1,440 Minutes 

Is Fox’s hyped-up 24 really worth the time of day?

Midnight: What do you think of when you read the phrase “groundbreaking television”? If you mentally answered “Action” or “Baywatch Nights,” you’re exactly why the PR department at Fox is carefully referring to its new series 24 (debuts Tuesday, Nov. 6) as “precedent-setting.”

Tube StopsThursday, Nov. 1: The Agency (CBS, 9 p.m.) The CIA’s hot on the trail of Osama bin Laden … no, wait … There’s an anthrax scare and … uh, can’t do that one, either … Tonight, the agents rescue a kitty from a tree.

Friday, Nov. 2: Providence (NBC, 7 p.m.) Obligatory Wacky Wedding Episode: On Robbie’s wedding day, now-crazy dad Jim gets blitzed at the bachelor party, dry-humps a stripper and clocks Robbie at the altar—go Jim! Meanwhile, Syd gives Robbie his wedding gift (a coupon for a personal rectal exam) and Joanie regrets volunteering to strip at his party.

Saturday, Nov. 3: Movie: Tougher Than Leather (1988, BET, 9 p.m.) Coolest Rap Flick Ever: Run-DMC are out to take down the evil drug lord/record exec who murdered their friend, battling bikers and bedding ‘hos along the way! Bonus: The pre-Buddhist Beastie Boys in concert, swilling 735 gallons of Budweiser in one song! Supa-fly dope!

Sunday, Nov. 4: The 53rd Annual Emmy Awards (CBS, 6 p.m.) Live from a secret bunker miles below the surface of Hollywood, pretty TV stars are finally awarded their pretty TV prizes for their pretty TV shows—God bless America! You can’t keep us down! (In the event this one is canceled, all awards will automatically be given to The Family Guy.)

Monday, Nov. 5: Angel (The WB, 8 p.m.) Darla’s back in town, very pregnant and claiming that Angel is the father—which is impossible, what with Angel being gay and all. Huh? He’s not gay? Well, go figure …

Tuesday, Nov. 6: 24 (Fox, 8 p.m.) Series Debut: Kiefer Sutherland only has 24 hours to prevent the assassination of a presidential candidate! Smallville (The WB, 8 p.m.) Clark suddenly develops X-ray vision, and he only has 24 hours to sneak into Lana Lang’s house and put it to good use!

Wednesday, Nov. 7: Temptation Island Reunion Wedding (Fox, 7 p.m.); Temptation Island 2 (Fox, 8 p.m.) We all knew it was only a matter of time before Fox flushed all of that 24 critical acclaim down the crapper.

12:03: It’s not likely that many TV shows are going to take 24’s concept of having an entire season happen in one day, each episode representing 60 real-time minutes of a 24-hour cycle, and run with it.

12:09: Would you really want to spend an entire day with the gals of Charmed? Sure, it sounds good on the surface, but a few minutes into the episode devoted entirely to digging hair clumps out of the bathtub drain, you’d be diving for the remote, buddy.

12:12: “Precedent-setting,” while not semantically correct, is at least more confident than “to be replaced with repeats of Temptation Island 2 at the first sign of ratings trouble.”

12:14: Kicking off at midnight on Election Day, 24 introduces government anti-terrorist agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, movie star), up late watching bad Kiefer Sutherland movies on cable when called into the office. It’s been learned there’s going to be an assassination attempt made on Sen. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert, Now & Again), the first black presidential candidate with a real—excuse the expression—shot at the White House.

12:18: As with all espionage thrillers, there’s suspicion of a “rogue element” within the agency tipping off the assassin, and Bauer’s been charged with finding it and keeping Palmer from getting ventilated—and, if it’s not too much trouble, pick up some coffee and bear claws at the Kwik-E-Mart.

12:20: Meanwhile (there are a lot of “meanwhiles” in 24), Assumed Assassin Guy is on an inbound redeye flight to Los Angeles chatting up—and soon scoring a mile-high quickie from—tipsy passenger Mandy (Mia Kirshner, still employed after Wolf Lake) between cryptic phone calls to Palmer’s aides about photo sessions. But is he really the assassin? And why is Mandy so interested in his Palmer connection? Hmmm …

12:23: Meanwhile (told you), Palmer finds out that a long-buried scandal from his past is threatening to resurface and throw a monkey wrench into his campaign. At the same time, one of his aides is taking a call from some photographer en route to L.A.

12:31: Meanwhile (yep), Bauer’s teenage daughter (Elisha Cuthbert), who’d snuck out of the house right before he took the call from the office, is out on the town with her skanky girlfriend and getting into all sorts of teen trouble—like riding in a van! With boys! Adding to Jack’s having-a-very-bad-day headaches, his kid’s also headed for a bargaining chip kidnapping, courtesy of The Bad Guys.

12:37: Meanwhile (just go with it), Bauer’s estranged wife Teri (Leslie Hope) is frantically searching the streets for the wild child and nagging Jack on his cell as he’s trying to uncover spies, stop an assassination and remember who had the cream and who had the Sweet ‘n’ Low. Any wonder why she’s estranged?

12:45: Meanwhile (last one, promise), the more pop-culturally astute may be asking themselves, “isn’t this just Murder One with a Manchurian Candidate twist”? Murder One was one of those “groundbreaking” TV series Steven Bochco came up with after breaking something else entirely with Cop Rock and Capitol Critters—it followed a single legal case over a whole season. Bo-ring.

12:49: The caffeinated real-time element of 24 makes for a subtly addictive show, even when the gimmick becomes too obvious—like the “groundbreaking” Time Code-style split-screens, for instance. It might even live up to most of Fox’s hype as the most-anticipated new show of the season—if the quality and intensity of the pilot holds up, it’ll play as an epic 1,440-minute film. Fox apparently thinks the same: They unspooled preview trailers for 24 in movie theaters over the summer.

12:55: Too bad the trailers were attached to unseen crap like American Outlaws and Glitter, but Fox will attempt to make up for it by airing 24 on Tuesdays and Fridays (in place of the floundering Pasadena), as well as Sundays and Mondays on corporate cable cousin FX. Just try and miss an episode.

12:59: But will it actually be “precedent-setting”? And what if 24 gets picked up for a second season? What’s Jack going to do for the next 24 hours? I’d guess mucho napping would be involved. And what if every hack TV writer in the country steals the clock shtick so artfully deployed here by The Only TV Column That Matters™? It’s quite groundbreaking …

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