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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"Today is the longest day of my life."
DVD ReviewI am not one to watch television. I have always been opposed to planning my life around pre-determined programming. Not to mention I find nearly all of the programs nowadays to be dreadfully dull and mindless. However, when I first heard of the concept for a new Fox television series entitled 24, I was immediately intrigued. I was not aware of any plot details; I only knew that 24 was to be a 24-episode season with each episode encompassing 1 hour of a full 24-hour day. This idea alone was fascinating enough for me to give prime-time television another shot.
As I sat down to watch the pilot episode, 12:00am-1:00am, I expected mild entertainment, though I was all but certain that I would never gain enough interest to finish the entire day (season). What followed was almost unimaginable for me. For the next eight months, I religiously based my schedule around watching television every Tuesday night. 24 is without a doubt the most well-crafted and highly addictive television show I have ever seen. Once I started watching I was instantly hooked.
The 24 hours of season one occurs on the day of the California presidential primary. The story begins at midnight, when federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), part of the government's Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU), receives word that there will be assassination attempt against Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), an African-American presidential nominee. Jack spends the next 24 hours risking his life while frantically trying to unravel the conspiracy behind the Palmer threat. As if that were not enough, his wife Teri (Leslie Hope) and daughter Kimberly (Elisha Cuthbert) become the victims of a kidnapping, and Jack is forced to compromise his initial objective in order to assure the safety of his family.
This is an interesting enough story, but what elevates 24 beyond any other television show is its real-time element. Unlike most TV shows, which consist of a series of standalone episodes, a season of 24 plays like one long movie or mini-series. Watching the entire season on DVD in just seven days, I found it remarkable how well the story flows from one episode to the next. It truly feels as if this were one long, 24-hour story (actually more like 17 hours without commercials) .
Though the real-time narrative is the series' strong suit, it proved to be a risky venture on Fox's part. After all, viewers who had not begun watching at the very beginning would find it nearly impossible to jump into the middle of the season. Furthermore, the concept of real time proposed certain obstacles for the production team. Everyone involved had to carefully work with one another to assure that each scene occurred within the same time frame as a parallel story. Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and otherwise unnoticeable gaps in time were out of the question. One of many effective methods of overcoming this challenge was the frequent use of split screens to show what is taking place at corresponding moments between interlocking stories. A ticking clock also pops up sporadically and helps to exemplify the fact that all events are occurring in real-time.
Kiefer Sutherland gives a tour-de-force performance in the leading role. I have always been a fan of Sutherland's acting style, but I had not seen him in a lead performance in quite a long time prior to 24, which is truly a testament to what a fine actor he is. The role of Jack Bauer is as physically and emotionally demanding as they come, and Sutherland conveys a stalwart yet vulnerable presence that the audience can easily identify with. It is no surprise that Sutherland's performance earned him a well-deserved Emmy®. Another standout is Dennis Haysbert as Senator David Palmer. A man of strong ethics and ideals, Palmer would certainly receive my vote. Though the essence of season one is based around these two characters, the season is populated with many additional intriguing characters and performances. Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) plays a crucial role as Jack's right hand, and Senator Palmer's wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald) provides a compelling presence as a woman of enigmatic loyalties.
24 is plentiful with plot twists and turns, many of which end up at as dead ends while others result in even more twists and turns. This aspect proves to be both a strength and a weakness. Watching the entire season in such a brief period of time, I noticed how it is clearly divided between two stories; the first runs from 12:00am to 1:00pm, and the second runs from 1:00pm to 12:00am. While the plot twists proved to be natural and compelling during the first story, the twists in the second story are much more awkward and heavy-handed. It is a shame that the producers felt a need to eventually bombard the audience with one surprise after another. Not only is 24 fully engrossing without any major plot twists, it actually proves to be more successful without them. I hope this is taken into consideration for Season Two.
Regardless of any flaws, 24 is the best television series I have ever seen. I give major kudos to Fox for displaying the integrity and audacity to air a program of such bold methods. The following is a complete episode review of Season One. I have disclosed virtually no plot information per episode, as doing so would spoil the fun of witnessing the series unfold.
"It's only a briefing. I should be back within an hour." - Jack Bauer
Jack is called into CTU at 12:15am after an informant leaks evidence of a plot to assassinate presidential candidate, Senator David Palmer. Jack's daughter Kimberly sneaks out of the house to enjoy a night of partying with her friend Janet York and two male strangers. These co-existing plot lines seem unrelated at first, yet it is all part of the big picture. Despite any ambiguity in plot development, the series is immediately enthralling. I dare anyone to stop watching after this episode.
12:00am-1:00am rates 4 out of a possible 5 clocks:
"A presidential candidate's life is at stake. Maybe you should get back to work." - Nina Myers
The series begins to take shape in this nail-biting episode. Relationships between all of the major characters are developed, particularly the pivotal bond between Jack and Nina. Several key players are also introduced, such as Senator Palmer's son, Keith, and the evil Ira Gaines (Michael Massee). Tension is high as Jack plays a game of cat and mouse with several mysterious gunmen inside Dunlop Plaza. 1:00am-2:00am is when the excitement truly takes hold.
Nonstop intensity translates to 5 clocks:
"Who are you working for?!" - Jack Bauer
A step back from the previous episode, 2:00am-3:00am exhibits more of a television vibe rather than the cinema-like splendor that makes 24 so special. A silly moment between Palmer and two small time criminals, lackluster dialogue, and several unbelievable moments in Kimberly's story undermine this episode. These flaws are thankfully counterbalanced by the intense moments involving Jack Bauer. Here we get to see Jack caught in a whirlwind of emotions as he questions who he can trust and where his loyalties should lie.
A flawed episode, but the continuing suspense keeps 2:00am-3:00am at 4 clocks:
"From this point forward, we have to assume that we can trust nobody else." - Jack Bauer
Teri Bauer continues her search for Kimberly, as Jack learns that the threat on Palmer and his daughter's disappearance may be linked. Another dimly lit chase sequence keeps the excitement level at its peak. The conspiracy tightens like a vice in this episode. Trust is thrown out the window as lack of sleep heightens each character's paranoia. Tense moments between Nina and District Director George Mason (Xander Berkeley) exemplify this lack of trust, as well as further clarify developments that occur later in the series.
Trust me, this episode rates a full 5 clocks:
"I promise you we're going to get through this." - Jack Bauer
Jack confronts the shooter from 3:00am-4:00am in an episode that could be subtitled "The Clever Methods of Jack Bauer." Although somewhat far-fetched, Bauer's methods of assuring that he speaks to the shooter in private are extremely witty. The plot thickens as we delve deeper into the devious motivations behind other characters' actions. The animosity between co-workers and family members is at a peak in yet another episode that kept me fervent with excitement.
Action! Drama! Intensity! 5 clocks!:
"Are you sure you want to know? You might not like what you find when you open that door." - Carl Webb
Jack is understandably frustrated and strung out, while Palmer discovers unethical motivations behind the funding of his presidential campaign. Palmer is at his best in 5:00am-6:00am, proving to be a politician of strong integrity with bold moral sense. Kimberly begins to show her intelligence and bravery as well. This is yet another fantastic episode, but the hidden cameras at the hospital mark what is probably the first major flaw in the series. This is also the first (but not the last) episode in which we discover a major case of mistaken identity. It seems a bit silly in retrospect, but does not harm the integrity of the show yet. As the sun begins to rise over the Hollywood Hills at 6:00am, the season takes on a fresh and exciting new visual aesthetic.
Only half a clock knocked off for improbabilities.
"Who's more important? Nina, or your daughter?" - Ira Gaines
Teri and Kim are reunited, which is not necessarily a good thing. 6:00am-7:00am is a very exciting episode with interesting developments. Particularly noteworthy is Jack jeopardizing his initial objective in order to save his family. From 12:00am to 6:00am we have seen the characters' relationships develop, but this is the episode that makes the audience second guess these relationships, as manipulation and double crosses are plentiful. Another incredibly intense ending makes it near impossible to not immediately continue watching the next episode.
Could the show be any better at this point? I highly doubt it. 5 clocks.
"I will never forgive you if something bad happens to my son." - Sherry Palmer
Jack goes to extremes to assure his family's safety. A big payoff for an event that occurred as far back as the first two episodes further proves the intelligent craftsmanship of this series. Yet another major character twist takes place as well. The duplicity of this character adds up quite well in the grand scheme of the show, but adds ruin to the effect of a twist that occurs much later in the series. Despite any continuity flaws, 7:00am-8:00am remains powerful and intense.
Another minor glitch takes off half a clock from what is otherwise a 5 clock episode. 4.5 clocks:
"I have killed two people since midnight. I have not slept in over 24 hours. So maybe... maybe you should be a little more afraid of me than you are right now." - Jack Bauer
Jack's frustrations hitting the boil make for an agitating but enthralling episode. He even nods off for all of three seconds! The more Jack breaks the rules, the more the audience respects his devotion to his family. Senator Palmer's relationship with his wife is put to the test as the stress of the day provokes their argumentative state. The season is moving at a breathtaking pace with no signs of slowing down.
8:00am-9:00am is yet another tense and tight episode. 5 clocks:
"I think your father is the best man I've ever known. But, he can be difficult." - Teri Bauer
The heart-pounding intensity from 8:00am-9:00am carries over to 9:00am-10:00am. A brief but tender family reunion (via cell phone) also makes this an emotional episode. Palmer is dismayed as he learns about the conspiracy behind his candidacy. 9:00am-10:00am also introduces the irritating new CTU Director Alberta Green (Tamara Tunie). Her character is intentionally supercilious, but this does not mean she is any less annoying. Regardless of Alberta's presence, the show continues to posses tremendous entertainment value.
The season is locked in a perfect groove. 5 clocks:
"I'm trying to believe that when you deceived me seven years ago, it was a one time thing." - Senator Palmer
The exciting cliffhanger of 9:00am-10:00am paves the way for this adrenalized episode. Jack confronts the mysterious Ted Cofell (Currie Graham) in a desperate attempt to find his family. 10:00am-11:00am makes a bold commentary on the price of power as Senator Palmer's situation thickens. This episode is nothing but spectacular, abundant with action and powerful performances. Furthermore, Alberta Greene's role is refreshingly brief.
Big surprise... 5 clocks!
"Real or not, the threat on your life will probably give you a bounce in the polls." - Mike Novick
One hour of a rescue attempt equals one hour of pure intensity. Characters we have begun to care about prove their aplomb by standing their ground under severe interrogation. I cannot say anything else about this episode other than it is awesome. It has been a rigorous nine hours and I almost feel as if I need a break from such high-energy tumult. However, nothing could pry me away at this point in time.
Even Angela Greene cannot prevent this episode from earning 5 clocks:
"I don't have a choice. The people I work for made that pretty clear." - Ira Gaines
I thought the heart-pounding intensity might calm down now. I thought I might be able to take a deep breath and relax. Not a chance. 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00pm-1:00pm prove very similar to one another in terms of action and tension. Though hinted at throughout the season, this is the first episode where we truly see how connected Senator Palmer and Jack Bauer are when it comes to protecting their family. I did not notice it during the original television broadcast, but 1:00pm is where the show makes a clear division between its two connecting story lines.
I don't have a choice but to rate this 5 clocks:
"This is what happens when you cover things up!" - Senator Palmer
As story number two begins, the off-the-meter action slows down but the intrigue remains high. Even though the viewer is given a rest from the action, the story continues to fascinate and captivate. Exquisitely tender moments between Senator Palmer and his son keep the emotional level high, while Angela Greene's hubris proves irritating.
A lull in action but continuance of drama equals 4 clocks:
"Let's flush them out into the open and deal with them. Otherwise, you, and I, and our families will be looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives." - Senator Palmer
The message of family importance continues. Deep focus on characters' emotions makes for a slow but certainly not dull episode. The introduction of Robert Ellis (Wade Williams) feels forced, therefore undermining the flowing nature of the story we have seen thus far. When viewed as a standalone episode, 2:00pm-3:00pm feels a bit more like a soap opera rather than an episode of 24. However, when seen as part of the big picture, it proves to be an important piece of the puzzle.
This crucial episode earns 4 clocks:
"Mr. Bauer, Senator Palmer told me about you. He said I should do whatever you tell me, and I can be sure that I'm in good hands." - Elizabeth Nash
For all of the insane choices Jack has made throughout the season, 3:00pm-4:00pm marks the first time where I felt that he was using poor judgement. Perhaps because he is putting someone else's life on the line instead of just his own. Though 3:00pm-4:00pm is another slow moving episode, it effectively drives the narrative of the story. Watching 1:00pm to 4:00pm consecutively (instead of having to wait weeks to view the television broadcasts), it became clear that these slower episodes are wholly necessary in terms of telling the story. I give praise to the writers and the producers for understanding that the big picture was much more important than consistently shocking the audience week after week. Other than a dreadfully silly ending, 3:00pm-4:00pm continues to deliver.
The clock reaches 4:00pm, while 3:00pm-4:00pm reaches 4 clocks:
"Senator, I don't need to remind you that the threat against you is very real." - Jack Bauer
4:00pm-5:00pm is a terrifically tense episode with plenty of hair-raising suspense. Kimberly's paranoia is at an understandable peak, while major tension develops between Jack and Nina. Though Kiefer Sutherland's performance is consistently fantastic throughout the season, 4:00pm-5:00pm proves to be a standout of his acting prowess. Teri Bauer's absurd "condition" slightly weakens this episode, but the high level of suspense makes it an excellent hour.
4:00pm-5:00pm is a step above what we have seen lately. 4.5 clocks:
Jack Bauer: I'm really sorry about all this.
Nina Myers: Yeah, me too.
5:00pm-6:00pm is the first episode that I felt was merely decent. The character of Teddy Hanlin (Kirk Baltz) was not only a misstep on the part of the writers, but an uninspired piece of casting as well. His presence leads to a necessary development in the story line, but I cannot help but think that there could have been a better method of bringing the story to that point. I enjoyed the tension between Jack and Teddy, but I ultimately expected more from this sequence. I feel as if it is now time to bring back more vigor into the season.
5:00pm-6:00pm is the only episode of the season that receives less than 4 clocks. 3.5 clocks:
"I gotta tell you Jack, it never gets dull with you." - George Mason
Jack gets to spend some much needed quality time with George Mason on a lengthy car ride. The emotional moments in 6:00pm-7:00pm are handled so well, that it is easy to forgive and forget that the show has been very much like a soap opera since 1:00pm. A powerful soap opera, I must add. Despite any cheese, the season is still powerful, moving, and intense. Teri's "condition", however, has gotten really old by this point. 6:00pm-7:00pm gives us several payoffs that we have been waiting for throughout the past several episodes.
No cheesy soap opera could ever earn 4 clocks:
Sherry Palmer: Do you really think people want a President who acts like some guest on a bad afternoon talk show, confessing his sins publicly?
David Palmer: Well, it's always possible they want someone honest.
As 7:00pm-8:00pm begins, the sun goes down and the show shifts back to the dark cinematography, which is a nice mood change. The Jack Bauer moments in this episode are fantastic, as are the moments between Senator Palmer and his wife. The natural progression of their relationship throughout the season is one of the stronger elements of the show. Kimberly recounting her day to a police officer is intentionally humorous. No sane person would ever believe she has gone through all that she has. 7:00pm-8:00pm also introduces guest stars Dennis Hopper and Lou Diamond Philips. Another large plot twist adds substance to the second story of the season and paves the way for the final four hours. The season is still great, but there is nothing at this point that really grabs me the way the earlier episodes did. Additionally, the zooming camera has been quite prevalent for a good 5 hours now, which is somewhat annoying.
A change in mood does not create a change in rating. 4 clocks:
"Take all the bad luck you've had in your entire life, it wouldn't fit into half of what's happened to me in the past 24 hours." - Kimberly Bauer
8:00pm-9:00pm is another good episode with plenty of excitement to keep us interested. The frustration at CTU adds to the drama and suspense. Emotionally taut moments between Nina and Teri add significant depth. Dennis Hopper has a much larger role in this episode. I have always been a fan of Hopper's work, but I do not believe his strained attempt at a Serbian accent could be any worse. Kimberly Bauer's portion of the story proves silly, not because it is a bad plot element, but because these scenes are poorly executed. The show is still first rate, but it seems obvious at this point that we are not going to return to the power that the show possessed between 3:00am and 1:00pm.
How would Dennis Hopper pronounce 4 clocks in Serbian?:
"Nina, I know it's been a really long day for you too. And I guess I want you to know how much I appreciate your being up front with me about everything." - Teri Bauer
9:00pm-10:00pm shows Jack more vulnerable than he has been throughout the entire season. However, he still proves to be as courageous as ever as he attempts to use his Special Forces background to get himself out of a jam. Witnessing Teri Bauer boldly stand her ground and George Mason finally showing signs of a backbone make this episode more than worthwhile. There is a continuity flaw, however, that has me questioning whether or not the production team may have nodded off for a short while.
The season is stuck at 4 clocks:
"You know your problem, David? You think everyone's conspiring against you when we're just trying to help." - Sherry Palmer
I am afraid that this is when 24 finally sold out. The revelatory plot twist at the end of this episode is neither necessary nor rational. Furthermore, the zooming camera is out of control, as it becomes a ludicrous attempt to try and foreshadow this twist. Yet, despite these disappointments, the core of this episode is spectacular. 10:00pm-11:00pm is one of the most absorbing and heart pounding episodes I have seen since the pre-noon episodes. The emotional level is at a peak between Senator Palmer and his wife, while a phone conversation between Teri and Jack helps to heighten the power of the final episode.
Despite the dreaded plot twist, 10:00pm-11:00pm moves up a notch to 4.5 clocks:
"I'm so sorry." - Jack Bauer
Even though the plot contrivance from 10:00pm-11:00pm carries over, 11:00pm-12:00am proves to be one of the fastest paced, most powerful, emotional, and dramatic episodes overall. This last hour was a perfect way to end the season. The final moment proves that 24 is anything but mainstream television. As the clock silently ticked off to midnight, I was left numb, speechless.
Regardless of any continuity flaws, this episode earns a well deserved 5 clocks:
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: 24 is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio instead of the 1.33:1 ratio that the majority of television viewers had to endure. I can honestly say that the difference is stunning. I always felt that the 1.33:1 ratio was too claustrophobic, particularly during the split screen segments. Each frame of the widescreen image breathes a sense of expansiveness that was sorely lacking on the non-HD broadcasts. Each episode on the DVD has been anamorphically enhanced, providing a fantastic visual experience. The transfers are predominately excellent, though there are variations in quality. Overall, the color is much more vibrant than what I remember from the television broadcast, which indicates that admirable work has gone into color correcting each episode. While most segments look terrific, I must admit that I was quite concerned with the first several episodes. Heavy grain is strong throughout, as is an abundance of video noise. Thankfully, the image clears up by 4:00am-5:00am, and what follows is nine hours of visual splendor. The late morning episodes particularly exhibit a striking visual aesthetic, with golden amber hues from the Los Angeles morning sunlight. Many of these episodes offer scenes that appear like glorious high-definition. Though the later nighttime episodes do not appear quite as impressive, the appropriately dark cinematography reveals stunning shadow detail, exemplified by consistently deep black level. Though I do not typically find edge enhancement as dreadfully offensive as more discerning viewers might, I must point out that this transfer-related deficiency proves to be a major problem throughout much of the season. This is the largest downfall for what is otherwise a superb set of transfers.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: If any television show demands a 5.1 surround track, this is it. Unfortunately, the only audio option is a more subdued Dolby surround track. However, while somewhat quiescent, the 2.0 soundtrack is sonically above average. Surround use is more active than what I have typically come to expect from this audio format. Bass also packs more punch and bottom end than I would have imagined. Music and dialogue both play a crucial role in this series, and each are presented with commendable depth and intelligibility. The music flows through the front soundstage with minor blend into the surrounds, while dialogue mostly remains locked in the center channel; there were a few noticeable instances where dialogue bled into the left and right main speakers. Most impressive is the consistent clarity of spoken words; out of all 24 episodes I detected only one or two moments where dialogue sounded somewhat harsh. A 5.1 track would have been preferred, but the 2.0 audio successfully complements the exciting narrative of 24.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Alternate Endings
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
The first of two special features is a brief introduction to the first season by Kiefer Sutherland. This two-minute narrative is essentially a foreword, which makes its inclusion on disc six all the more baffling.
The alternate ending is far inferior to the broadcast ending, but was actually how I expected the season to end. I give high praise to the production team for choosing to go with an ending that is not only atypical, but far superior as well. An optional commentary from executive producer Joel Surnow adds insight as to why the alternate ending was filmed, and why it was not used.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsJust as I felt I had lost faith in the integrity of television, Fox delivers 24, the most intelligently crafted dramatic series I have ever seen. Unlike the original television broadcasts, viewers now have the luxury of witnessing this real-time story quickly unfold. Spanning six discs, all 24 hours of Season One are presented in gorgeous widescreen transfers that preserve the originally intended aspect ratio. This inimitable series is essential viewing for anyone who craves energetic, irresistible entertainment. Be forewarned, however, that 24 is highly addictive. Once begun, it may just run the full clock before one can finally shut it off.
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