Someone posted the first four episodes of the latest (the sixth) season of 24 to a file sharing site. In spite if knowing that the same four episodes would be broadcast Sunday and Monday night, and also that watching them earlier would mean an even longer wait for episode 5, I practically devoured them. (I will spoil nothing of season 6, though.)
I was, for a couple reasons, a little skeptical going in. For one, I felt that season 5 was, overall, the least fulfilling thus far. I generally enjoyed it, but the latter half (having to do with the increasingly desperate and increasingly corrupt President Logan) drags. It's also the first season whose final episode is utterly boring.
The makers also took most of season 5 off from doing much to develop Jack Bauer as a character. I love Kiefer Sutherland in this role, but he, and the show, are much better when the character is suffering, or at least conflicted. All his best moments in the fifth season (mourning David Palmer, finally getting his hands on Walt Cummings, being abandoned by his daughter, cradling a dying Tony, violently interrogating his old friends) occur in the first half.
The show has also lost something since David Palmer was killed off. Dennis Haysbert was the only other cast member who handled the preposterous dialogue and plot twists without getting too close to parody. The character was also a compelling counterpoint to Jack; his conflicts and decisions less physical but no less wrenching. The knowledge, available to the audience but not to Jack, that there was also a cost for David Palmer made their relationship seem more kindred than explotive.
I guess some people might consider this next thing spoiler-ish. The new season, I'm happy to report, has returned to a concern more interesting than anything season 5 had: exploring the theme of Jack being more of a national security victim than martyr. The last episodes of season 3, and especially the last couple minutes, suggested that Jack, and his colleagues, were utterly disposable; that in spite of whatever sacrifices they made or torments they suffered in the line of duty, all that awaited them was the expectation that they would do it again. It's a grim subtext for a show that was celebrated by the Heritage Foundation, and called "pro-America," by Rush Limbaugh.
About season 6, I can say no more, except that here's a picture of Stephen Merchant's cameo.