June 07, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Rush Hour

True to form, 24 wrapped its first season on Fox with more questions than answers. Is Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) wife, Teri, really dead? Will presidential candidate Senator Palmer make it to the White House? Who did mole Nina really work for? According to 24 exec producer Robert Cochran, the answers to those questions are, respectively: Yes, maybe, and reply-hazy-try-again-later. (We’re guessing a victory for Palmer and a secret CIA job for Nina, but Cochran would only say, ”Anything’s possible.”) He did admit that many of the show’s twists and turns were made up as the series went along; for instance, he and exec producer Joel Surnow didn’t decide to make Nina (Sarah Clarke) a mole until halfway through the show. And they didn’t intend to kill Teri (Leslie Hope) but then decided that somebody had to die in the finale. ”It’s not a show that says don’t worry, be happy,” says Cochran. ”That would be false to the tone we set.” Fortunately, even before the finale aired, Fox answered the most nagging question about 24 — it will be returning next fall in its real-time format, something Cochran didn’t think was possible six months ago. ”I just couldn’t see how we could repeat this format without repeating ourselves, particularly in Jack’s personal life. But if we tried to do something different, it wouldn’t be 24.” So next fall, the action will resume one year later, and Jack will still be working at the Counter Terrorism Unit. Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) will be back, as will his (ex-?) wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald), and Jack’s daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert). As for that mysterious Nina, who offed Teri before Jack nabbed her at season’s end, ”We’ll deal with that next year.”

‘Brother’-ly Love

Remember victorious Will, rapper Mike, and that knife-wielding Justin? Don’t worry, neither do we. But exec producer Arnold Shapiro is convinced that America will return for yet another season of CBS’ Big Brother (the show debuts in early July). ”Judging by the ratings of Survivor: Marquesas and The Bachelor, the appetite for reality programs is stronger than ever,” Shapiro says. The number of applicants certainly bears that out: More than 5,000 people clamored to have their every move televised, up from 3,500 last year (Shapiro is currently screening 50 semifinalists in L.A. before narrowing them down to the 12 housemates). He promises big changes in sea-son 3: The house decor gets a makeover, background checks will be more thorough, and he’s reconsidering the policy on informing the shut-ins about major world-news events (last year the houseguests never got a sense of the seriousness of the 9/11 attacks, and as Shapiro notes, ”The government keeps telling us another terrorist action is probable”). One other big switcheroo: ”We’re going to include some twists that will make the houseguests rethink their preconceived strategies.” Oooohhh, how Survivor of you.

AND SO ON… Despite being tapped as ABC’s newest late-night guy, Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Central days ain’t over yet. He still has 22 more episodes of The Man Show to host, and he’ll be doing voice-overs for up to 90 episodes of Crank Yankers, a show about crank-phone-calling puppets that bows June 2.

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