Even for those of us who are not '24' watchers, The Wall Street Journal's amusing front page story on the show is well worth a read. Concerned that Jack Bauer was becoming too closely identified with torture and the Bush administration's foreign policy, the producers sought to reinvent their hero. This (eventually ditched) idea was particularly hilarious:

On May 31, the show's head writers went in for a meeting at the studio to present their first big idea: sending Jack to Africa. In various incarnations, Jack would begin the season digging ditches, building houses, tending to orphans, providing security for an embassy or escorting around a visiting dignitary. "One of the themes we discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek some kind of penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things he's done in his life," Mr. Gordon says.

Ms. Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen of 20th Century Fox Television, were receptive but believed it was too much of a departure. "It felt like we were throwing the baby out with the bathwater," says Ms. Walden. The Africa plot also had several glaring problems, the first of which was that at some point Jack would have to fly back to the U.S. The writers proposed that for the first time ever, "24" would break from its real-time conceit; the show would skip the period when Jack was on his 14-hour flight.

The writers agreed to work on the plot. Just three weeks before they were due to start shooting the first episodes, Messrs. Gordon and Surnow joined fellow head writers Bob Cochran and Manny Coto for a pancake breakfast at an IHOP to talk through the elements of Jack-in-Africa that still weren't working. Jack was too far away, they felt, both from the immediacy of domestic terror and from the character he had been in prior seasons.

For more, be sure to check out Jane Mayer's great New Yorker piece on creator Joel Surnow. 

--Isaac Chotiner