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''24'' (Don't Read If You Haven't Watched)

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 23, 2006

I don't as a rule watch ''24'' every week because the ridiculousness of it eventually overwhelms my mild enjoyment of the action when I have to wait seven days between episodes. DVD boxes, gobbled as quickly as a box of Sugar Babies, are a much better way to go.

But I did tune in for the two-hour finale and found it better than the ''Alias'' farewell, even if ''Alias'' wasn't quite as preposterous.

For one thing, I actually knew what was going on in ''24,'' not always the case with ''Alias's'' even more convoluted plotting. ''24'' came up with a nifty cliffhanger finish for the season, with Bauer captured and carried off by the Chinese. Jean Smart, as the acting First Lady, was a great addition to the cast -- consider the look on her face when she gets seductive with her murderous husband, and the look near the end when she has seen to his comeuppance.

At the same time, though, you have any scene where Chloe has to frown and worry about dire consequences, always presented so seriously but comical in its redundancy. The action can get really nuts -- Jack hanging onto a bar but still able to snap a villain's neck with his legs, for instance. And, at the end of a day that includes an assassination, terrorists on the loose and the fall of the president, isn't just a little bit weird that two top anti-terrorism officials get a bit flirty?

But the show really falls apart when we stop and think about Jack Bauer, what he does and how he gets away with it. I don't mean that he has to be realistic, just that he should be consistent. This is a guy who has matter-of-factly put bullets into more people than I can list. The title of president shouldn't make him wimp out. If I see him to pull a gun to interrogate a villain, even a high-titled one, I expect either answers or a big old pool of blood.

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