Ken Tucker
November 24, 2008 AT 06:36 PM EST

As nice as it was to watch Jack Bauer making amends for his past sins by helping poor children in Africa during last night’s TV movie 24: Redemption, come on: You have to admit that you watched the screen with half your mind thinking all the time, “Okay, okay, do I really have to pay attention to the 24 version of random acts of kindness? Where is this taking us? Is any of this going to apply to the new season? Is the new season going to be better than last season’s sputtering spew? ‘24: Redemption‘? Gimme back my un-redeemed, action-packed 24, dammit!”
And so it was easy to gaze upon all the Africa stuff as though it was just a particularly mean-minded episode of Survivor, with Jack as Jeff Probst with a big freaking rifle. The real pleasure resided back in the United States, where some very energetic new-season plot-points were being set up:
• We’ve got a new president, played by Cherry Jones, whom we’re all supposed to immediately be in awe of because Cherry Jones is a Highly Respected New York Stage Actress, but whom we actually liked last night because she looked as though her character was capable of kicking outgoing President Powers Boothe in the cajones if it would remove him from the White House sooner.

• The president-elect has a son who’s buddies with a guy who has adrug problem and info on high-level crimes: excellent for the kind ofseedy melodrama that always brings out the best in 24!
• Jon Voight looks like the new season’s Big Bad. Boy, is Voight big! Boy, is his acting notbad! He’s got that rumbly, slit-eyed malevolence that makes him looklike a puffed-up cobra with a white-haired wig. Plus, if Voight hangsaround, we can all speculate endlessly on whether hishey-I’m-a-Hollywood-conservative-for-McCain status—the kind of”defiance” that’s really show-biz code for, “I have to come up withsome reason why no one’s giving me major movie roles, so it must be mypolitics”—has anything to do with his presence on a series that untilthis season was co-run by another prominent H’wood conservative, JoelSurnow.
• All the really intriguing tidbits were dropped in at theend, in the extended preview of the season starting in January: Jackbeing brought in front of a D.C. hearings panel for human-rightsviolations; a shot of Chloe saying, “I’m a stay-at-home mom”; and overthe words, “One of the men behind this threat is someone you know,” aglimpse of Tony Almeda, the Man Who Will Not Die.
My hopes are officially raised for a top-notch new season. How about yours? While you’re thinking about your answer, watch Jack kicking some butt below.

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