Returning 2009: 24: Day 7

FOX, season premiere Jan. 11, airs Mondays beginning Jan. 12

The 2007 writers strike may be best remembered by 24 fans for causing them to miss an entire day in the life of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), America’s most popular counterterrorism agent. Just to keep fans from forgetting Jack, FOX aired the stand-alone film 24: Redemption in November. It whet fans’ appetites for the upcoming series, revealed what Jack’s been up to in the last few years and got him from his refuge in Africa back to the U.S. As Day 7 begins, he’s being grilled by a government panel about his work with the now-defunct CTU. Things, of course, go rapidly downhill from there for both Jack and new president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). It just wouldn’t be 24 otherwise.

The source of the problem was also revealed in Redemption — a friend of Taylor’s son has been involved in some underhanded financial deals for a rogue arms dealer (Jon Voight) and it’s likely that Taylor’s entire family will soon be in peril.

Sprague Grayden (Sons of Anarchy), who plays Taylor’s daughter Olivia on the upcoming season, behaves like a well-trained agent herself when I try to pry some info out of her. But she is happy to talk about what it’s like to work with Sutherland, Voight and Jones. “This whole season is filled with iconic actors,” she says. “I just keep trying to absorb everything they do and how they do it, hoping I can grow as well. I’m such a baby and surrounded by these incredible artists.”

And why has 24 endured when most other series with a tight story arc — such as Jericho, on which Grayden also worked — have not? “It reaches so many people with so many different interests. I think it’s because it’s so darn entertaining,” Grayden says. “You’re so drawn in by each and every person. When I watch it, my heart races.”

For some, there’s also fascination with the politics of the show, which brought us TV’s first black president some years before Barack Obama was elected. And now the show’s voters have elected a woman. Could the 24 creators know something about the future of Hillary or Sarah that the rest of us don’t?

© 2008 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Michael Muller