Michael Muller, Fox, Kelsey Mcneal, Fox
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) stars in Fox's "24."

Only "24" could put terrorists inside the White House and make it seem believable.

Well, as believable as anything else that happens on this high-voltage action show.

And this particular plot twist is not one the writers took lightly, said executive producer Howard Gordon.

"Obviously, the White House and attacking it credibly is something that we had a lot of internal debates about," he said in a conference call with TV critics. "I hope it worked."

This is not by any means the first time "24" has asked viewers to suspend disbelief. Making it work as a TV show is all about "making it feel real." And, by that, he means "dramatically real" in the context of the "heightened reality" of "24."

And it doesn't hurt that the show has already established that the administration of President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) has been compromised by bad guys whose motives are unclear to viewers at this point.

"We are perpetually looking for ways to outdo ourselves without" making the show seem ridiculous, Gordon said. "It has to be interesting. It has to be compelling. And this seemed like something we've never seen before."

Where the show stands as tonight's back-to-back episodes begin (7 and 8 p.m. on Fox/Ch. 13) is that Taylor has been standing up to murderous strongmen in an African country. And they have used technology to infiltrate American systems, causing a collision between two planes and nearly causing a chemical plant to release deadly toxins.

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has dealt with that threat, but we're only reaching the halfway point of Season 8 with tonight's episodes, so you know there's more to come.

"It really does transition from the first half of the season into the second half," Gordon said. "People could watch this two hour, really not having seen much of what happened before, and follow the action. ... It's a good place to jump in."

(That's the sort of thing you'd expect a TV producer to say, but in this case it happens to be true.)

Tonight's episodes re-introduce the character of Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight), seen in the "24: Redemption" TV movie that was a prequel to the current season.

Hodges is "the big bad guy" who heads a Blackwater-like company.

"He is, in the tradition of all our best villains, very complicated, megalomaniacal and, in his view, well-intentioned. And you'll know in all its operatic glory why he's done what he's done."

Given that "24" remains a roller-coaster ride that's all about the thrills, sure, they can get away with having terrorists break into the White House. From underneath.

"Obviously, you have to suspend all credulity," Gordon said. "I mean, for one thing, these guys are in scuba gear.

"It's more like a James Bond film than a documentary about how one would try to breach the White House."

And it works. You can't think too hard about it, but — again — that's nothing new for "24."

It's all about the action.

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