24 - Live Another Day review: Kiefer Sutherland is a mesmeric presence

Jack Bauer's on the run, again, but this time he's in London. And it's still as exciting and addictive as ever

It's back. Jack, and 24 (Sky1), though there are only 12 episodes this time. How is it still 24 then? Well, it's still a 24-hour period, there'll just be gaps. Gaps for naps maybe? He is getting on a bit. Nah, I don't think Jack Bauer does naps.

Anyway, he – and it – is in London, probably not for the Chelsea Flower Show, I'm guessing. Shepherd's Bush Market in fact, that's a Hammersmith and City line train going past if I'm not mistaken. It's odd, seeing something you associate with over there, over here.

Jack's on the run, again, the CIA are on to him, he's off, heading west to the river. Wait, west? To the river? West from Shepherd's Bush doesn't get you any where near the river. And when he gets there he's appears to be in EAST London! I don't know, they come over here, disrespect our geography …

Oh, they've got him; that was easy, he really must be getting on. Pah! He wanted to get caught, in order to rescue Chloe O'Brien, who's with the Special Activities Division, undergoing "enhanced interrogation". Waterboarding? Not today, she's strapped to a gurney with tubes going into her and they're pumping her full of something, probably something really unpleasant.

Jack gets her out, of course he does, in style. A man with a van blasts a hole from the road into the cellar where they are, just as Agent Kate Morgan (basically Carrie Mathison from Homeland) appears to have got them. Nice job. He – hole-blasting white van man – is on 020 7946 0826 if you need him. Damn (and blast!), it's out of service. Do you do that too, ring phone numbers on telly, just in case they use a real one, see if they want to do a "job"? No?

James Heller – now president of America though sadly showing signs of dementia – is also in town, with his daughter, Audrey Raines. Both have previous with Jack. In fact everyone has previous with everyone in 24. It's a small world, the world of international terrorism and counter-terrorism. Everybody has worked with/been married to/fathered/been betrayed by/killed everyone else, especially with/to/by Jack of course.

Anyway, President Heller is a target – he's in grave danger, of course he is, and Jack is either the one trying to kill him, or trying to save him, depending on who you believe. Meanwhile the Chinese are aircraft carrier-rattling; top-secret systems are being hacked to hell by smelly nerds; and US drones are getting cyber-hijacked, and turning on their own. Ha, cowardly drone warfare not looking so clever now is it? Oh and Stephen Fry is the British PM, a pompous old-school (Eton, probably) toff.

Apart from him, it's all utterly preposterous of course. Nor does it have – can it have – that sense we got from the early series that this is something utterly innovative and groundbreaking, a new televisual drug to become totally and blissfully addicted to. Real-time, screen-splitting, it has all been copied. There has been other high-octane terrorvision, with more emphasis on people and possibly even a toe in the real world. I'm talking about Homeland and Carrie again.

So, to get involved again or not? Well, it is a mere 12 hours of my life this time. Plus it is set in my hometown, even if they have messed it about. Kiefer Sutherland may be getting on now, but he's still a mesmeric presence (though his face doesn't actually do anything), and it's still bloody exciting. After these two opening episodes, it's hard not to want more. Four years of being clean, then a double hit – hmmm, that's good – and yeah, I'm back too.

Eurgh! That's not good though – at the end of episode two, in the pub toilet, in the ear. Jesus!

Presumably 24 Hours in A&E (Channel 4) – also excellent, also gripping, though in a very different, more human, realer way of course – has been scheduled to run concurrently with 24 so King's College Hospital can deal with the inevitable carnage that results from Jack Bauer being in town.

No gunshot wounds today though, or ear stabbings – stabbing'n'twistings, ouch! Just a rugby injury. And a man who fell down 19 concrete stairs, after a rugby match. (Dangerous game, rugby). And little Alfie with a broken leg … Noooo! Is there anything so sad as a child in pain? All appears to be well in the postscripts, thank God.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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