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24: SEASON ONE
Special Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kiefer Sutherland, Leslie Hope, Sarah Clarke, Elisha Cuthbert, Dennis Haysbert
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  1152 Minutes
Release Date:  May 20, 2008

“The following takes place on the day of the California Presidential Primary.  All events occur in real time.”

Shows ****

24 hours in a day, 24 hour-long shows adding up to a single day…that’s the ingenious premise behind Fox’s acclaimed television series 24.  On one critical day, events unfold before our eyes in real time.  Each episode is clearly marked:  “12:00-1:00 AM”, “1:00-2:00AM”, and so forth.  Movies like High Noon and the more recent Timecode have experimented with the notion of real time, but 24 expands it to a marvelous conclusion.

The premise:  a government Counter Terrorist Unit intercepts word of an assassination attempt on Senator David Palmer (Haysbert) on the day he’s poised to win the California Presidential Primary.  That unit, led by the no-nonsense Jack Bauer (Sutherland), is expected to learn the identity of the professional foreign assassin and prevent the crime in less than…you guessed it, 24 hours.  But it won’t be easy, especially when some early evidence suggests that a member of their unit might be assisting the killer!

Bauer is pulled away from his home in the wee hours of the morning to take charge, leaving behind his wife Teri (Hope) whom he’d recently reunited with, and his daughter Kim (Cuthbert), who’s about to have an adventure she never expected (does it tie in with the case?  I won’t tell…).  Jack ends up facing two crises at the same time, while not entirely certain he can rely on his closest assistant, Nina Myers (Clarke), whom he dated during his separation, because she might know more about the crime at hand than she’s letting on…

To reveal more would be a disservice…these are merely the plot points that swing the single day adventure into full force.  The drama is both stylized and realistic; stylized because it uses lots of amazing tracking shots and split screen effects to accentuate the feeling of real time, and realistic because it works.  The writing, directing and acting all work hand in hand to create real characters, an intriguing scenario, and terrific suspense with a premise that, in the wrong hands, might have been a dull flop.

Kiefer Sutherland, who has been a noteworthy second generation actor for years now, really comes into his own as Jack Bauer.  His accolades (and Emmy nomination) were well deserved, as he brings the necessary grit, determination and humanity to this pivotal role.  But the supporting cast is equally up to the challenge, making 24, among other things, a solid ensemble piece as well.

Fox made a revolutionary but ultimately correct decision to release their entire first season on DVD before selling it into syndication, and especially before the start of season two.  Word of mouth on 24 got very strong very fast, but while the acclaim was mounting, many viewers who hadn’t started the show from the first episode (myself included) were reluctant to jump in somewhere in the middle.  Thanks to the release of this set, we get a second chance to see what we’ve been missing.  I’d wager the second season will show a dramatic ratings increase as a result.

As someone who admittedly scorns a lot of modern television offerings, I have to give credit where it’s due.  24 is a bold, intelligent experiment in storytelling, and one of the tube’s finest, most original, and most confident shows to come along since Twin Peaks.

Video ***

I’m pleased that Fox decided to present their show in anamorphic widescreen.  For a television program, the production values seem fairly high, and it shows in the overall look.  Detail level is strong and images are crisp and well defined.  Even darker images, which sometime suffer on TV, come across better than normal…a little softer than the rest of the video, but still within acceptable limits.  I noticed no grain or break-up to mar the images.  Apart from a couple of poorly placed layer switches, this is a fine offering overall.

Audio ***

The Dolby Surround tracks are dynamic and pack a good punch…you’ll get some good bass action even without the subwoofer in play.  Overlapping dialogue and action sequences are key to the experience; they all come across cleanly and effectively, with no noise or distortions.  High marks.

Features ***

This special edition boasts plenty of good features, starting with a series introduction from Kiefer Sutherland.  There's also commentary on the premiere episode from the director Stephen Hopkins and cinematographer, and a commentary on the finale from actress Leslie Hope and Hopkins.  There's a new documentary on the show, as well as "Rookie Vignettes", letters from the creators, extended and deleted scenes, and an alternate to the conclusion of year one.

Summary:

24 is technically audacious, confidently experimental, and supremely entertaining.  If you missed this show’s remarkable first season when it aired, as I did, you owe it to yourself to check out this DVD set from Fox and prepare yourself for the next day.  You won’t be disappointed.

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