Fate of '24'

Soon, Fox the TV network will decide whether it wants to order more seasons of "24," coincidentally produced by Fox the TV studio.

Though still doing solidly in the ratings, "24" (Fox, 9 p.m.) is also one of TV's most expensive series to produce. So the network is deciding which is more worthwhile: the expensive "24," which is also showing its age from a creative standpoint, or airing a series like "Lie To Me," which is less costly to produce but also lacks "24's" devoted fan base.

Whatever Fox decides, it won't mean the end of Jack Bauer. Hey, if 10,000 bad guys can't kill Jack, what hopes do a few studio executives have?

Word on the street is that ratings-challenged NBC may step up and grab "24" should Fox decide to drop it (it would still be produced by Fox studios, just not air on the Fox network). For NBC, it would be a no-brainer: "24" gets better ratings than anything on the network. As for the money, hey, NBC just dropped about $50 million with its whole late-night Leno/Conan fiasco, so what's a few million more?

Meanwhile, Fox the studio may not be done with "24" either, reconceiving as a movie franchise. The movie format -- jamming a single plot into a two-hour movie rather than spreading multiple storylines over 24 episodes -- would actually make for a better drama. It would also mean "24" could divest itself from the single-biggest albatross the series has faced since its inception (no, not Elisha Cuthbert as Kim Bauer -- that's a close second), which is, namely, the format of dividing the day into 24 one-hour episodes spread over the season.

Without that plot device, producers wouldn't have to keep sticking in all these inane subplots. It would just be Jack vs. the terrorists.

"24's" fate on Fox should be decided fairly soon, and its movie and possible NBC fates not long after that. If it does move to NBC and stay on Mondays, it would give the Peacock a natural companion with "Chuck." Can someone say "crossover?"

R.I.P. PETER GRAVES: Speaking of great TV spies, Peter Graves died Sunday of a heart attack. He was just a few days of turning 84.

Graves was most famous for his role on "Mission Impossible" as Jim Phelps, leader of the team and was on the series when it was briefly revived by ABC in the '80s.

Graves also played a turncoat in one of my favorite movies, "Stalag 17," and served as host for A&E's "Biography."

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The new "24" follows a new "House" at 8 p.m., while a new "Chuck" leads off a night of new stuff on NBC, including "Trauma" and "Law & Order."

Since ABC can't get enough of "The Bachelor," it's inflicting yet another "Bachelor"-related special on us. This time, "20/20" goes behind the scenes of the series tonight at 8 p.m.

"Rules of Engagement" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) is the only new thing on that network, while CW has new episodes of "Life Unexpected" and "Gossip Girl."

On cable, "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.) features the return of Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), while ABC Family's lineup is all-new.

On pay cable, "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) wraps up with back-to-back episodes.