Then, when the bad guys catch Bauer, the one good bad guy does the same dumb thing. He's dead. And while real danger abounds -- read, that little nuclear bomb that went off in Valencia that threatens to poison Angelenos who survived the original blast -- the aftermath apparently leaves the show's writers bored. So with a couple of nuclear bombs still in the hands of terrorists, Bauer decides to investigate his old girlfriend Audrey's mysterious death in China. The stupid pill again.
One reason the show has been a hit: Bauer may use torture with limited effect, even on people he allegedly loves, but it's often the information technology guys (and ladies) who save the day. Yes, the IT folks bicker, but when they're at their CTU stations, "24" becomes "The Office" -- with national security at stake. Brains trump brawn and tech geeks rule.
Much has been made of creator Joel Surnow's conservative politics. He's a buddy of Rush Limbaugh. I am most impressed with the show's ability to buck political correctness by showing dangerous Muslims -- including a family that whined about discrimination -- as well as the cruel folly of treating American Muslims as if they all are dangerous.
Despite my grousing, I am still hooked. But I'd be happier with less action and more of Bauer and company dealing with the same irritating obstacles that everyday Angelenos face. Let "24" be real-time "24" again.
Just as James Bond movies became too slick, with too many gadgets and too few reasons to fear for Bond's safety -- that is, before the return-to-basics "Casino Royale" -- "24" has so much excitement, it's hard to get excited.