The clock has stopped on “24,” at least for now.
Jack Bauer’s seventh mission has been delayed for the foreseeable future, as Fox announced Wednesday that “24” won’t be back until the network can air the entire season, uninterrupted.
“The viewers have told us that this is a show that needs to be digested with minimal, if any, interruptions,” said Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman.
The “24” preemption is one of several tweaks to Fox’s midseason lineup as the net became the first to reveal a full-fledged strike-induced schedule change.
“We’ve got a plan to keep Fox vibrant right through May sweep and beyond,” Beckman said. “We had to make some tough decisions quickly for a variety of reasons.”
What the delay means for “24” is still up in the air. The show could conceivably start later in the spring, should the Writers Guild strike be resolved. But the delay could mean that “24” will miss the year entirely and shift its seventh cycle to the 2008-09 TV season.
The “24” showrunners were among the pickets outside Disney on Wednesday morning; production, however, continues on the episodes for which there are scripts — including shoots that are ongoing through Friday in Washington, D.C. Production on episodes seven and eight are expected to continue until early December.
In place of “24,” the new skein “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” will move up to 9 p.m. effective Jan. 14 (after an hour-long premiere on Sunday, Jan. 13), while “Prison Break” — originally slated to go on hiatus come January — will stick with its 8 p.m. slot until March.
In order to air original “Prison Break” segs in winter, net will pull the show off the sked after Nov. 12 and rest it, filling the slot with “House” repeats.
After original “Prison Break” and “Terminator” segs run out, new reality skein “When Women Rule the World” rolls into the 8 p.m. slot on March 10, followed by repeats of “House.”
“House” will also remain in its Tuesday 9 p.m. spot (behind “American Idol”) until April 1, when “Hell’s Kitchen” returns.
“What’s frustrating to us is look how well we were doing on Tuesday nights,” Beckman said. “This was our big night. As much as we would have liked to keep ‘House’ there, circumstances have forced us to make a decision.
“We’ve been preparing for this for months and started production on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ early in anticipation of a work stoppage,” Beckman said. “We feel this is a show that deserves a shot to go to the next level.”
“House” will continue to serve as a major utility player for Fox, however. Besides the Tuesday and Monday airings, show will also air Fridays at 9 p.m. in January and much of February.
A special “House” seg, guest starring Mira Sorvino, is still set to air after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
“Interestingly, ‘House’ will get more exposure in the first quarter of 2008 than it normally gets,” Beckman said.
On Wednesdays, net will bow lie detector-themed reality skein “The Moment of Truth” at 9 p.m., behind the “Idol” results show, on Jan. 23. Then, on March 12, “Moment of Truth” will slide to 8, followed by “Idol” at 9 and “Back to You” at 9:30.
Then there’s Fridays, where the sked will rotate every few weeks: As already announced, “Bones” repeats head to 8 p.m. starting Jan. 4; on Feb. 22, new skein “New Amsterdam” replaces “House” repeats at 9. Then on March 7, half-hours “‘Til Death” and “The Return of Jezebel James” take on the 8 and 8:30 slots. And on April 11, “Canterbury’s Law” will replace “Amsterdam” at 9.
One more change: New laffer “Unhitched” will take over “American Dad’s” Sunday night 9:30 slot for six weeks starting March 2.
New sked is locked if the strike continues; if there’s a resolution and scripted fare returns, however, “We can unscramble the egg,” Beckman said.