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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 22:03 GMT
24 keeps ticking over
Senator David Palmer, played by Dennis Haysbert
David Palmer is back - this time as president

It should not be as gripping second time around but it is.

When it burst on screen last year, with its real-time dilemma of special agent Jack Bauer trying to prevent the death of a presidential candidate, 24 revolutionised drama.

As the action unfolded, you were there with Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as the assassination attempt - and a security breach at the agency he worked at - threatened him and his family.

24 was brilliant, nail-biting, pulse-quickening television, heightened by the fact its protagonist was more clueless than the audience for much of the day.

But could the programme's clock-ticking plot be repeated without looking silly or stale?

On the evidence of the first episode on Sunday, the answer is a resounding yes.

24's second series may have used the oldest trick for drama sequels - make the stakes that much bigger second time round - but it did so believably.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer
Jack Bauer faces another testing day

It is set 16 months after the end of the first series. Jack's pregnant wife Terri is indeed dead, shot by his former lover Nina, a Serbian double-agent.

Bauer's life has fallen to pieces. His daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) has been having her own problems coming to terms with the death and has pushed her father away.

She had been working as a nanny for a professional couple. But her job is not as easy as it seems.

Chilling threat

And Bauer has taken leave of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) where he had been working during the assassination attempt.

But Bauer is about to be thrown into edge-of-the-seat action again.

US agents have been torturing a mysterious figure in a Korean interrogation cell, and his revelation proves to be a chilling opening to the proceedings.

There is a nuclear bomb secreted somewhere in Los Angeles. And it is going to go off within 24 hours.

Presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) has made it to the White House, though with his scheming wife Sherry no longer in tow.

His paternalistic fishing trip with troubled son Keith is cut short when the nuclear plot is revealed.

Palmer has only one thing on his mind: getting Jack Bauer back on the case.

Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland
Dennis Hopper (left) played a Serbian warlord in the first series

But Bauer is reluctant to get involved.

And in a tantalising side story, we meet lawyer Kate Warner, who learns her sister's groom-to-be may have links to terrorism.

24's second run will do well to continue this foreboding setup.

Palmer's doom-laden promise to a Middle Eastern leader that the bomb "will hurt us - but it will destroy you" was spine-chilling.

And Kim's nannying role turning from non eventful to life-threatening was a fantastic denouement.

24 a second time around could not have quite the same effect as the original.

But among the edge-of-the-seat thrills to come, we can also be safe in the knowledge Dennis Hopper's Serbian accent is not around the corner.

See also:

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