I used to be a big fan of 24. The first season's real-time format was innovative and riveting, and the second raised the stakes with a terrifying nuclear threat.
But the underlying premise of the show can really only support one or two seasons. In the context of fiction, it's perfectly believeable that counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer could have one really long day, twenty-four hours of mayhem and suspense, culminating in great personal sacrifice. A second such day was pushing it, but now we're up Jack Bauer's eighth "very bad day" and the audience's suspension bridge of disbelief collapsed into kindling long ago.
These days, I watch 24 as a comedy rather than a drama. What atrocity will Jack commit next in the name of his country's security? Which CTU agent or analyst is the mole this season? Which recurring character will be killed off? How will the producers create a threat greater than the one Jack faced last season? What personal trauma will Jack have to overcome this time? How snarky can Chloe get? How many times will Jack scream "DO IT NOW...or MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WILL DIE!"?
Sadly, 24 has become predictable, perhaps the greatest danger to any show that hopes to generate suspense. That's why the producers should take a differerent approach next season.
I propose that Jack's next "very bad day" should be the sort of bad day any civil servant might have...
The following takes place between the hours of 6:00 am and 7:00 am.
Events occur in real time.
JACK BAUER wakes up to the sound of a bleating alarm clock. He slams his hand down. Split-screen views show supporting characters like CHLOE O'BRIAN and KIM BAUER and RENEE WALKER doing exactly the same thing.
JACK, CHLOE, KIM and RENEE perform their morning toilet; they shower, brush their teeth, etc. in real time. Meanwhile, as the digital clock ticks away, we cut to various stores and institutions, including a tailor shop, a school, a deli, etc., all closed because, well, it's 6 am.
You can see where this is going. Nothing at all dramatic will happen during the day, save for the ordinary crises that beset us all. Jack will need a pair of slacks from the tailor, but they won't be finished, giving Jack the opportunity to bark, "If these slacks aren't hemmed in fifteen minutes, I won't be able to pick up Renee in time for the opera! DO IT NOW!"
Of course the last seven or eight episodes probably won't get very good ratings, since the characters will all be sleeping. But think of the incredibly low production costs..!