“24′s” time is almost up.20th Century Fox TV and Fox appear ready to end the long-running hit after this season, the show’s eighth. Studio and network execs declined comment — but it’s believed that the final decision will be made in the next day or two. Move is not a huge surprise, but still reps the end of an era for Fox. “24″ helped usher in Fox’s ratings surge in the 2000s, as the franchise — along with “American Idol” and “House,” among other series — led the network to the No. 1 spot in the adults 18-49 demo. But the cost of producing “24″ has continued to increase, while ratings have dipped. A one-time critical darling, “24″ has also received its share of knocks from critics this season. The studio is said to be considering shopping “24″ to other nets — but given the thriller’s age and pricetag, it’s believed interest from other outlets will be limited. Yet even as the bell tolls for “24″ in primetime, the franchise is far from dead. Sutherland and the “24″ team have been keen on adapting the show as a feature film, and have made major strides in recent months toward making that long-term goal a reality. Twentieth Century Fox’s film side recently hired scribe Billy Ray (“State of Play,” “Flightplan”) to pen the script for the feature version (Daily Variety, Feb. 8.) Ray’s pitch, which takes Jack Bauer to Europe, was a hit with Fox execs and producers of the high-concept television series. Script is said to have come through “24″ star Sutherland, who’s also an exec producer on the series. Such a move into the features world was considered impossible while production continued on the TV series — given that “24″ takes much of the year to produce, with its feature-like shooting schedule. But with the show expected to end its run, the ability to focus on a movie could now finally be in sight. “24″ was created by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, while exec producer Howard Gordon runs the show through his Real Time Prods. banner. Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment produces the show along with 20th Century Fox TV. Sutherland has starred throughout all eight seasons as Jack Bauer, a federal agent and member of the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit (and who has saved the world several times over). “24″ made noise for its real time format, in which all 24 episodes take place as consecutive hours in the same day. Although it was developed before the attacks of 9/11, the show, which bowed Nov. 6, 2001, in many ways began to mirror the changed world, given real-life fears over terrorism and debates over torture methods. Skein’s depiction of an African American president was seen as a ground-breaking precursor to the 2008 election of Barack Obama. The show has won the Emmy and the Golden Globe awards for drama, while Sutherland has scored both an Emmy and a Globe for actor. “24″ has also received Emmy Awards for writing and directing; last year, Cherry Jones won an Emmy for supporting actress in a drama. This season’s edition of “24,” which takes place in New York, stars Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jones, Anil Kapoor, Annie Wersching, Katee Sackhoff, Mykelti Williamson, Freddie Prinze Jr., Chris Diamantopoulos and John Boyd. Other exec producers include Evan Katz, David Fury, Manny Coto, Brannon Braga, Brad Turner, Alex Gansa and Grazer.
Data provided by:Nielsen Media Research (Preliminary Results)