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If you’re afraid of spoilers in this review, don’t be. Even though reviewers shouldn’t ever give away vital pieces of information on a movie or TV series sometimes little snippets sneak through, which would be downright disastrous in the case of this particular show. 24 thrives on suspense and the element of surprise, so any information that slips through the cracks would blow out half the effect of the show. Just think how many forums you’ve been surfing at the time and read something you didn’t want to know about. The initial Survivor craze springs to mind, where there was information all over the net about the winner days before the final episode aired on Australian TV.

The Series
The good thing is you’ll be able to own the whole thing very soon, so you won’t have to dodge those pesky spoiler-filled threads for much longer. No doubt you’re probably all familiar with this ground-breaking television show, where the entire series is based over a period of 24 hours, hence the title. In the same vain as Mike Figgis’ unique film, Timecode, this television series packs all the action into 24 hour-long episodes. Everything occurs in real time, even the commercial breaks, though of course there may be a few moments where seconds have been clipped or extended by the producers. No big deal, because it’s the riveting storyline that makes this concept actually work. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s just the gimmickry of a new style, because without the top notch story the series would’ve undoubtedly fallen on deaf ears.

24: Season One

The midnight-to-midnight period surrounds counter terrorist operative Jack Bauer (played by forgotten man Keifer Sutherland in a career-saving performance). Early on in the piece Bauer and his team receive a tip off that African-American presidential candidate Senator David Palmer (Major League’s Dennis Haysbert) is under threat from an assassination attempt, on the day of the California Presidential Primary no less.

Jack’s night doesn’t get much better as his daughter snuck out of the house minutes before he was called in to work. His wife, whom Jack has been trying to patch things up with, is desperately trying to find the devious Kim along with the father of Kim’s friend, who also managed to get out of the house so late at night.

The events snowball from there, and for your enjoyment I won’t tell you any more other than the series really gets rolling very quickly, with a variety of twists and turns keeping you glued to the screen throughout. Believe me, if humans could stay awake and focused for an entire 24-hour period there would have been a large number of people sitting a marathon session with this 6-disc set.

For a television series the production values are up there with the best of them. An off-beat, split-screen technique is used intermittently to easily show the location and situation of all the main characters at each point in time, also showing how and when they cross paths. A clock counter is present at the start and end of each episode as well as in the spots where the commercial breaks occurred when the series aired on television. The problem with this being a new series without full backing from a network was obvious when episode thirteen was basically used as a finale due to the network only committing to half the proposed number of episodes. The consequence of this is that the following episodes are a lot more contrived before the action levels out again and we can begin looking toward a thrilling finale, this time in the correct position.

If anything this series showed how appealing television has become these days and how there is an inherent quality of shows around rivaling the best the film medium has to offer. Such a popular series can only help to encourage others, both in film and television, to try and come up with new and exciting ways of telling a story. Some seem to have lost sight of the storytelling element and are more focused on drawing crowds with big stars and promotions. But can one series change this perspective? Only time will tell...

Video
The first episode was shot as a pilot long before the rest of the series and was rumoured to have been transferred by a different method and company than the other 23 episodes. And it shows. There is a lot more grain and imperfections on the print, with the telecine being sub-par for the majority of this first hour. Things such as blocky MPEG artefacts at the top of the frame and giant black hair-like blemishes are dotted around episode one, but thankfully the rest of the series doesn’t follow suit.

Instead, episodes 2 through to 24 are well above average, much sharper than what we saw on television. The colours have been improved significantly from the dark visuals during the broadcast, which is a godsend on these discs. There’s still a fair amount of grain present and at times it really stands out but there’s no need to have a razor sharp transfer on this one, particularly as it is a television series that will always look better on DVD than on the air.

24: Season One

The series was shot in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, though the producers had to allow for the conventional television sets when they shot the episodes. The episodes are spanned across six discs, with four episodes per discs, to episodes per layer. No compression problems were noted or have been reported elsewhere. In all, a pretty good looking video transfer of this series.

Audio
The original two channel Dolby track is used here, and is perfect for what it is trying to achieve. Dialogue is clear at all times and the music sounds quite good coming out of the front speakers, with the ticking clock effects also sounding very solid. The whole track is mixed at a relatively high level but that doesn’t effect any of the dialogue at all. Often there are a couple of conversations going on at once, particularly when the split screen is used, but neither of them are ever lost without it being intentional on behalf of the show’s producers. A great mix for this series. Hopefully we’ll be treated to an even better one for series two.

Extras
Kudos to Fox for releasing this series quick smart after it finished airing on television. The downside, however, is that they could never have been expected to assemble a solid extras package, instead having to release merely the episodes with an alternative ending thrown in. Naturally I won’t tell you about the alternative ending but there have been many who prefer this one to the actual ending from the final episode. Take a look and judge for yourself.

Apart from that, there’s only a Season 2 preview, which is just a vague presentation by Keifer Sutherland about the series and how the new one will be an improvement. No commentaries that could have shed some great information about exactly how the series was run, sadly. But that’s what happens when you’re given something so darn quickly, so really we can’t complain.

24: Season One

Overall
Some have mentioned that the re-watchability of this series isn’t as high as some others (X-Files and Buffy spring to mind), mainly because once you know the twists, turns and the outcome you won’t nearly be as glued to your seat as when you first watched the episodes. But for pure sentimental value you have to own this set, possibly the best new television series for quite some time in terms of innovation and storytelling. Those who haven’t seen it are blessed in that they can watch every episode when they like without the annoying ad breaks in between, the perfect way to watch your favourite television show.

This set has been given a great video transfer save for the separately filmed pilot episode, a decent audio mix and a couple of very small extras thrown in during the limited time frame for production. As I’ve mentioned before, let’s hope shows like 24 get the creative juices flowing down at all the networks, leading to an influx of unique and exciting shows hitting our screens in the near future. But in the meantime, grab this set and watch it. Again.


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