24: Redemption

Kelsey McNeal/FOX

Torture's out. Guantanamo Bay's going. All things considered, Jack Bauer's doing OK.

Airing its first new adventure in 18 months, Fox's 24 prequel special, 24: Redemption, averaged 12.1 million viewers last night, Nielsen estimates said.

From 8-10 p.m., the show ran second in viewers and adults 18-49 behind the American Music Awards on ABC.

Prior to Sunday, the last new 24 aired in May 2007. The show sat out the entire 2007-08 season due to the writer's strike.

In the interim, one of the the features that helped make 24 a favorite of President George W. Bush's administration—namely, Jack Bauer's use of torture as a negotiating tool—fell out of favor.

Even before John McCain denounced torture on the campaign trail, and Barack Obama promised change, 24 was suffering a dip in the polls. In 2007, the Kiefer Sutherland

show began its sixth season with a bang, scoring 15.8 million for its two-night, four-hour season premiere. By that spring's finale, viewership had fallen 35 percent, to 10.3 million for the two-hour closer.

24: Redemption was invariably referred to by critics as a "kinder, gentler" version of the action series.

The attitude change arrives in the nick of time for the clock-watching Bauer and company. 24's long-delayed seventh season, after all, is due to begin Jan. 11.

Nine days before the end of the Bush White House—and the beginning of the Obama White House.

Elsewhere Sunday, the American Music Awards managed an award-show rarity: It scored more viewers this year (12.2 million for the three-hour show) than last year (11.8 million).

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