24: Live Another Day (3 stars)

24: Live Another Day

It’s groundhog day for Jack Bauer and co

All hail to our favourite TV torturer and flawed saviour of the US realm: Jack is back! But only partly so. 24 is now really 12, with this ninth series cut down in episode numbers by 50%. So, in 24: Live Another Day, we’ll experience half the adrenaline rushes, we’ll be introduced to half the normal number of evil geniuses, there should only be one transfer of power in the White House, Chloe O’Brian will deliver half her usual withering glances and Jack Bauer might only be declared clinically dead once, before spluttering his way back to unbelievable life.

Given that one of the main plot strands in the first two episodes is the USA’s use of remotely piloted aircraft for the purposes of surveillance and slaughter, perhaps the series should be renamed 12: Game of Drones. This is not helped (or, indeed, helped) by the fact that Catelyn Stark (well, Michelle Fairley) is in there as a doting mother who might (or might not be) responsible for some intricate hacking which is turning the flying machines of death back into US military faces.

The last time we saw Jack, he was ‘going dark’ with both the Russians and Americans in hot pursuit (we’re pretty sure the Chinese still wanted him dead too). During the intervening period of four years, he has changed not one jot while Chloe appears to have discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees on her way to becoming part of some WikiLeaks-style underground squad.

While the preview headlines have been made with Stephen Fry cropping up as the British PM in this London-set series, Scottish comedy buffs will be delighted to see James Kirk from sketch troupe How Do I Get Up There? as one of the counter-culture techy guys and fans of The Wire might be stunned to see Killer Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) as a stroppy CIA agent.

If you’ve ever watched a single episode of 24, then all this will be familiar enough territory as Jack bravely/insanely fights his way through a gaggle of ham-fisted adversaries on rooftops or in dark rooms with pipes spitting out steam or through market stalls in broad daylight. Thankfully, market stalls are just as prevalent in East London as they are in Sangala (a made-up place) or the Islamic Republic of Kamistan (another made-up place).

This is all shaping up to be as mindlessly entertaining as anything that has come before, but we only ask one thing of Live Another Day: even though she was namechecked in the opening minutes, please do not inflict Kim ‘Kidnapped’ Bauer on us.

24: Live Another Day starts on Sky 1, Wed 7 May, 9pm.