May 13, 2013

Jack Bauer, '24' returning to Fox

The network plans 11 new shows for 2013-14, including a miniseries from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.

The Washington Post

NEW YORK —Kiefer Sutherland is back as Jack Bauer, Seth MacFarlane has his first live-action TV comedy, and Andy Samberg and Greg Kinnear are joining the lineup as Fox looks to dig its way out of this season's 20 percent ratings decline.

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Actor Kiefer Sutherland will return in a limited-edition "24" next year. The 12 episodes will be chronological but will skip some hours, Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment chairman, said Monday.

2007 Associated Press File Photo

In what Fox suits claim is the network's largest new programming investment ever, the network has picked up 11 new shows, as well as two "event series" — the new Hollywood-speak for "miniseries."

Those event series are Sutherland's return in a shortened "24," which will probably debut in the May 2014 sweeps and run into the summer; and M. Night Shyamalan's latest, "Wayward Pines."

The flailing singing competitions "The X Factor" and "American Idol" will again get three-hour chunks of the network's 15-hour prime time — "X" in the fall, "Idol" in the spring.

Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed that the "Idol" panel will be shrunk to three judges; he declined to discuss whether Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban are returning, other than to say they would be welcome to. Original judge Randy Jackson has already said he's out, and Carey's husband, Nick Cannon, has given interviews that seem to suggest his wife is thinking about exiting, too.

About the return of "24"(officially titled "24: Live Another Day"): On a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Reilly confessed that when the show produced 24 episodes — each representing one hour in a really bad day for Jack Bauer — the writers actually had only about 12 good hours in which big events occurred, and that viewers sat through 12 more hours of "connective tissue." Busting the show down to a 12-episode cycle will be "liberating for us," he said, so that "24" can skip the boring hours.

Fox has aggressively programmed its summers with reality TV for many seasons, so this upcoming "24: Live Another Day" launch marks a major investment in programming scripted fare year-round — a strategy that the network has been paying lip service to for years.

Speaking of scripted fare, "Bones" will be back to kick things off on Monday nights. That show will be followed by the new "Sleepy Hollow" (which Reilly called a "wildly inventive show"), in which the coward made famous by Washington Irving two centuries ago returns — only re-envisioned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, of "Star Trek," "Transformers," and "Fringe" fame. Ichabod is now a hero, resurrected 2 1/2 centuries later to find the world on the brink of destruction.

In the late fall (Fox-speak for "post-baseball"), "Almost Human" will take the "Bones" time slot, and "Bones" will move to Friday nights at 8. After that swap happens, the serial-killer drama "The Following" will return "midseason" (early next calendar year) at 9, replacing "Sleepy Hollow."

Still with me?

"Almost Human," from J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman ("Fringe"), is set 35 years in the future and follows a part-machine cop teamed with a part-human robot — the explanation of which (in the first episode, no doubt) you will not want to miss.

Fox will take another whack at creating a four-comedy block on Tuesdays. In the fall, that kicks off with MacFarlane's first live-action, multi-camera comedy, "Dads," and a single-cam comedy called "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," starring Samberg and Andre Braugher as a hotshot detective and his superior, respectively.

"Dads" stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as successful gaming entrepreneurs whose pain-in-the-neck dads, Martin Mull and Peter Riegert, move in.

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