Earlier this year, the Fox television network announced that it had bought a pilot for “24: Legacy,” an all-new spinoff in the “24” franchise. Created by former “24” executive producers Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, Manny Coto, and Brian Grazer, the new series will feature an all-new cast; Kiefer Sutherland, who played government agent Jack Bauer in the original series’ eight season run, the 2008 TV movie “24: Redemption,” and the 2014 miniseries “24: Live Another Day,” will not be involved.
It is no surprise that “24” is one of television’s most successful – and controversial – shows of all time. As created by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, the original 2001-2011 serial drama was a blend of political intrigue/ espionage techno-thriller and classic prime time soap opera subplots. This high-octane dramatic mix wasn’t new to TV viewers. Cochran and Surnow had explored the espionage genre in their successful “La Femme Nikita” series from 1997 to 2001.
What was new in “24” was Joel Surnow’s idea to depict the events of a single day throughout the whole season in “real time.” Each episode would represent one hour of that day, with commercial breaks factored in.
Cochran and Surnow’s concept for “24” was to follow Federal agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) and his colleagues in the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit as they work to defend the United States from terrorist plots. Each episode tracks Jack, his allies (and foes) within the government, and the terrorist plotters as they go about their tasks. Often, the characters’ actions overlap, which requires the use of split-screens and other editing techniques to allow viewers to follow the players’ every move.
24: The Complete First Season
The clock is ticking…
Midnight. Jack Bauer, head of the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU), is suddenly thrust into a chaotic and exhausting 24-hour marathon of death, deception and terror as he struggles to prevent the assassination of a presidential candidate, find the traitor within his own organization, and save his kidnapped wife and daughter.
“24” premiered on Fox in November 2001, less than two months after the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists. It takes place on the day of a fictional California primary between midnight and the beginning of the following day.
Jack Bauer: My name is Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life.
On Day One, as the first season of “24” is known, Jack Bauer is caught between a rock and a hard place. Tasked to protect a Presidential candidate, Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), he is forced to participate in an assassination plot after a group of conspirators kidnap his wife Teri (Leslie Hope) and daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert).
Not only does Jack have to deal with the shadowy plotters, but he also has to discover a mole within CTU who is aiding the would-be assassins. In this difficult endeavor, Jack is aided by Nina Meyers (Sarah Clarke), an up-and-coming CTU agent with whom he’d had a brief affair during a short lived separation from Teri a few months before.
Along the way, Jack will interact with various players, including a CTU supervisor (Xander Berkeley) accused of embezzlement; angry Los Angeles Police Department officers who want to avenge a murdered cop; a seemingly omniscient terrorist named Ira Gaines (Michael Massee); a successful financier (Currie Graham) who may be linked to the hit on Palmer; and a Secret Service detail led by Agent Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower), who’s not sure if Jack is a threat to the Senator’s life.
The Tom Clancy-meets-“Peyton Place” story is superficially simple: Jack must attempt to save the lives of David Palmer and his own family before Primary Day comes to an end. But the show’s creators throw up a formidable dramatic obstacle course full of unpredictable plot twists and clever bits of misdirection. In “24’s” first season, Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow and their team of writers set the tone for the series’ 2001-2010 run by forcing Jack and other major characters to make difficult choices in order to achieve their goals.
“24: The Complete First Season” DVD Set
(Reviewer’s Note: The DVD set described in this review is the 2010 seven-disc collection which was included in 2011’s “24: The Complete Series” box set. The basic information listed in the Disc Specifications refers to the 2014 reissue.)
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has issued the first season of the groundbreaking series in the Digital Video Disc (DVD) format several times since 2002. The latest re-release was issued on April 29, 2014 in a six-disc box set with a plastic multi-disc case.
Each disc contains four episodes in chronological order. Viewers can select various options on the main menu, including the choice to view all four episodes back-to-back or individually. They can also choose audio tracks in English and French, with subtitles in English and Spanish (but not French).
Extra features include:
- Season One introduction by Kiefer Sutherland
- Audio commentary on the series premiere episode by director Stephen Hopkins and cinematographer Peter Levy
- Audio commentary on the season finale by actor Leslie Hope and director Stephen Hopkins
- Extended and deleted scenes
- Alternate ending to the season finale episode
- A making-of featurette: “The Genesis of 24”
- “The Rookie” vignettes
For the most part, most of the reissued box sets of “24: The Complete First Season” have more good points than flaws. The plastic cases of the newer packages (including the slim case edition released in 2007) are more durable and easier to handle than the original 2002 accordion-type heavy paperboard case. The only flaw in Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s post-2002 reissues is the omission of the Season Guide booklet that was included in the original DVD box set.
But this is a minor quibble when one considers how exciting and addictive “24” is. Even though the series has been around for 15 years (it’s available on Amazon Prime for streaming, too), there are always new first-time viewers waiting to be hooked on Jack Bauer’s thrilling trials and tribulations. They, like long-time fans, may want to add “24: The Complete First Season” to their collection.
- Codec: MPEG-2
- Encoding format: 16:9
- Resolution: 480i (NTSC)
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- English: Dolby Digital 2.0
- English, Spanish
- Six-disc set (6 DVDs)
- Slipcover in original pressing
- Region 1
- Rated: NR (Not Rated)
- Studio: Fox Network
- DVD Release Date: April 29, 2014
- Run Time: 1152 minutes