24: Bored of Bauer

Once a year for nearly a decade, Jack Bauer has spent a day and a night saving the world. It was fun at first, then it got old. Now, it has to stop. Seasons seven and eight promised to hook us back in with some sexy, fresh additions: the east coast, a female president and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, but so far so predictable and tired. To stand any chance of being remembered fondly, Jack needs to hang up his holster. Or have someone hang it up for him. Let’s not get to the stage where a stunt punch to Kiefer Sutherland’s midriff risks exploding his colostomy bag, staining his free bus pass.

Alas, killing off Bauer is the only way to make him stop for good. It’s radical – cruel even – but don’t feel too bad. The CTU agent has had a magnificent run and held off more apocalypses than anyone on a government salary should rightly be expected to. He’s also enjoyed the hospitality of the Chinese government, watched a nuclear bomb go off and been addicted to smack. If ever there was a man who deserved his retirement carriage clock, it's Jacky boy.

Once, we tuned in for those 24 watch-and-wince moments, where terrorists would string Jack up like a Parma ham and attach electrodes to his protrusions. But with the pain dial constantly at 11, and barely any artistic tweaking of torture scenes from series to series, we learned to predict which unthinkable horrors he’s in for, and that he’ll somehow survive them all. Equally, we know that he’ll kill and maim those quickly judged to be evil in order to find a criminal mastermind. We know Jack Bauer too well, and he’s no longer nuanced.

We’ve become just as desensitised and bored with the storylines. It’s as if plotting is farmed out to a dementia patient who keeps repeating the formula. Inevitably, we meet the worker baddies first. As the hours clack on, we're introduced to middle management and finally Mr Very Important Boss. Throw in a decoy traitor every other episode and job done.

Jack’s days, meanwhile unfold as such: a national crisis pulls him back into the fray. Then, he starts to wrack up the sort of injuries that would kill any normal person. The first will come just before the death of a key witness. Or the capture of someone whose intel turns out to be about as much use as daisy chain handcuffs. Inevitably Chloe will get caught up in the drama, Jack'll get taken into holding and throughout it all he'll enjoy impossible download speeds on his PDA.

Within its narrow remit, every variable has been exploited and there’s nowhere left to take the 24 format. In series one, it was a brilliantly paced familial crisis (Jack’s wife Teri and daughter Kim were kidnapped) pepped up with a plot to assassinate President Palmer. It jumped from this (relatively) small fry to Bauer trying to save his country from nuclear or biological obliteration, again and again, and again. And again, and again, and again.

The producers seem to disagree with us though: There are plans to take poor old Jack to Europe, not on a well-deserved retirement tour but on a villain-chasing, Eiffel Tower-exploding assignment. Will he ever get the rest he so clearly needs? At least a ninth season looks unlikely.

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