Long-running show gets official cancellation

Jack Bauer lives.

“24′s” clock has officially been stopped, but the franchise is far from over.

Not only is a movie in the works, with Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role as the federal agent who’s had a few rough days. But 20th Century Fox TV also hasn’t quite shut the door on finding a way to keep the “24″ world active, perhaps through a spinoff of sorts at another net.

For now, though, it’s all over. The cast and crew of “24″ were given the official word on Friday: This season will be the show’s last.

News, finally confirmed by Fox, had been expected — Variety reported earlier this month that the network was ready to call it a day (Daily Variety, March 9). Sutherland, exec producer Howard Gordon and the studio were also leaning toward ending the show’s run as well.

“For us, creatively, it seemed like the right time to do it,” Sutherland told Variety. “It’s very bittersweet. ’24′ was the greatest learning experience of my career so far. And on a personal level, working with this cast and crew and writers, these will be friends of mine for the rest of my life.”

Fox had planned to inform the show’s cast and crew earlier this month that it wouldn’t pick up a ninth season. But first, sister studio 20th Century Fox TV asked Sutherland, Gordon and the rest of the show’s producers to think long and hard about whether they had a strong desire to pursue a season nine.

At the same time, 20th took calls from parties toying with the idea of acquiring the show — including NBC and DirecTV, which was rumored to be considering a production model in the vein of “Friday Night Lights.”

“They’re still talking,” said Gordon, whose deal with 20th technically would keep him on “24″ for another year. (Sutherland’s pact is up.) “But they’re certainly in the end stages of those conversations.”

Ultimately, Sutherland, Gordon and company felt that they had accomplished what they wanted to with the show, and were ready to wrap things up.

“Kiefer and me and the writers had (a decision to make),” Gordon said. “What’s the creative? What do we do? Is there any more story left to be told in this 24-hour format? We turned over every stone, and really determined that the story has come to an end in this 24-hour format.”

Now that the decision has been made, “24″ is on course to end its run with a two-hour finale on Monday, May 24 (the night after ABC ends its run of another long-running 2000s drama, “Lost.”) Fox has 11 more hours left of the show to go.

Both Sutherland and Gordon said they’re bullish now on moving Jack Bauer to the big screen, and compressing a 24-hour day — yes, the entire movie’s action will still take place in just one day — over the course of just two hours.

“The opportunity to make a movie and do a two-hour representation was something appealing to he and I both,” Sutherland said.

As Variety reported in February, scribe Billy Ray (“State of Play”) is busy writing a screenplay; Gordon will produce.

“For the first time, we’ll be able to go from England to Russia, or China to Japan, depending on where they choose to set it,” Sutherland said. “Before on the TV show, the crisis had to come to us. The best we could do it was get across town… It alleviates a huge hurdle that real-time writing presented.”

As for the final episodes of “24,” Fox’s marketing team will now be able to start touting the show’s finale — and will likely get a nice Monday night ratings bump as the show comes to a close.

Gordon finished up the final episode a few weeks ago — calling it a “very emotional moment” when he hit “send” — and that series ender is now in the process of being shot.

“There are risks starting around episode 17, and some real challenging things Kiefer was willing to go for,” Gordon said.

The exec producer said the series will end on a tremendous, and suitable note that signifies that this isn’t just another season ender. But here’s a hint: Jack neither walks off whistling into the sunset, nor winds up in a body bag.

“We tried everything on for size, from Jack’s demise to a happy ending,” he said. “Both of those were unsatisfying for their own reasons.”

Fox planned to make the official announcement on Monday, but longtime “24″ director Jon Cassar informed his Twitter followers that the crew was given the firm word of “24′s” wrap.

“News from the ’24′ set,” Cassar wrote (cleaned up from his original text). “The crew has been told that ’24′ has come to an end. There will be no season 9. It’s been a great run, thanks all for watching.”

As Variety wrote on March 9, “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’s adults 18-49 ratings crown.

But the cost of producing “24″ has continued to increase (show’s license fee hovers in the mid-seven figure range, as the network is now covering the aging show’s entire cost), while ratings have dipped.

“24″ was created by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, while exec producer Gordon runs the show through his Teakwood Lane 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.

“Bob and Joel created a revolutionary format,” Gordon said. “They executed it for the first half of the series as my partners and friends, and those were some of the most remarkable years I had creatively.”

Although it was developed before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “24″ debuted several months afterward — and in many ways began to mirror the changed world, given the real-life fears over terrorism and debates over torture methods. The show’s depiction of an African-American president was also seen as a ground-breaking precursor to the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

“(’24′) came at a time when our world changed and our perception of our safety and vulnerability changed,” Gordon said. Gordon noted that the show had its supporters and detractors on both sides of the political aisles. Sutherland, meanwhile, said he was less concerned about the show’s place in popular culture and more than it just be remembered as a strong piece of work.

“My concern as an actor and as a producer was that the stories were interesting, the drama was going to put you on the edge of your seat and that we would maintain the quality,” he said. “I can’t help someone politicizing something. It was done by the right and the left… the only thing I can say is, it’s a TV show.”

“24″ won both the Emmy and the Golden Globe awards for outstanding drama, while Sutherland has scored both an Emmy and a Globe for drama 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, Cherry Jones, Anil Kapoor, Annie Wersching, Katee Sackhoff, Mykelti Williamson, Freddie Prinze Jr., Chris Diamantopoulos and John Boyd.

Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, David Fury, Manny Coto, Brannon Braga, Brad Turner, Alex Gansa, Kiefer Sutherland and Brian Grazer are executive producers.

Next up for Gordon, he’s partnering with Alex Gansa and Gideon Raff to adapt Raff’s Israeli drama “Prisoners of War” for U.S. audiences, through 20th.

Sutherland, meanwhile, said he’d be willing to try another TV series.

“There’s amazing TV out there,” he said. “And drama and kind of human interaction I was interested in as an actor is being done there.”

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