Then again, I still haven't seen how the revised format will affect things. FOX only made the season's first two hours available for review, and they take place with no gap in between. Producing 24 episodes a season was always a problem, because it didn't allow the writers to adequately plot out an entire big story arc, and ideas they expected to take 24 shows to execute might instead happen after only 8 or 9.

"Do you understand the level of desperate we were at?" Gordon told me when we discussed the show for my book. "It's like driving at 65 miles per hour on the highway and you're building the highway as you're driving. On the one hand, that energy and necessity of invention fueled the show, but it was crazy. We wrapped in May and started shooting in July. You can't plot 24 episodes in that time."

Having half as many episodes will alleviate some of that, as will not having to come up with something interesting for every character to be doing in every hour of a day. Some of the show's more comical missteps — Teri Bauer's amnesia in season 1, or Kim Bauer's encounter with the cougar in season 2 — came about simply because the writers had to hold those characters in place until they could rejoin the main plot, and couldn't just show them sleeping, or sitting in traffic, for an entire hour. That will theoretically be much less of a problem with the new structure, but it's hard to judge for sure until we see how it plays out. Will each episode that picks up after an hour (or more) off have to begin with a lot of clunky exposition about what people were up to? Or will the breaks all conveniently happen at meal, nap or tea time?

I didn't watch the last few seasons of "24" to their conclusion when they aired, because I was so burned out on the show's more obvious flaws. (The first time I saw the series finale was when I was researching that chapter for the book.) But I'm going to be watching every episode of "Live Another Day." As a student of TV, I want to see exactly how the show functions in a new decade, and with this tweaked format. And as a fan of Jack Bauer who's missed his intense glower the last four years ("Taken" repeats on cable only scratch this itch so much), I'll gladly watch 10 more weeks of the show past this one, especially in the slower summer months. "Live Another Day" may ultimately set off every clichéd minefield the show tripped over the previous eight seasons, but the time commitment is so much shorter that I can enjoy the show's strengths (Jack, his relationship with Chloe, the action set pieces) without getting too bummed out by its weaknesses if they wind up persisting like always.

But if Strahovski gets amnesia, even in a shortened season, there's no excuse. Nor, I believe, are there many jungle cats to be found inside London.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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