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Introduction
Television. What can be said about television that hasn't been said before? TV or the boob tube as it's often been called, has always been looked down upon by certain people; believing the caliber of entertainment it provides is geared towards the lowest common denominator - a person who likes predictable and easy to follow stories that wrap themselves up nicely in 30 or 60 minutes. Most series that try to extend story lines past one or two episodes run into problems as viewers come into the action late and complain about being unable to pick up the story.

The television serial is certainly nothing new and it's done all the time in daytime TV with soap operas carrying story lines for multiple days, weeks and in some cases even months. It's been attempted during prime time with varying level's of success throughout the years. Most recently with the show "Murder One" who in it's second year decided to try and follow the events of one murder case and trial for an entire season. It managed to make it to the midyear marker before wrapping up and choosing to focus on smaller 4-6 episode arcs for the remainder of the year. The problem. Viewer ratings. Viewers were scared to miss an episode fearing that they would not be able to pick up the story when they returned. Those who missed the early episodes never gave the series a chance and so while the idea was innovative and unique, they dropped in hopes of salvaging the show. The show would go on to be cancelled later that same season. Flash forward a few years and the Fox network announces an ambitious new project entitled "24" which takes the serialized nature of television to the next level by presenting an entire season of shows that take place all within the span of one calender day. 24 episodes each representing one hour in one day of the life of Jack Bauer. The show interested me and I did tape the first four or so episodes but never had a chance to watch them. Fearing I'd never catch up, I taped over the episodes without watching them and put any plans to catch the series on hold until the reruns. However I quickly learned that there were no plans to rerun the series and I decided to watch one or two shows in the middle of the season. I was pretty impressed with what I saw but didn't have the background information I needed.

24: Season One
Series
"24" chronicles twenty four hours in the life of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) an agent with a government agency known as the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU). On the day of the California Presidential Primary the CTU receives information from a highly creditable source that an attempt will be made on the life of Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) the first African-American presidential candidate. Bauer is assigned to the case and with the help of his team including Nina Meyers (Sarah Clarke) his assistant, Jaime the computer expert and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), he begins to get to work on the case. However this isn't simply just another case, word comes down from above that the plot against the senator may have ties within the organization leaving Jack unsure of who exactly to trust. Meanwhile Jack's daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) has turned up missing and his wife Teri (Leslie Hope) who he's recently reunited with after a separation is driving all over town with her friend's father a man he doesn't know or trust.   Elsewhere Palmer is notified about the threats by secret service but feels as though they are nothing different, the run of the mill threats he receives every day. Palmer is more concerned about a potentially damaging story coming out about his son's past then an attempt on his life.

Did I mention all of the above happens within the first three hours."24" is a show that needs to be seen to be believed. It has more going for it than just about any other television show I can remember seeing in my 20 years on this planet. I'd reveal more about the plot but to do so would ultimately harm one's enjoyment of the show. I haven't had a chance to make it through all twenty four episode as of yet but my initial plan to view the first three quickly expanded into four or five and before you know I found myself seven hours into the series. All I know is the show grabs you from the opening minute and makes it hard for you to press the stop button on your DVD remote.  I'm not at all surprised that this show has developed such a following so quickly. If a busy guy such as myself can put his life on hold for three or so hours at a time, you know you have something good.

Part of what makes the show work as well as it does is it's ensemble cast lead by Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland - a second generation Hollywood star - is Jack Bauer, an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances. He has to handle the complex task of infiltrating and finding a group responsible for a presidential threat as well as deal with his newly reinstated marriage and his daughter Kim - who does anything but what's she told. Sutherland was nominated for an Emmy as a result of his performance and there is no surprise why. He makes the show what it is. However he couldn't do it alone and is surrounded by some very excellent talent. Dennis Haysbert plays Senator David Palmer and adds to the tension with his unorthodox methods and general lack of worry through out the opening of the series.  Jack's right hand woman and suspected traitor Nina Meyers is played by Sarah Clarke. She brings the right combination of beauty and brawn to the screen keeping the viewers on edge as to her true motivations. Also appearing in key roles are Leslie Hope as Teri Bauer and Elisha Cuthbert as his troublesome teenage daughter. The series also offers cameo appearances and guest starring roles from the likes of Dennis Hopper and Mia Kirshner.

24: Season One
Fox has made the right decision in releasing this series to DVD so quickly. Due to the way the story unfolds in hourly segments people like myself who may have missed early episodes felt as though it would be too hard to catch up on television so they never tuned in. Now people have the opportunity to go through a day in the life of Jack Bauer with relative ease and not have to worry about waiting another week for the cliffhangers to be resolved.

Video
The saga that is "24" is split into 6 discs with each disc containing 4 episodes. During its initial television airing the series ran in the 1.33:1 or 4:3 standard framing on Fox but was also presented on their digital high definition channel in 1.78:1 widescreen. For this DVD edition Fox has included the 1.78:1 or 16x9 anamorphic widescreen version of the series.  Going into this review I had very high expectations in terms of image quality due to the fact that Fox constantly puts out very high quality digital transfers and that the series was so new that the print elements would no doubt be in excellent shape. My expectations were met and then some. "24" looks and feels like a major motion picture. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen framing gives the series a very cinematic look to it with razor like sharpness and careful attention paid to even the smallest details. Characters don't look flat and lifeless. They appear to be three dimensional and look as if they were standing right there in front of you.  Since a good part of "24" takes place in the dark, I was a bit concerned on how the exterior scenes during those hours would play out but detail is still very strong in even the darkness and low light conditions of the early hours. During the daytime scenes it's very hard to find anything in terms of problems. Color usage while normally drab and boring on most television series looks great with rich and pleasing hues throughout. Problems are few and far between with only some minor compression issues appearing from time to time - on window blinds and brick buildings. These may have something to do with the fact that Fox decided to cram 4 episodes on each disc or just might be faults of the compression technique itself. I also noticed some light grain during the occasional scene.  Print flaws are almost entirely non existent though I did see one or two pop up during the episodes I sampled.  All in all this is a very nice transfer that's really quite impressive considering the program's television origin. There are a few minor issues sprinkled throughout but for the most part I really can't find much to complain about. The biggest compliment I can pay to the transfer is that it doesn't look like TV, instead it comes off looking like a 16 hour film.

Audio
Initial press materials listed this set as containing Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and that had fans in Region 2 upset as their recent release contained only Dolby Surround (2.0). However those fans have nothing to worry about as this release maintains the exact same audio specs as its Region 2 counterpart. FOX presents "24" with the original 2.0 surround sound audio mixes that aired during the last television season. After getting over my initial disappointment it became clear that while a 5.1 remix would have been nice there was absolutely nothing wrong with the 2.0 mixes. "24" is a very suspenseful program which makes full use of both the video and audio aspects of television to provide a compelling and exciting program. The audio mix offered provides a loud, aggressive and surprisingly dynamic audio presentation. Given the number of things that can be occurring at any minute, this mix presents each element crisply and cleanly allowing the viewer to understand even the most complicated and layered scenes with relative ease. The musical score commands a nice presence that fills the room adding greatly to the suspense level. Surround channels are used frequently for both ambient and primary sound with gun fire, tire squealing and other split surround effects. Dialogue is clearly heard even when multiple conversations are being held in different sections of the screen. In terms of bass during the action scenes the subwoofer does offer up a generous amount of shaking but certainly nothing that will result in noise complaints from the neighbors. This is a very strong Dolby 2.0 presentation that is without a doubt one of the best I've heard in recent memory. I can only imagine what this would have sounded like in DD 5.1. Perhaps Fox will release Season 2 "A New Day" with a full-on discrete six channel mix - after it's television airing. That said it's hard to find anything wrong with the audio presentation included on the disc. I might have had the volume a bit higher in the mix but that's just my two cents.

Extras
Here's where things can get a bit disappointing. Due to the nature of the series the Fox network decided against reairing the series throughout the summer in rerun form. Instead of doing what has become standard they decided to instead release the entire first season on DVD. However given the limited amount of time in which they had to release this series before the second season started there wasn't much of a window to create and prepare bonus materials. So instead of a feature packed box set like the "X-Files" there is very little in the way of bonus material on this set.

The extras are included on the 6th and final disc in the box set and consist of an alternate ending to the first "24" hours which is provided with optional commentary from writer Joel Surnaw as well as an introduction to season one / look ahead to season two with series star Kiefer Sutherland. Fans will be disappointed to learn that there are no audio commentaries included on any of the episodes.

24: Season One
Overall
As I sit here seven or so hours into the first season and anxiously awaiting the third hour of the new season I can only ask myself. Why I wasn't following this show from the absolute start. The answer is a simple one, I got behind and felt as though catching up would take far too much time.  Thankfully FOX realized that their was a large group of people like myself that would become hooked if they were given a second chance. They could have simply repeated the show throughout the summer but in keeping with their original strategy of making "24" more than just a show and more of an event they found the best way would be to release the series on DVD. After all the fan base of the show would pick it up and so would those who missed it during it's original airings. "24 : The First Season" features excellent anamorphic widescreen video transfers as well as above average Dolby Surround sound. Sadly it's lacking in the extras department but that I'm willing to look past that given the overall quality of the series itself. Here's hoping that "24 : Season Two" adds in some bonus material because in reality that's all this set is missing. A must own for fans of the series and a welcome second chance for those who missed it on TV.


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