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'24': You know as much as they know

Well, almost. The creators of the Fox drama say they don't know where the show is headed as they sit down to write each week's episode.

Published January 23, 2006

PASADENA, Calif. - Though viewers may have been surprised at how Fox thriller 24 began this month, with the assassination of former President Palmer in the first 10 minutes, the show's creators say the season's ending will surprise them as much as the fans.

Because the ticktock drama about danger-prone federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is and always has been a work in progress, the ending will be figured out along the way. Executive producers Howard Gordon and Evan Katz say they have no idea where the roller coaster ends.

"We're lucky, at the beginning of the year, if we know where it starts," Gordon told television critics this month. "I think that's part of what gives the show its energy, is we paint ourselves into corners and blast our way out."

Gordon said it surprised even the writers when they decided among themselves to kill off Palmer (Dennis Haysbert, who turns up in March on CBS's commando show The Unit ).

"Somebody said, "What if the president is shot?' And, I mean, it really was one of those epiphanies," Gordon said.

A few hours after 24 producers revealed they were writing without a net, David Manson, executive producer of upcoming FX miniseries Thief, said every writer has to start out with a goal in mind. Told of how 24 operates, Manson shook his head in amazement: "More power to them."

Sutherland said he has learned to believe in the writing team, but still, "It scares us."

But "after five years, I think we've got some faith in the way we're figuring this out," he said.

More than 25-million viewers watched all or part of the season's two-hour premiere Jan. 15, according to Fox. Katz said at its best, production is two episodes ahead of the scheduled air date, and Fox has planned the show to run consecutively, without room for repeats.

"You know, it used to scare the hell out of us, and I confess to being kind of sleepless," Gordon said. "I'm not kidding you when I tell you I don't know what's going to happen next episode. I really mean it."

"Last year, we didn't know that Jack wouldn't wind up dead," Katz said. "We know in general we'll avert a terrorist threat or conclude the conventional story, but we begin the year sort of pretending we have the first four to six. But even as we're writing those, they change. Things just change too quickly to plan ahead too much."

--Chase Squires can be reached at 727 893-8739 or His blog is

[Last modified January 23, 2006, 00:59:12]

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