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First look: ’24’

Real-time action, unique POVs, and Sutherland

Nobody’s ever accused Fox of being afraid of risks– but with its new fall drama “24,” the network is poised to take one of its biggest leaps.

On the surface, the show seems a standard-issue spy thriller: Kiefer Sutherland plays a CIA agent trying to stop a presidential assassination plot.

But in “24,” the action unfolds in real time, with each episode exploring one hour in a very hectic

day. And in addition to the central assassination plot, the show simultaneously explores a personal crisis in Sutherland’s life involving his wife and daughter.

What’s more, the show uses a revolutionary visual style that often lets viewers see events from the perspective of several characters at once.

Some critics have already hailed “24” as the season’s best new show. Advance stories about the skein’s ratings potential began popping up in June.

Despite the kudos, exec producer Robert Cochran says he initially balked when partner Joel Surnow first pitched him the concept.

“I said, ‘That’s a great idea (but) it’s impossible,'” Cochran remembers. “‘It makes my head hurt to think about it; don’t ever talk to me about that again.'”

Cochran and Surnow ultimately went forward with “24,” and now Fox is doing everything it can to ensure its success.

Skein won’t hit Tuesday nights until late October, after the flood of fall premieres and Fox’s coverage of baseball’s World Series. Net is launching a major promo push that includes theatrical trailers.

Also, it’s expected that same-week repeats of the show will end up on sister operation cabler FX or on local Fox stations so viewers who miss an episode can easily catch up.

Some industry insiders still worry auds may not want to commit to a skein so inherently serialized as “24,” but Surnow thinks the series can overcome that challenge.

“This is a really simple show in a way,” he says. “There are two elements and if you know those two elements, you know any episode you come into: Kiefer’s trying to stop the president from being shot; he’s trying to find his daughter.

“If you get that, you get the show.”

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