Category: Joe Flint

Howard Stern talks about playing nice on 'America's Got Talent'

Howard Stern isn’t worried about a learning curve when it comes to being a judge on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.”

“Naked women, singers, jugglers, it’s all the same,” Stern cracked, referring to his time assessing a carnival of guests on his long-running morning radio show.

On the surface, the hiring of radio’s bad boy to replace Piers Morgan as a judge alongside Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel on NBC’s modern-day vaudeville show sounds like a typical television stunt aimed at boosting a sagging show.

But “America’s Got Talent,” which launches its seventh season Monday, is hardly sagging. It is one of the few bright spots on struggling NBC’s prime-time schedule, averaging almost 14 million viewers last summer, according to Nielsen. Furthermore, Stern appears serious about the new post.

“This really fit what I built a career on,” Stern said. “We’ve had people come on the radio show for years that are talented or really odd. We’ve taken weirdos and made them stars.”

Indeed, Stern has always had a fondness for finding people with unusual skills and giving them a platform to either shine or humiliate themselves. However, sometimes it seemed he was more interested in amusing himself and his audience than in nurturing talent.

Now he has to be nice, or at least nicer — the sensibilities of a broadcast television audience are far more delicate than for satellite radio. He insists that won’t be a problem.

“I think to come in and say now I’ll be the harsh judge to fit the stereotype is ridiculous,” he said. “Anyone who listens to the radio show knows that there are times you're harsh and there are times you're overly compassionate. It's called being a full human being.”

His fellow judges have already seen Stern’s kinder, gentler side.

“He gets passionate and emotional about something you never would think Howard Stern would be passionate and emotional about,” Mandel said. “He cries at children and puppies,” Osbourne added.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but Stern did show a soft touch during one recent audition after he eliminated a child who had more spirit than skills. The boy was on the verge of bursting into tears after the buzzer went off and the lanky Stern rushed to the stage to comfort him.

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'American Idol' isn't sending Ryan Seacrest home

Ryan Seacrest to host Idol for two more years

"American Idol's" ratings may be going down, but Ryan Seacrest's paycheck is going up. 

The ultra-tan MC will continue serving as host of "American Idol" for the time being, Fox announced Monday. Although terms of his deal were not disclosed, the deal will carry him for two years and will see him taking home $15 million a year, sources confirmed.

That's a $5-million jump from his current annual salary, which expires after this season and had him making $10 million per season. And in that contract, he also received a bonus of $15 million for merchandising rights. 

INTERACTIVE | 'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice'

The deal keeps his TV presence in full force. The in-demand TV personality, who moonlights as a radio DJ and an entertainment news anchor on E! network," was recently courted by NBCUniversal (E!'s parent company), signing a separate pact with it which will have him covering the Olympics for "Today. " He is also part of a Mark Cuban-backed venture to launch an entertainment cable channel.

Seacrest, who also produces a number of reality shows ("Shahs of Sunset," "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"), has been a constant on "American Idol" since it launched in 2002 — at which time, he co-hosted with Brian Dunkleman before taking all the hosting glory for himself.

“For the last 11 seasons, I've had the privilege to be a part of one of television's most iconic shows. It's been a wild ride, and I'm excited for my journey with 'American Idol' to continue,” Seacrest said in a statement.

Interestingly, this time around Fox and "Idol" producer Fremantle Media will be paying all of Seacrest's salary. In previous years, "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment was on the hook for Seacrest's contract with the show — although the network did cover a portion of it.

Ratings for "American Idol" have dropped more than 20% in total viewers compared with the previous year.


INTERACTIVE | 'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice'

'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice: Is Phillip Phillips the best?

Dick Clark tributes planned on 'American Idol,' Game Show Network

— Yvonne Villarreal ( and Joe Flint (

Photo: Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards show at The Beverly Hilton on Sunday, January 15, 2012. Credit. Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

HBO cancels 'Luck' after third horse death

HBO has pulled the plug on its gambling drama "Luck"

HBO has pulled the plug on its gambling drama "Luck" after controversy erupted over the deaths of three horses during production.

“It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series 'Luck,' ” the network said in a statement.

The statement continues: “Safety is always of paramount concern.  We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures.  While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.  Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."


The network will air the rest of the first season’s episodes but will not continue with the second season, which had been ordered.

“Luck” was a high-profile bet for HBO. It starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte and was shot on location at the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. HBO made the unusual move of renewing the show for a second season after the first episode of the series premiered earlier this year.

However, the ratings for “Luck” were low, and although critics praised the show's artistry, its slow story lines were a frustration to many viewers.

Mann and Milch offered the following statement: “The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers.  This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”


Full coverage and recaps of "Luck"

Decoding 'Luck': Sex, death and horses

Horse scenes suspended on 'Luck' after a third animal death

-- Yvonne Villarreal and Joe Flint

Photo: A scene from the HBO original series "Luck." Credit: Gusmano Cesaretti / HBO

'Mad Men' creator Matt Weiner agrees to new deal


Martinis for everyone!

"Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner has signed a new deal to remain with the cult cable show for at least two more seasons.

Weiner had been in tough negotiations with AMC, the cable network that carries "Mad Men," and Lionsgate, the production company that makes the hourlong drama about fast-living advertising executives in 1960s New York City.

The show, which normally runs in the summer, had already been pushed to early next year, in part because of the contract dispute. It will probably return to the air in March 2012.

While Weiner will be paid handsomely for staying with the show -- people familiar with his contract say it is worth close to $10 million a season -- money was not the main issue threatening his status. AMC had wanted to add additional commercials to "Mad Men" and Lionsgate wanted to find ways to cut costs in production of the expensive period drama. AMC had also wanted to pursue more product placement and product integration in the show to help it recoup its costs.

A compromise of sorts was reached on the commercials. The first and last episodes of the upcoming fifth season will run at 47 minutes and the rest of the episodes will run at 45 minutes. Weiner will have the option to make those other episodes at 47 minutes for other platforms including video on demand, DVD and iTunes.

With regard to the cast, people close to the show said the main characters are all locked in for the next two seasons, which is how long AMC's current deal with Lionsgate for the show runs. A seventh season with Weiner onboard is likely unless AMC decides it is ready to move on from the series or the bulk of the cast is not renewed.

In a statement, Weiner said, "I want to thank AMC and Lionsgate for agreeing to support the artistic freedom of myself, the cast and the crew so that we can continue to make the show exactly as we have from the beginning."

"Mad Men" has won three Emmy Awards for outstanding drama and helped boost AMC from an also-ran cable network to a first-tier channel. It now has other successful original shows including "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" and it has been able to boost both the dollars it attracts from advertisers and the fees pay-TV distributors shell out to carry the network.


'Mad Men' creator Matt Weiner says he's no Don Draper

Talks stall between "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner and AMC, Lionsgate

Full Show Tracker coverage of 'Mad Men'

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner (second from left with trophy) at the Golden Globes with the cast. Credit: Andrew Gombert/EPA.



Midseason TV Preview: Where we left off and what's new

A slew of new shows kick off this winter, and a bunch of series pick up where they left off.

In our Midseason TV Preview, we have a gallery to help you catch you up on forgotten plotlines for returning shows like "Big Love" and "Parks and Recreation," and photos from the set of FX's "Justified." There's also a guide to what to watch from critic Robert Lloyd.

Idol One show returning to the air this month with question marks hanging over it is "American Idol." Scott Collins mulls the high stakes and prospects for "American Idol" after Simon Cowell. There's also a guide to new reality series, with a few familiar faces (think Kardashians).

"Hot in Cleveland," the comedy starring Betty White and fellow sitcom vets Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, was a surprise hit for TV Land, becoming the top-rated cable sitcom of the year. (Just for reference, its June premiere pulled in roughly double the audience of the "Mad Men"  season opener last year.) T.L. Stanley looks at TV Land's strategy of catering to an under-served older demographic with a slate of upcoming scripted series. Along with it, there's a gallery that goes behind the scenes with Betty White and crew on "Hot in Cleveland."

Much of the preview section in this Sunday's paper is dedicated to new shows. Joe Flint profiles Holt McCallany, who stars as a washed-up boxer stuck between two New Jersey worlds -- the gritty Bayonne neighborhood of his youth and professional life and the cushy Far Hills mansion he lives in with his wife and three daughters -- in FX's new drama "Lights Out."

Several new shows come with familiar faces attached. Greg Braxton profiles Matt LeBlanc, who stars as himself (kind of?) in the new Hollywood-skewering Showtime comedy "Episodes."(Among the differences between the show's "Matt LeBlanc" and the real one: The fictional Matt brags about his gargantuan male member, whereas the real actor claims, "My anatomy is very proportional.") And Queen Latifah talks about her producing role in the new series "Let's Stay Together," part of a block of all-black comedy premiering on BET.

Continue reading »

Fox announces midseason schedule and moves 'American Idol' to Wednesdays and Thursdays


So much for "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Sensing an opening on Thursday nights now that CBS' reality hit "Survivor" has moved off that night, Fox is moving "American Idol" from Tuesday and Wednesday nights to Wednesday and Thursday nights when the talent show returns Jan. 19.

The shift of "American Idol" is just one of several moves Fox disclosed as part of its midseason programming strategy late Friday afternoon, including the scheduling of several new comedies and a game show that the network hopes will become the next "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

"American Idol" has appeared on Thursday nights before on occasion, but this is the first time it will reside there full-time. Thursday is a big night for television as movie studios and car companies traditionally spend heavily on that night in hopes of drumming up business for the weekend.

In an interview, Preston Beckman, Fox's executive vice president of strategic planning, said the idea of moving an episode of "American Idol" to Thursday first crossed the network's mind when CBS moved its reality hit "Survivor" out of its longtime Thursday 8 p.m. home to Wednesday nights this fall.

"Here's the opportunity we've been waiting for," Beckman said. "Thursday just isn't what it used to be ... there are still some of the strongest shows on TV, but none of them are in growth mode."

Of course, some might say the same thing about "American Idol." After all, when it returns in January, it will be missing Simon Cowell, the judge who has been the driving force behind the show for almost a decade. New judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez may bring in some initial curiosity, but most industry observers expect ratings to decline from last year.

Still, "American Idol" will likely be the No. 1 show of the season yet again.

Another reason Fox was able to move "American Idol" off of Tuesday was the strong performance of "Glee," which has taken off this fall.

Fox also said it will premiere the new romantic comedy "Mixed Signals" in February in the Tuesday 9:30 p.m. slot, which had been occupied by "Running Wilde," a show that will likely not be back. A new comedy called "Breaking In" starring Christian Slater will premiere in April on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.

Also hitting the schedule in January will be the game show "Million Dollar Money Drop," which will get something of a sneak peek in late December.

Other moves include the cult favorite "Fringe" from Thursday to Friday night.

Shows coming off the schedule early next year include "Lie to Me" and "Human Target." Beckman said both could return with original episodes next summer.

Here is the Fox lineup (after the jump), beginning in January. New shows are marked in bold. Warning: Some returning shows are premiering on certain nights and times and then moving to regular time slots.

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Fox's 'The Chicago Code' will go on active duty Feb. 7


Fox's "The Chicago Code," the much anticipated cop drama from producer Shawn Ryan ("The Shield," "Terriers") will premiere on Monday, Feb. 7, which is the night following the network's coverage of the Super Bowl, in the 9 p.m. time slot.

The show, which stars Jason Clarke as a rule-bending veteran Chicago detective juggling work, an ex-wife, a son and a much younger girlfriend, will get a big promotional boost by Fox during the network's coverage of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. A post-Super Bowl time slot would have been nice, but Fox is reserving that spot for its hit "Glee."

Originally titled "Ride-Along," Ryan promises that "The Chicago Code"isn't the typical cop show.

"There are a lot of cop shows on TV and a lot of them are similar. There is a dead body at the start and a guy in handcuffs hauled away at the end of the episode," he cracked. "The Chicago Code," which will probably have its fair share of dead bodies, will also look at political corruption and how it trickles down into the lives of the cops on the street. Besides Clarke, who starred in Showtime's "Brotherhood," "The Chicago Code" also features Jennifer Beals ("The L Word") and Delroy Lindo.

The last new program that Fox tried in that time slot was the ill-fated "Lone Star," which was adored by critics but flamed out after just two episodes earlier this fall. That show, about a con man juggling two families, didn't connect with viewers. But the time slot isn't jinxed. Its previous occupant for several years was "24."

Though a heavy promotional blitz during the Super Bowl and having "House" as a lead-in could help, Ryan knows that won't be enough.

"The idea that they are going to stick around and watch your show just because they like the show in front of yours doesn't hold water anymore," he said. "Yeah, they'll be a lot of people at 8:59, but will they be there at 9 p.m.?"

You can view a trailer of the show below:


-- Joe Flint

Photo: "The Chicago Code's" Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals. Credit: Fox.

Video Credit: Fox

Ratings roundup: ABC, CBS and NBC can crow a little, but Fox's 'Lone Star' flames out


The broadcast networks officially kicked off the fall television season, and although NBC, ABC and CBS can all find something to crow about, there won't be a lot of smiles at Fox.

While all eyes were focused on the new shows launching, including CBS' remake of "Hawaii Five-0" and NBC's big-budget drama "The Event," it was ABC's old reliable "Dancing with the Stars," which this season has contestants ranging from "Brady Bunch" mom Florence Henderson and ex-NFL great Kurt Warner to "Jersey Shore" sensation Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, that dominated the night. ABC averaged 17.7 million viewers, good enough for first place, and it also was on top in the 18-49 demographic that advertisers covet, followed by CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW.

Overall, about 47.4 million people tuned in to watch the premieres of five new television shows and new episodes of nine other series, according to Nielsen. That's a drop of about 5 million viewers or almost 10% from the first official night of last year's television season.

But the decrease in viewers can pretty much be squarely put on Fox, which saw its medical drama "House" return to relatively flat numbers compared with last season in the 8 p.m. hour and "Lone Star," the network's critically praised drama about a Texas con man, flame out at 9 p.m.. About 10.5 million people watched Monday's night's "House" and then more than 50% of them bailed out on "Lone Star," which averaged about 4 million viewers. Last year, a two-hour episode of "House" averaged over 17 million viewers.

Fox knew it would have hard sell with "Lone Star," and it was facing off against particularly tough competition from CBS -- which had a season premiere of its hit comedy  "Two and a Half Men" followed by "Mike & Molly," a new romantic comedy -- and NBC, which was launching the heavily hyped "The Event."

"Lone Star," which stars James Wolk, David Keith and Jon Voight, received mostly favorable reviews, and there will no doubt be second guessing within the industry over whether Fox might have been better off premiering the show a few weeks into the season, after some of the competition had already launched their shows. However, Fox is challenged somewhat in its fall scheduling strategies because it carries postseason baseball in October, which eats up a chunk of nights. The network will scrutinize Nielsen's numbers on digital video recordings of the show in hopes that there is an audience that was curious about "Lone Star" but wanted to watch it on their schedule.

CBS' big event for Monday night was its new take on "Hawaii Five-0." The show, which replaced "CSI Miami" in the 10 p.m. slot, averaged 13.8 million viewers, making it the most watched new show for the night. The performance was only 3% off from what David Caruso and his gang did last year in their season premiere. "Mike & Molly" also got off to decent start, with 12.3 million viewers. Although that was a drop of 15% from its lead-in of "Two and a Half Men," it was only 5% off from what "The Big Bang Theory" averaged in its season premiere in the same 9:30 p.m. slot a year ago. This season, CBS has moved "The Big Bang Theory" to Thursday night.

NBC, which is trying to recover from last year's disaster of a television season, can take some encouragement from the performance of "The Event." The program, a serial about a plot that affects everyone in the country and outer space, stars Jason Ritter and Blair Underwood and is NBC's big bet for the fall. It averaged 11.2 million viewers, which is not a spectacular number given the show's cost, but is much better than what the network did last year in the same time period. More important, the audience for "The Event" grew in the second half-hour, which is a good sign. The real test, though, for a big-budget premiere like "The Event" is how many people stick around after the second episode, which won't have the same special effects.

Another factor in Monday night's numbers will be the performance of "Monday Night Football," which featured a nail-biter between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, that went down to the final play when the Saints kicked a winning field goal. UPDATED: Indeed, about 15.1 million people watched the game on ESPN, making it the second most-watched show of the night after "Dancing with the Stars."

HBO, which on Sunday night premiered its expensive new series, "Boardwalk Empire," about Atlantic City corruption in the age of Prohibition, said it was renewing the show for a second season. The premiere averaged 4.8 million viewers in the Sunday 9 p.m. hour. It was HBO's best series premiere since "Deadwood," which had the benefit of a "Sopranos" lead-in when it made its debut in 2004.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: A scene from CBS' "Hawaii Five-O." Credit: Mario Perez /CBS

'American Idol's' back-up plan with Jennifer Lopez not ready for delivery

Jlo We know that Jennifer Lopez's love don't cost a thing, but getting her to join "American Idol" definitely does.

Reports that the singer-dancer-actress' deal to join the judge's panel next season is done are premature, according to two insiders close to the show. Fox has a deal "in principle" with Lopez but she has not signed on the dotted line.

What's the delay? Her representatives are trying to sweeten the deal with other perks which could include a development deal with the television and movie empire. 

It's not all about incentives for Lopez. Her camp also wants to wait to gauge the public's reaction to news that she is in line to become a judge on America's most popular television show.

Although Fox executives would ideally like to present their new "Idol" panel to reporters on Monday at press tour, that's not going to happen. In fact, network sources told the Times Friday afternoon that there will be no "Idol" announcements on Monday.

Lopez's publicists have not returned phone calls or e-mails requesting comment.

--Joe Flint and Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Jennifer Lopez at the 2010 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit in June. Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Nigel Lythgoe may return as an executive producer of 'American Idol'

Nigel Lythgoe
is in talks to return as an executive producer for Fox's "American Idol," according to people close to the show.

The potential return of Lythgoe, who has been busy running Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," for which he is both executive producer and a judge, is yet another sign of how much is at stake for Fox and "American Idol" next season. Simon Cowell, one of the show's judges, has left the program, and no replacement has been named yet, even though it is less than six months until the show returns.

Ratings for the musical talent show are still strong but on the decline. About 24.2 million people watched the finale last May when Lee DeWyze took the crown as the new "American Idol" over Crystal Bowersox. While any network would love that big an audience, it was about 16% off the 28.8 million who watched last year's finale. Among adults ages 18 to 49, "American Idol" was down about 10% last season.

Fox and producers Fremantle and 19 Entertainment are taking steps to try to boost viewership for "American Idol," including lowering the minimum age for contestants to 15.

Lythgoe left "American Idol' in 2008, in part, to dedicate himself to running "So You Think You Can Dance." But sources at the time said that friction with Cowell behind the scenes was the primary reason for his depature.

If Lythgoe does rejoin "American Idol," according to the sources close to the show, he would also hold on to his job with "So You Think You Can Dance." But host Ryan Seacrest would probably be the only "Idol" personality with job security. When "Idol" ended in May, Lythgoe said in interviews that he would revamp the aging show by hiring an entirely new panel of judges.

— Maria Elena Fernandez and Joe Flint

Photo: Nigel Lythgoe in May. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.

'Law & Order' is over on NBC after 20 years [Updated]

There will still be lots of "Law & Order" on NBC's schedule next season, just not the "Law & Order."

Unable to strike a deal with the show's creator and executive producer, Dick Wolf, NBC pulled the plug on the 20-year-old show that spawned several spinoffs and became one of the most lucrative television franchises in history -- for both NBC and Wolf.

Talks had broken down over money and the number of episodes NBC was willing to commit to for what would've been the legal drama's 21st season, which would've broken the record it shared with "Gunsmoke" for the longest-running television drama.

"The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his 'Law & Order' franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated. The legacy of his original ‘Law & Order’ series will continue to make an impact like no other series before," Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal television entertainment, said in a statement.

In his statement, Wolf said: "Never complain. Never explain."

At issue was the high cost of producing a drama whose best days in terms of ratings were long behind it. "Law & Order," whose cast over the years has included Jerry Orbach, Chris Noth and Michael Moriarty, saw its audience drop below 8 million this season. Although the current cast is relatively new (with the exception of Sam Waterson and S. Epatha Merkerson), the people behind the show were making a significant amount of money. 

NBC wanted to bring the show back but not for a full season. Wolf's camp had said a few weeks ago it thought the two sides would end up with a deal for 16 episodes, but NBC was never on board for that many, people close to the situation said.

The odds of finding another home for the flagship series seem long. TNT, which carries "Law & Order" reruns, said Thursday it was not in talks to pick up the series. It also has a heavy slate of original shows, and its parent company has spent heavily lately on both Conan O'Brien and the NCAA basketball tournament. 

Wolf will still be in business with NBC. The network is bringing back "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and has a new spinoff, "Law & Order: Los Angeles."

[Updated 11:30 a.m.: New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has weighed in on the impact of the show's departure: “Over the last 20 years, 'Law & Order' became a New York City institution. It began filming in the city at a time when few series did, and it helped pave the way for the more than 150 television shows based here today, including the 'Law & Order' spinoff 'Special Victims Unit,' which will continue.

'Law & Order' not only broke the record for New York City’s longest-running prime-time series, it set the record for the longest-running crime series in the nation, collecting numerous Emmy awards along the way. It also helped launch the careers of thousands of talented actors and featured many memorable performances – although my cameos are not among them. We’re grateful to Dick Wolf for choosing New York City as its location for all of these years, and for helping showcase the city’s depth and versatility as a setting and all of the advantages of filming here."]

-- Joe Flint

'24': Jack Bauer won't have a happy ending, exec producer says


Get the Kleenex out, and brace yourself for some real-time drama as "24" reaches its end.

During a conference call with reporters on Friday, "24" executive producer Howard Gordon said the Fox ticktocking drama will not end with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) smiling joyfully at the cameras, planning a trip to Disneyland with his granddaughter. 

"One thing we tried and didn't work was a happily-ever-after for Jack," Gordon said.  "What he's done -- forget about the last eight seasons -- but in these last six episodes ... leaves him, once again, in a very morally compromised place, morally, ethically and emotionally. This show is a tragedy, and to give Jack a happy ending just didn't feel authentic.

"Where we wanted to leave Jack was something that we tried on for size," he said. "And the one we came to at the end was the one that felt just right. So it wasn't for lack of trying a couple of different ways, but we knew it when we saw it that this was the right way to do it.... But in the spirit of taking the series to a place where it hasn't been before, we've done this thing, and it's certainly not playing it safe. But it is very emotionally climactic, and we're pretty excited by it."

Indeed, even during Jack's fleeting moments of joy -- his romance with Audrey, his new relationship with his daughter and granddaughter, and his sexual encounter with Renee before she was killed -- he has never been able to let go of the emotional wounds of the tragic eight days of his life viewers have witnessed.

"The good part about Jack's character is that we never press reset." Gordon said. "Jack is a character, and you feel the accumulated scars of his experience and the weight of his actions for eight years. Jack's never been able to snap back. Even with Audrey, it's not like it discounted the tragedy that preceded it. And just like the beginning of this year, for a moment, Jack allowed himself a moment of joy or possibility of human contact with his daughter and her husband and his granddaughter. I don't think Jack's ever going to recover from what's gone on. And it just adds to the weight and the complexity and the darkness of his character."

With only four hours of "24" left -- the series ends on May 24 with a two-hour finale -- there are many story lines to work through. But Gordon said that Fox's decision to end the series this year didn't change the essential story the writers had outlined for the season.

"To me, the show was always going to end the way it was going to end, whether there was a ninth season or a movie because the story's been told," Gordon said. "I think what changed was the context of it all. In other words, it really took on a different meaning. Any number of seasons in years past could have been a really cool series finale. And only the fact that this was our series finale did it really have the kind of context that, wow, we're really saying goodbye to this character. And there is a final moment that is very, very specific to this series finale. It's not so much a plot moment, but it's a punctuation mark that is  unique to the series finale."

Gordon said he hopes that the much-discussed "24" movie will be released within a year or two, but the planning of that film is in initial stages. Writer Billy Ray has written a first draft, which Sutherland has read. Ray, Sutherland and Gordon are working on a second draft together, but no one at Fox has seen the script yet, he said. Gordon says they are working toward the dual goal of honoring the franchise in a film while trying to attract newcomers to it as well.

"We need to make sure that, like every season, we're moving forward," he said. "When we begin, Jack needs to be in a different place than he's been before."

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: "24" cast. Credit: Brian Bowen Smith / Fox

Follow me on Twitter @writerchica


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