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“Jack is back,” or so the commercials promise. Next Sunday, Season Six of “24” kicks off during its traditional slot right after Fox-TV’s playoff coverage.

It will be eight days short of eight months since the last original episode of “24” aired. I can’t remember any other show in our lifetime that can take more than half of the year off and still sustain this level of interest and expectation. The highest-rated shows of our times–from “Cheers” to “Friends,” from “ER” to “West Wing,” from “M*A*S*H*” to “The Carol Burnett Show,” from “60 Minutes” to “20/20”–have all run in consecutive seasons to maintain their audience. “24” has generated a different kind of loyalty.

And I’m curious as to why.

Perhaps we long for what we don’t have, and this is evidence that absence does, indeed, make the heart grow fonder. Perhaps we’re an increasingly illiterate culture that likes a TV show that delivers the details and drama of a novel without having to read. Perhaps we’re a spiritually-based culture that longs for shows about super-human saviors. Perhaps Fox’s advertising draws in men to the show and women are thrilled to have something they can both watch together. Maybe there’s some other reason.

Whatever it is, I, for one, am glad there’s only four days to go until Season Six arrives!

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