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'24' movie ambushed by NFL, AMAs

November 24, 2008 |  9:54 am

24_2 It's been a full 18 months since viewers last saw original episodes of Jack Bauer battling bad guys, so Fox had plenty of stake in Sunday's two-hour movie, "24: Redemption." The movie, which found Bauer wrapped up in an African coup, was supposed to keep fans sated until the official Season 7 return of the counter-terrorism thriller on Jan. 12. (A preview show airs on Jan. 11.) Fox has been building anticipation for the movie for months, for example showing an extended clip to fans at Comic-Con 2008.

But the Sunday competition proved a bit too much for Kiefer Sutherland's Bauer. "Redemption" earned a 4.0 rating/10 share in the crucial adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, with 12 million total viewers overall, according to early figures from Nielsen Media Research. That was far lower than the Season 6 premiere on Jan. 14, 2007 (6.1/13, 15.8 million viewers overall). In fact, if "Redemption" had been a regular season premiere, it would have been "24's" lowest-rated ever among young adults and the least-watched overall since the third season rollout back in October 2003 (11.6 million).

Fox had two big problems Sunday: NBC's football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Diego Chargers (4.6/11, 12.3 million viewers), and ABC's American Music Awards extravaganza (5.1/12, 12.2 million total viewers), which ran four hours including the red-carpet special. (Fox won the night among viewers and the 18 to 49 group, but that's because it had its own football overrun early in the evening.) 

The less-than-thrilling performance for "24" could spell trouble for Season 7 -- the year when many shows begin to run out of steam. Yet, the promotional efforts don't stop. Fox on Tuesday is scheduled to release an extended director's cut of the movie on DVD.

On the other hand, circumstances may look a lot brighter for Bauer in January than they do now. The show will run at 9 p.m. Mondays -- its customary berth since Season 4 -- after "House." And the return of "American Idol" typically casts a glow over the entire Fox schedule.

-- Scott Collins 

(Photo courtesy Fox)