24: Season One
By Brian Jacks
We’ve heard it said on many an occasion that Hollywood has no clever ideas left, and for the most part that’s probably generally true. But, every so often, when the moon hovers directly over some ancient rock formation, something beautiful comes along, and last year that wonder came in the form of Fox’s 24. The show’s premise - that each hour-long episode would be conducted in “real-time,” making 24 episodes account for one day - was so exceedingly different, and its writing so intelligent and entertaining, that it became arguably the season’s biggest hit, and certainly its most memorable.
24 stars Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, a federal agent in charge of a high-tech, top secret government security agency. On the eve of the California presidential primary, Bauer is tasked with tracking down an assassination plot to murder the leading contender, a man who would become the nation’s first African American president. To prevent Bauer’s success, his wife and daughter are kidnapped in a series of incredibly elaborate events, and the agent must juggle the delicate balance between saving the life of the candidate, and saving the lives of his family.
To say 24 has more twists and turns than a game of Chutes and Ladders would be putting it mildly. I cannot recall a single program in recent memory that kept me as much on the edge as this one. Creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow and their stable of writers manage to throw in one cliffhanger after another, stretching a single day across an entire season and keeping audiences as involved in the story as Sutherland’s character. While the winding plots of one occurrence after another are a bit farfetched, the well-crafted nature of them make for an exciting viewing experience, and Sutherland pulls off an amazingly convincing performance (which earned him a well-deserved Golden Globe). In short, 24 ranks up there with The Sopranos as a thrill ride that keeps audiences enthralled and surprised until the very end. Whatever the second season has in store will be eagerly anticipated.
24: Season One is spread across six discs and presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As the original broadcast format was the typical 1.33:1 full frame, there is a bit of an improvement in the video quality, although it is nominal. Colors are somewhat muted, but the anamorphic nature helps convey a more cinematic feel. In the end, aside from the widescreen, the quality is what you’d expect from a recent television show on DVD.
As for the audio, 24 is delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0. While it lacks the preferred 5.1 mix, it doesn’t equate to that much of an encumbrance as the show is primarily dialogue driven with a strong and noticeable soundtrack that comes through fine on the 2.0 track.
As for supplements, the box set is delivered extremely light, which is fairly surprising considering how high-profile this show has become. There’s no behind the scenes featurette, or detailed interviews with any of the cast or crew. What we get is a brief introduction to the series by Sutherland, curiously located on the last disc, and an alternate ending to the series with optional commentary by Executive Producer Joel Surnow. Sutherland’s presentation is short and contains a fleeting teaser for the second season, and is more of a commercial spot than a bonafide special feature.
In regard to presentation, it should also be noted (and complained about) that the episodes contain no chapter stops. Thus, when a lock up occurred on my disc three, there was no way for me to forward past it to the next scene as hitting “Next Chapter” brings you back to the menu screen. It’s overtly annoying, and rather surprising considering this isn’t usually an issue with Fox releases.
The Show: A.Federal agent Jack Bauer’s having the longest day of his life, and we’re enjoying the hell out of it.
The Look: B+. Anamorphic widescreen is a nice touch, and the video quality is top notch.
The Sound: B+. While a 5.1 track would have been preferable, the 2.0 mix does its job.
The Extras: D. Not a single featurette make this a disappointing offering. Here’s hoping the season two box set will have more to offer in the way of supplements.
Overall: A. Television rarely comes better than 24. Savior it.