Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Buried seven paragraphs into this Wall Street Journal article about 24 is the news that the show’s seventh season “could premiere this summer, next fall or as late as January 2009.” The delay isn’t the fault of the writers’ strike so much as it is of the creative crisis the show found itself in after 2007’s lackluster season 6. According to the Journal, the show’s writers and producers thought viewers had deserted 24 because it was too tied to the unpopular Bush administration, the unpopular war, and unpopular American torture policies, and it took them a long time to figure a way to write around those difficulties.

But the show’s problem is simpler (or maybe more complicated) than that. It’s not torture viewers grew tired of; it’s the stale plotting, bland characters, and muddy family soap-opera dynamics we saw in Day 6. Fixing those problems could be a lot harder than dealing with the show’s ambivalent politics, which I don’t think really bothered anyone. 24 appeals to liberals and conservatives alike because it offers a wish-fulfillment fantasy: a hero who’s always right, and who knows in his gut when torture will yield valuable and truthful information. (Not too likely in the real world, any more than a hero who never needs to eat or pee or sleep, whose cellphone never needs charging, and whose pals at the office can hack into any computer in the world with their PCs.) I don’t care whether Jack Bauer supports or opposes the current real White House’s policies; I just want to see him out there kicking terrorist butt. Making me and other 24 fans sit through another season of handwringing, bickering, and backstabbing within the Bauer, Palmer, Logan, and Heller families — now, that would be torture.

addCredit(“Kiefer Sutherland: Kelsey McNeal”)