24 (November 6; 9 to 10 p.m.; Fox) will require Kiefer Sutherland, as the big cheese of American counterterrorism, to put in one very long and hairy day -- spread out over all 24 weeks of the television season -- trying to foil an assassination plot against Dennis Haysbert, a senator who's just won the California presidential primary and is the first African-American with a real shot at the White House. Not only is a rogue element of Sutherland's own agency involved in the conspiracy, but his daughter is missing, his marriage is shaky, and the senator has a secret. The only thing wrong with 24 is bad timing. The pilot ticks like a sophisticated bomb, one of the executive producers did time on La Femme Nikita, and not since David Caruso in the first season of NYPD Blue has there been a series hero with Kiefer's intimate intensity. Which leads us to . . .
NYPD Blue (November 6; 9 to 11 p.m.; ABC), returning with back-to-back episodes but without David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Nicholas Turturro, Sharon Lawrence, James McDaniel, Kim Delaney, or Rick Schroder, whose whereabouts will be disclosed tonight. It's up to Dennis Franz, once he's gotten over not liking Mark-Paul Gosselaar, to do most of the coercing of confessions from mouthy perps, with a little help from his boss, Esai Morales, when Morales's mother is mugged. Although gratuitous mention is made of the World Trade Center attack, the hard cases at NYPD Blue were into counterterrorizing long before most of us had ever heard of Osama bin Laden.
Anne Rice's The Feast of All Saints (November 11 and 12; 8 to 10 p.m.; Showtime), based on a 1979 novel by the Queen of the Vampires, turns a fascinating subject -- the "free people of color" in New Orleans in the 1840s -- into a heavy-breathing costume drama, with emphasis on placage, an antebellum sexual arrangement between white plantation owners and French-accented milk-chocolate maidens. Many interesting actors get to strut and fret in these four hours, including Jennifer Beals, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Peter Gallagher, Pam Grier, Jasmine Guy, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Victoria Rowell, Ben Vereen, and Forest Whitaker. But it's sumptuous piffle.