassing. It was "24" in its later seasons.

Don't get me wrong. The show was pretty much nuts from the start. You needed to totally suspend disbelief to enjoy how undercover agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) could, for eight seasons, save the United States again and again in the space of 24 hours. How his heart could stop in one episode and he could be back saving the world again a few minutes later.

But it was good nuts. It was fun. It was the TV equivalent of a roller coaster ride.

However, "24" began to sink under its own weight midway through its run. You can only have so many nuclear explosions on American soil and so many presidential disasters.

In eight seasons, "24" featured eight presidents. One was assassinated after he left office; two survived assassination attempts but were left in comas; three were vice presidents who plotted against their presidents; one abandoned his re-election bid in disgrace; one was forced from office in disgrace; one resigned in disgrace; and one was stabbed by his wife, survived, and later committed suicide.

In the aggregate, it was absurd. Almost as ridiculous as having the fate of the world in Jack Bauer's hands eight times.

But not as silly as the frogmen.

We can't rule out the possibility that the "24" revival will work. It makes sense to do it as a 12-episode miniseries of sorts.

After all, "Dallas" returned strong in 2012 after a 21-year hiatus.

But the writers will almost certainly have to ignore what went before because "24" can't afford the baggage of how incredibly dumb it became.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.