Why Not HD? 24

Jack’s back – but not in HD.

There’s good news and bad for 24 fans: C4 this week kicks off season eight in a new, 8.30pm Friday slot just three weeks after its US premiere.

That’s a terrific turnaround in a market where broadcasters usually screen shows months after their US transmission (although 24’s four-hour first-week launch in the US means we’re effectively seven weeks behind).

It’s also one of the benefits of MediaWorks TV switching 24 from TV3 to C4, which has become the second-chance channel for shows that rate poorly on its sister network, such as Dexter and 90210.

The downside is if 24 had stayed on TV3, it would be airing in HD.

Compounding this frustration for Jack Bauer diehards is 20th Century Fox doesn’t offer the series here on Blu-ray, as it does in the US and the UK.

Nor does MediaWorks TV plan to repeat 24 late-night on TV3, as it’s occasionally done with other C4 programming.

“Probably not at this stage,” programming boss Kelly Martin told ScreenScribe.tv. “We’re trying not to blur the channel lines any more than absolutely necessary.”

Yet she acknowledges the reverse strategy has broadened sampling of Fox’s Glee, which screens 7.30pm Friday (in HD) on TV3, and replays 7.30pm Wednesdays (in SD) on C4.

“Yes, it’s worked pretty well — good audiences on 3, then again on C4 and one of our best online performers, too. So it’s being watched in all places.”

As for 24/8, its US ratings are down slightly on 24/7’s but the reviews were largely positive: “though the premiere’s twists are not as shocking as in years past, better ones are coming, and quickly” – USA Today; “it’s an old story rolled out with all the power of the new — meticulously plotted, irresistibly suspenseful” – Wall Street Journal; “despite the repetitions, the first four episodes are slick, fast-paced and engrossing, but that’s not new either” – New York Times.

But Salon’s Heather Havrilesky warned: “After watching the first four hours, I can tell you that the eighth season of 24 does not look good. You know how much I adore this stupid show, but please, don’t waste your time.”

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