It is the Age of the TV Reboot: Set aside revivals of “Futurama” and “Arrested Development” in the last several years, and we’ve still got “Veronica Mars,” “Girl Meets World” and “The Comeback,” to name a few. Plus, the big one that premiered Monday night: “24.”
The highly-anticipated “24: Live Another Day” — starring original actors including Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub Kim Raver and more — kicked off with a two-hour premiere as Jack Bauer rushed, yet again, to save the world after being off the grid (and TV schedule) for four years. And we can confirm that if you’re in the mood to dive into a rebooted series and finally understand what everyone is talking/tweeting about, “24″ is a perfect option.
Rebooting a series, as a movie or a TV show, is tough: You want to reel in new viewers but also make your diehard fans happy — after all, they’re the ones who lobbied for the show to come back in the first place. That means sprinkling the show with a lot of subtle inside references that fans will love, though you do this at the risk of alienating newcomers. Some series do this better than others. To its detriment, “Arrested Development” 2.0 was one big inside joke fest, while the “Veronica Mars” movie had a ton of callbacks but made a decent attempt at a new storyline. (Though it was difficult to appreciate the plot without knowing the backstory of the characters.)
Because “24″ is a drama, none of that matters: Whether or not you have a working knowledge of details from previous seasons (Jack Bauer saves the world; Chloe is his sidekick; there’s always a bomb and/or a traitor involved), “24: Live Another Day” starts at such a frenetic pace that there’s no time to worry about understanding the nuance of the Jack-Audrey relationship.
The plot starts at breakneck speed, but it’s still pretty easy to grasp. Setting: London. There’s a CIA office working frantically to find a high-value suspect — that, of course, is Jack Bauer. They capture him as he’s trying to escape through a river and take him down. Victory! But even if you don’t know a lot about Jack Bauer, you know that’s too easy. Naturally, Bauer planned his capture. He just wanted to get inside the CIA site so he could jail-break his former pal/technological wizard Chloe, who had been captured because of her ties to a Wikileaks-type hacker organization. (She had recently released 10,000 classified Department of Defense documents.)
The only one who catches on to this is Agent Kate Morgan, who at first glance, is on her way out of the CIA — she’s being demoted and transferred stateside, thanks to her husband selling state secrets and betraying the organization. If she didn’t know her own husband was a traitor, why should anyone trust her judgment now? That’s extremely unfortunate, because no one listens when she tries to tell her boss — Benjamin Bratt, playing the CIA Head of Station — that Bauer would never be captured that easily.
By the time they catch on, Bauer causes an explosion and escapes with Chloe, setting up one major storyline of this 12-episode season: Kate convinces her bosses that she’s the only one who can help catch Jack, so she’s back on the team. Though we suspect her trust issues will come back to haunt her.
What’s Jack even doing in London? In typical Jack Bauer style, he’s tracked down a terrorist who plans to assassinate the president overseas. And guess who happens to be in London to get support from officials to keep American drones based in England? Yep — President James Heller. (Formerly Secretary of Defense.)
That’s why Jack helps Chloe escape — he’s too afraid to ask for her help (Jack’s new scary sidekick: “I thought you said she was your friend.” Jack: “I have no friends”). So instead he sets her free, puts a tracking device in her phone, and follows her to her underground society of hackers. He thinks one of her co-workers is behind the terrorist plot, and he’s right…except it’s never really that simple. Plot twists abound.
In conclusion: If you a new viewer who wants to play along at home and understand all those “24″ references popping into your Twitter feed, you won’t be lost if you tune in. Sure, there’s some underlying drama from previous seasons (the president’s daughter, Audrey, is now married to the chief of staff, played by Tate Donovan — Jack won’t be too happy to hear that). But that doesn’t really matter. And best of all, you don’t need to do any binge watching to catch up.
(This post has been updated.)