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Introduction
24 was the surprise package of 2002; within weeks of it’s debut it was clear to 20th Century Fox that they had a hit show on their hands, and as they say, the rest is history! The first season went on to win a couple of Emmy awards and brought Kiefer Sutherland back into the big time, earning him a Golden Globe award in the process. For anyone who hasn’t heard of the show, it is shot in real-time (if you ignore the time allotted for commercial breaks) and it also uses split screens, so that multiple storylines can be shown on the screen at once. The complete second season has just aired on UK TV, and the following day the full season was available on DVD as a separate release or packaged in a box set along with the first season. This is a review of the box set.  

As mentioned above this box set contains Seasons One and Two packaged together for the first time. The box set is supposed to be limited edition, and for that reason it was advertised as only available for 24 hours (released on 11th August 2003). However, the fact that this box set was available with online retailers a few days later makes me wonder if that was a clever selling point, and not strictly true. The box set itself is basically the separate season one and two releases, bundled together in nice looking packaging. If you own either of the seasons already then it doesn’t really make sense to purchase this set, however it is still nicely packaged and should appeal to newcomers to the series.  

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
The Series
Now onto the seasons themselves. For this review I am not going to go into too much detail concerning the seasons themselves, because there are far too many subplots and spoilers that I could let slip, and a large part of 24’s success is due to it’s surprise elements. Apologies up front if I give too much away, it wasn’t intentional!

Season One
The first season of 24 is set on the day of the California Primary and follows the events that unfold during those 24 hours. We are introduced to Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), an agent who works for a Government branch known as CTU (Counter-Terrorist Unit). Jack is a well-respected agent, who is dedicated to his job, but tries to keep his home life quiet. He is married to Terri (Leslie Hope) and has a delinquent teenage daughter called Kim (Elisha Cuthbert). It is during the early hours of that day that Jack is called into an emergency meeting because CTU have learned of an assassination plot. Intelligence has been gathered from a credible source that points towards an attempt on the life of David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), the first African-American presidential candidate.

Bauer is assigned to look into the plot and organises his staff, which consist of ex-girlfriend Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke), Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and Jamie. As the day progresses it becomes clear that Jack's investigation may be a lot more complicated than first envisaged. Certain clues point to an insider from CTU who may be aiding the assassination attempt, but who can Jack trust? At the same time Jack's troubles are increasing with the news that his wife and daughter have been kidnapped. Could the two elements be linked? Only time will tell, and the clock is ticking!

Season Two
Season two is set a year and a half after the events in season one. Jack Bauer has cut his ties with CTU and has become estranged from daughter Kim, who now works as a nanny for the Matheson family, looking after nine year old Megan. David Palmer has been elected as President of the USA and is now separated from his wife. At the start of the series the US security services uncover information about a threat to national security. A nuclear bomb is to be set off in Los Angeles by a terrorist organisation at any time during the next 24 hours. In the absence of any real leads, CTU enlist the help of Jack as he has a link to a known terrorist named Joe who they suspect may be involved. To say much more about the plot would potentially spoil it for anyone who has yet to view the series. Suffice it to say that naturally this is only the tip of the iceberg, and 24 tense episodes with as many twists and surprises as you can imagine (or more!) follow.

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
I had been awaiting the second series of 24 with great anticipation, having watched the whole first series on DVD in the space of a few days. The action was certainly still fast paced and I didn't manage to guess most of the surprises in the plot. I watched the second season on the BBC, so it was very frustrating after some of the episodes to have to wait a whole week to see the conclusion of a cliff-hanger, so I guess that's an advantage of the DVD. You may find that you have a few late nights though, as this is not an easy programme to stop watching! All in all the second series delivered and lived up to the high standards set by the first. It was however darker, there are some fairly gruesome torture scenes (this is a far more regular theme in the second series) which I have no wish to revisit and given the current world situation, I found the subject matter to be a little too close to home for comfort. Season One set high standards that I wasn’t sure could be met again but somehow Season Two raised the bar even higher. Season One was heavily criticised due to the fact that the writers never foresaw the season being longer than twelve episodes, and had to quickly draft another twelve episodes. This resulted in some perceived inconsistencies and weak subplots littered towards the end of the first season, however I don't think this detracted much from my enjoyment of the programme. Season Two suffers from none of the above points because it was written as twenty-four episodes and the script is pretty much watertight.

One of the main reasons that I love the show so much is that you never know what's going to happen and what may be just around the corner. The producers have emphasised that no character is safe from the scriptwriters, and this adds to the suspense. I'm not sure this is strictly true, but who knows what Season Three will bring! Just as no character is safe, there is also no plot too infeasible, which sometimes means that you need an open mind when watching the show. Some people criticise 24 for the fact that all the major twists happen on the hour, but personally I find this builds up the suspense throughout each episode, and I very rarely guessed what would happen at the end.

The creators of 24 have produced a real gem in the character of Jack Bauer. Kiefer Sutherland has made the role his own, and to some extent the whole series is a success because of his character. Men want to be Jack Bauer (minus the near death situations of course) while women would like him as a guardian angel. Kiefer Sutherland must take a lot of credit for this.

In my opinion 24 is by far the most innovative and riveting TV show currently on our screens. It contains clever plot twists, engrossing characters (who you really feel you know), and engaging, cutting edge action scenes. If you have never seen the show, what are you waiting for? I personally recommend that you spend the next 48 hours catching up with the hectic lifestyle of Jack Bauer and Co., although you do have a while to do so as the next series is not due on our screens until the end of this year.

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
Video
Both seasons of 24 are presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and vary little in comparison to one another. The Season One transfer was criticised for containing a high level of grain, but in comparison to other TV series’ which have made the transition to DVD, I would say that people may have been too critical. Having watched the second series completely on TV I saw very little difference between the DVD transfer and the television broadcast, and if anything the DVD was slightly clearer. The  colour palette was vibrant but at the same time realistic, with skin tones and scenery presented on screen with striking accuracy. The image itself in both series is crystal clear and shows no sign of damage or specks. There is a reasonable amount of grain, but this is mostly confined to the first season, and as mentioned this was no different to the TV presentations and may have been intentional, so as to create a gritty atmosphere. There appeared to be no sign of edge enhancements and compression artefacts were kept to a minimal level. Overall, the second season has the slight edge, but the differences are negligible. TV series’ have probably never looked so good on DVD, and with these transfers Fox have raised the bar to a level which others may have trouble matching.

Audio
While the transfer may be practically identical for both seasons, the same cannot be said for the soundtracks. Season One was originally advertised with a 5.1 track, but upon its release many fans were disappointed to only find a 2.0 track. That said, the English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is actually very competent and provides a surprising level of ambience which far exceeded my expectations. The clarity levels were spot-on and the overall dialogue is clear and precise throughout all episodes.

So, could Season Two go one step further and provide fans with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track that they desired? Well the answer is thankfully Yes! Fox have pushed the boat out a little and packaged season two with an pumping Dolby Digital 5.1 track which makes excellent use of the full soundstage, and at the same time puts to shame a few other higher-profile DVD releases. There are a greater number of action scenes in Season Two, so its good to see that common-sense has prevailed and each explosion is brought to life with this multi-channel soundtrack. Dialogue levels are still clear throughout and overall this is an impressive effort from Fox. The only other point to consider in this section is subtitles; there are English subtitles provided with each season.

Extras
Some of you may have started to notice a trend developing with this review. Due to the unexpected success of the first season, it was clear that the DVD producers didn’t have time to put as much effort into that DVD release, but that is not the case with Season Two. Once again I will split this section into individual reviews of each season.

Season One
The DVD release of Season One was a slight let-down as far as extras are concerned, the list made very brief reading, and not much more time would have been spent watching the extras themselves! The first extra is an alternate ending, which provides a completely different outcome to the actual ending. I prefer the original ending, but it is nice to see how the season could have ended. The only other extra is a season two preview, which after watching the season on DVD sounded quite promising. However, after firing up the DVD and selecting this option, I was disappointed to find a two minute presentation from Keifer Sutherland, who expresses his opinions on the first season and stresses that the second season will be even better. This extra was a huge let-down and did not show any footage or information about the second season.

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
Season Two
So, onto the second season which fairs much better in the extra stakes. The seventh disc is dedicated completely to extras, and there are also some commentaries which can be found to supplement various episodes. First of all I will concentrate on the seventh disc, and the first extra that I came across was called "On The Button" The Destruction of CTU . This featurette starts off with a detailed description by Stan Blackwell (Special FX coordinator), of how the special effects were created for an explosion which happens during the second season. We also get to hear from other crew members, who give their views on the explosion. Personally I found this featurette to be a little dull as it initially just shows lots of crew members talking among themselves while deciding upon the best way to create explosions. However, it does get better when we get to see the actual footage used in the programme, while at the same time there is behind-the-scenes footage shown in the bottom corner. This featurette lasts for just over thirteen minutes.

The longest extra on this disc is the documentary, which for viewing purposes is split into two separate parts. The first part is called 24 Exposed - Part 1 and concentrates on the filming of the final episodes of the season. The documentary starts with a brief introduction by Joel Surnow (Co-Creator/Exec. Producer) , Howard Gordon (Exec. Producer) & Robert Cochran (Co-Creator/Exec. Producer), who chat about how the series came about.  The documentary then moves onto showing some interesting footage from the cutting room floor. This part of the documentary is where we get to see how an episode is put together. Lots of interesting facts are brandished about, e.g. we get to hear about how a forty minute episode can actually take roughly a month to film. Due to the nature of 24 it is imperative that you do not watch this documentary before actually watching the series. This is further emphasised when the documentary moves onto a board meeting where the creators and production team talk through the final episode of the season.

The second part of the documentary is conveniently named 24 Exposed - Part 2, and picks up half way through the filming of the final two episodes. At the point we join them the creators have realised that they need more scenes added to the last but one episode. Probably my favourite part of this documentary is seeing Kiefer Sutherland practicing some of his fight scenes. It certainly looks like hard work and shows the actor’s dedication to the role. This documentary also shows live footage from the filming of the final scene in the season. It is very interesting to see the extent that the creators were prepared to go to in order to actually keep the ending a secret. It is clear that the internet was a major concern for the makers, and they put lots of measures in place so that the secrets were not released into the public domain. Probably the best defining moment in this documentary is from the director who shouts "Don’t mess with Jack Bauer" enthusiastically after a take has finished. This moment seems to sum up the show perfectly. Overall this is the one of the most insightful documentaries that I have seen on DVD, and definitely one of the highlights of the box set. A ninety minute documentary sounds like daunting viewing, but believe me, the time passes quickly and this is a superb documentary which fans of the series will love.

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
Probably one of the most underused extras on DVD these days is that of angles, so it was nice surprise to find an extra entitled Multi-Angle Scene Study : Episode #6 - The Interrogation on this disc. This extra uses the angle button on your remote to switch between modes during a single scene. The scene that is chosen is a key element of the storyline, so I won't describe it here. There are three different angles to choose from, and you can switch between them at your leisure. Apparently most of the scenes for 24 are shot with two cameras, so this may be an extra which is explored further in future releases.

Next up are deleted scenes and what a selection we have! Altogether there are forty nine deleted scenes which can be viewed in a few different ways. Probably the easiest method is by accessing the seventh disc and viewing them from there. However, this method does have it drawbacks because you have to listen to a commentary over the scenes. The other methods of viewing the deleted scenes involve you accessing the special features section of each episode. Within the section you can view the scenes as part of the episode or you can watch them individually. All of the scenes are in perfect condition and don't look out of place. Included are some really interesting scenes, and the alternate ending must be seen, if only for the amusement factor!

If you are a fan of commentaries then you will be thrilled to find out that there are six commentaries for Season Two. One commentary can be found on each disc, and the commentators range from Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida) through to a commentary with Kiefer Sutherland. Each commentary varies considerably as the commentators are discussing a specified episode, but for the most part you will find useful facts in all of them.

24: Season 1 & 2 Box Set
Overall
If you don’t own the first season of 24 or have never seen the programme, then this box set is an essential purchase. I very rarely give top marks for the main feature (in fact this may be the first time), but that is how much I rate 24. For sheer entertainment value and originality, nothing even comes close to rivalling the show. Fox have provided first class transfers for both seasons, and the addition of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Season Two is a major selling point. The first season may lack extras, but that has certainly been rectified with the abundant selection available with Season Two. There are some cutting edge extras included with Season Two, and hopefully this will push the quality of DVD extras onto the next level, and inspire others. This is a box set which will provide hours of entertainment, but be warned, you will have some sleepless nights as you won’t be able to stop watching!  


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