Yup, it's the annual time of the year when the body bags start piling up on the small screen. "24" kicks off season seven Sunday (Fox, 8 p.m.) with a four-hour, two-night premiere event that continues into Monday.
When we last left Jack, he was being hauled off at the end of "24: Redemption" by a state department weasel (pretty much every government type on this show is a weasel) to answer for the various amounts of torture he's inflicted over the past seven years.
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But while facing more Congressional weasels (in "24's" defense, are there any other kind?), Jack is called away by the FBI to help with a terrorism case. With CTU now disbanded, this is about as good an opportunity to get Jack back to what he does best, which is killing other people. (The Web site bauercount.com has the total at 185 confirmed kills through the first six "days," but doesn't include the kill totals from "Redemption.")
Meanwhile, the new President (Cherry Jones) must deal with the crisis in Africa as well as a domestic one, while a sinister businessman (Jon Voight) seems to be manipulating the whole situation.
Oh, and Jack's former sidekick, Tony (Carlos Bernard), is seemingly back from the dead and now a bad guy, a neat trick since we saw him get stabbed with a needle full of narcotics while struggling with Christopher Henderson, hours after he had been blown up.
Meanwhile, there are a bunch of new cast members joining the old crew, perhaps most notably Janeane Garofalo, who plays the FBI's version of Chloe.
I've long past grown tired of detailing "24's" complete and utter ridiculousness in terms of plot. It's always fun to watch Kiefer Sutherland play it all straight, and he really makes you believe in Jack's invincibility (except when facing weaselly bureaucrats). I've given up watching this show, but scores out there are excited at another season, so have at it.
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: CBS is bringing back the mild summer hit "Flashpoint" (CBS, 9 p.m.), with Enrico Colatani leading a team of hostage negotiaters/rescuers. It follows a new "Ghost Whisperer" and precedes a new "Numb3rs."
NBC, the same network that once gave us "Hill Street Blues" and "Seinfeld," is offering the new reality series "Howie Do It," a "Candid Camera" ripoff hosted by Howie Mandel at 8 p.m. I can't tell you how much I hate these sorts of hidden camera shows, but suffice it to say, I'd rather have Jack Bauer shoot me than sit through one. It's followed by a new episode of "Lipstick Jungle," which seems to have a new episode each week despite having been cancelled already.
"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) returns for its final season, with Steve Zahn guest-starring tonight at Monk's half-brother. It's followed by the return of "Psych."
"Stargate Atlantis" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) wraps up its series finale tonight, followed by the second part of the two-part season finale of "Sanctuary."
On Saturday, "Crusoe" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is all-new as Crusoe is reunited with his wife.
On Sunday, the most useless awards ceremony out there, the Golden Globes, airs at 8 p.m. on NBC as foreign journalists trade in their morals for lots and lots of swag.
CBS has new episodes of "Cold Case" at 9 p.m. and "The Unit" at 10 p.m., while ABC has new installments of "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" at the same times.
Finally, "Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) wraps up "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."