Time marches on: '24' on Fox to '09

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With the countdown clock ticking till Fox's upfront presentation Thursday, the network has picked up the real-time drama "24" for two more seasons.

The unusually late renewal for the Emmy-winning "24," from Real Time Prods., Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV, will keep Jack Bauer saving the day through the 2008-09 season.

Series star Kiefer Sutherland already is locked to stay with the show through May 2009 under a three-year, eight-figure deal Sutherland inked last year with 20th TV (HR 4/10/2006).

"We're re-creating the series," executive producer/showrunner Howard Gordon said. "It is going to be a real-time thriller. Beyond that, it's an open book."

Meanwhile, Fox also has ordered a 13th season of the late-night comedy series "Mad TV," which airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays. The show is produced by QDe.

" 'Mad TV' continues to be a Saturday-night staple, especially among younger audiences," said Todd Yasui, senior vp late-night programming at Fox.

As for "24," the series has had a roller-coaster ride the past couple of seasons.

It earned rave reviews for Season 5, which was capped by five Emmys last year, including best drama series and a best actor trophy for Sutherland.

But during its current sixth season, "24" has drawn criticism from fans about losing some of its creative footing.

Gordon said he felt those assessments were "unfair." "On balance, it was a very successful season," he said.

The upcoming re-invention of the series was something the producers have talked about for a while, Gordon said.

Aside from Sutherland, "24" will return with a new cast (some old favorites might return in different roles) and a new, non-Los Angeles location, with the producers even contemplating telling the story from two locations.

Created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, "24" is exec produced by Surnow, Cochran, Gordon, Evan Katz, Jon Cassar, Sutherland and Brian Grazer.

"24" joins Fox's previously renewed series "House," "Prison Break," "Bones" and " 'Til Death" as well as the network's Sunday animated comedy block.

Fox's recently picked-up new series for next season include three comedies: the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton starrer "Back to You," Amy Sherman-Palladino's "The Return of Jezebel James" and the Farrelly brothers-produced "The Rules of Starting Over."
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