Sunday night, baby!!

Sutherland back as Bauer
Kiefer Sutherland is back as Jack Bauer this weekend and, as usual, he’s surrounded by Canadians.
Jon Cassar, a native of Malta who grew up in Ottawa and is a graduate of that city’s Algonquin College, has directed “24” since it went on the air in 2002. Often, he does so sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs cap.
A veteran who paid his dues in Canadian television, he is now an executive producer on “24,” winning an Emmy for directing the series in 2006.
Cassar’s allegiances to his homeland remain strong, notes Vancouver native Gil Bellows, who is in the new TV movie “24: Redemption” (airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on Global and Fox).
“Jon’s a homer,” says Bellows. “If he worked with somebody in Toronto, and he thought they were really good, he would fight for them to get a job on the show.”
During the late ’90s, Cassar perfected his run-and-gun, one-or-two-takes-tops shooting style on the action series “La Femme Nikita” in Toronto.
That series was produced by “24” co-creator Joel Surnow. Many of the Canadian actors who passed through “Nikita,” including Alberta Watson and Carlo Rota, were later brought into the “24” mix.
Another of Cassar’s past jobs was directing “Forever Knight.” The star of that series, Geraint Wyn Davies, has had some face time on “24.”
Cassar is still reaching across the border for Canadian talent. Colm Feore, who Cassar worked with years ago while directing episodes of “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” plays the White House’s “First Gentleman” in the TV movie and in upcoming episodes of the series.
Shooting in South Africa really energized the cast and crew, says Cassar. Gone are the computer-crammed CTU crime labs and other spy gadgets.
“It’s all very low tech,” he says. “We wanted it to look different. There’s almost a period kind of feel to it.”
At first, Cassar was against sticking to the strict, real-time format for the TV movie.
“I said to them, ‘Guys, we don’t really need to do this,”‘ he said.
The writers, however, came up with a story that worked as a real-time, two hour adventure, complete with “24”-style tension.
The story finds Bauer, devastated and alone when we last saw him on the side of a cliff at the end of the sixth season, searching the world for some answers.
“He was so disillusioned by not only what he had done with his life, but circumstances that he had been confronted with here in the States,” Sutherland told reporters last July in Los Angeles .
In Africa, he stumbles across an old Special Forces buddy (played by Robert Carlyle) and throws himself into his pal’s project, providing a safe haven for children caught up in war.
“There was something wonderful about beginning in South Africa , that he had actually found a kind of peace and calm there with his friend,” said Sutherland.
Shooting during the African winter proved a challenge. There was only eight hours of sunlight a day, and conditions were often windy.
This didn’t curtail Cassar and his breakneck shooting pace. While an entire season of “24” unfolds in sequence, with one episode always directly leading to the next, Cassar has worked out a production system allowing the cast and crew to shoot two episodes at once. The “24: Redemption” TV movie was shot and banked in a little over three weeks.
The TV movie could be a dry run for an eventual “24” theatrical release.
Cassar says it is a project he and Sutherland and fellow executive producers Surnow and Howard Shore have discussed in the past.
“Doing the series takes 10, 11 months out of my year,” he says, “so there never seemed to be a way to work in a movie until the series was finished.
This year, with the writers strike forcing a full year delay in getting to a seventh season (starting Jan. 11 and 12 in a four hour block on Fox and Global), they finally had a chance.
“Now we’re back talking about a feature again,” says Cassar.