For those unfamiliar with 24, here’s the plot:

Counter terrorist super-agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) reluctantly gets pulled into yet another plot against the United States often involving the president and national security. Frustrated by the bureaucracy of his employer CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit), Jack eventually breaks all the rules, thwarting the crisis within 24 “real time” episodes. There is a lot of yelling and cell phones with unbelievable battery life as Jack kicks some serious terrorist ass.

Hard to believe, but this plot is now in it’s eight season. This is because each year the creative team does a terrific job providing a plot wrinkle or new cast member to the parade of suspense cliches and overacting keeping the whole thing interesting.  Sutherland has made Bauer the closest thing to Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp on screen today, and a cultural icon of sorts. He plays the role with a most sincere intensity and is terrific each and every year, even when he’s on heroin (as he ridiculously was season 3). Why no Emmy? Maybe Sutherland needs to talk to the Emmy judges, Jack Bauer style!

While all the seasons haven’t been equal in terms of quality they really are pretty interchangeable in terms of plot, structure and implausibility. Cherry Jones, who won an Emmy last year for pursing her lips, returns as President Taylor. Good news is that the much better and slimier President Logan (Gregory Itzin) will return from fan favorite Season 5. How they bring him back from nearly dead will be an interesting two lines of dialogue.

Also back is Bauer love interest, Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) now a psychologically fragile expert on the Russian mob. 24 never really fully stops the action for romance, but there is always some looming potential for Jack to go off into the concealed weapon carrying sunset, should the world achieve world peace.

New to the cast is Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica (Katee Sackhoff) who plays Dana Walsh, rival to cyber-geek Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) with, and here’s a new twist, a checkered past. Does she also have a heart of gold or heart of cold? We’ll just have to tune in a find out.

Also new is Scooby Do veteran actor Freddie Prinze Jr. as Cole Ortiz who looks to be the latest CTU agent to get a “real world” education from Jack Bauer, falling under is rule breaking spell. Rut Roh!

24 is all silly nonsense that can wear you out with cliffhanger upon cliffhanger – despite its high entertainment value. What what once very new and exciting, and one of the first great serialized TV shows kicking off its Renaissance, is now a bit tired. Apparently viewers feel the same way as while ratings were good for the debut, they slid the next night loosing to Two and Half Men. Maybe American prefers guys who break the rules offcamera?

With extraordinarily high production costs and Sutherland’s weariness for playing Bauer, one wonders if season 8 will be the last season. This may be your last chance to decide if you should cut the green wire, or the red one for the eighth time.

Monday on FOX.

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