Question: Sometimes when the creators of a hit show begin to focus their attention on another project, their first project suffers. Do you think this might be what is happening at 24 this season, while Joel Surnow and Manny Coto are currently trying to get their comedy show for Fox News up and running? (Let's not even get into why anyone would choose the folks behind 24 — which despite its many other merits is one of the most humorless shows in TV history — to do comedy.) Something is terribly wrong at 24, and while they've pulled out of creative nosedives before, it's looking less and less likely this season. For instance, I totally agreed with your recent Dispatch about how much Jean Smart's appearance added to 24. Suddenly I felt like the show had a pulse for the first time since the conclusion of the first four hours of this season, and here were two characters, Martha and Aaron, I actually care about. You'd think that the show's creative team would realize what they have and run with it. But then this week's episode threw all that goodwill out the window and it even felt like it was rubbing loyal fans' faces in how sloppy and lazy the show has become this year. The Martha, Aaron and Charles Logan story was completely ignored, leaving last week's cliff-hanger totally unaddressed. Instead we got the 8,000th CTU-mole story. That's not just sloppy, it almost feels aggressively bad. Worse yet, we get more scenes of the interminable "Is Morris drinking?" story line. And it feels like we're getting less and less Kiefer Sutherland with every episode. Do you think part of the problem might be that some of the forces behind the show are distracted with other projects this year? Or do you have any other theories? I've tried to be patient, but I'm increasingly at a loss as to why I should stick with this season.
Answer: I'm not sure the producers' extracurricular projects, however ill-advised, are to blame here. 24 is just having an off season. No conspiracy theories, that's just the way it goes. It started great but peaked early and hasn't yet found its footing again. When this week's episode began and there wasn't even a recap mention of the Logans, I muttered aloud, "Guess that story's over." What a drag. And yes, what a slap in the face. It's not like this is The Sopranos or something, where each episode can be its own disconnected mini-feature. As for the humor thing: I groaned when Chloe crossed the room and kissed Morris to check his breath, causing Morris to do one of those "only at CTU" shakes of the head. How lame. I miss Edgar! Even the crash-landing of the drone wasn't as exciting as I wanted it to be. I am, however, spooked by Powers Boothe doing his best Dr. Strangelove impersonation of Dick Cheney. Given the producers' stab at Fox News "comedy," I keep wondering if this was meant to be funny.