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The problem with fictional TV and film is that no matter how good the content may be, there is some element of fantasy to it, which is hard to pin down. Well it seems one element of fantasy is the time concept, or more to the point, the lack of it. A simple task of say driving across town is fictionalised by it happening very quickly; otherwise the audience will lose interest in the more menial aspects of the narrative.

Or will they? Time is the perfect medium for tension, so perhaps if you get the right writers and directors together, they will be able to concoct an engaging narrative that will suck the viewer in, second-by-second.

So here is 24: a TV series that is trying to achieve just that. Much has been said about the show, which so far has had two seasons, with a third in the works. This DVD release of the first season came the day after it finished showing on British TV, and no doubt the second season will be heading for a similar release.

The action starts at midnight as Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) of the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) faces the longest day of his life. He is about to take on his toughest missions to date - to foil the assassination attempt on presidential candidate Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), and to rebuild his marriage with his wife Teri (Leslie Hope).

When their daughter Kimberly (Elisha Cuthbert) sneaks out with her best friend Janet, Teri sets out to find her with the help of Janet's father. In the meantime, Jack has been framed for the assassination attempt and flees the CIA agents to find the real perpetrators led by Ira Gaines (Michael Massee).

24: Season One
The plot thickens as revelations about Senator Palmer's family arise and Terri's hunt for Kimberly gets more and more dangerous. Jack becomes incapacitated and only has his mobile phone and the help of his trusted colleague at CTU, Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke), to help him. Nina proceeds to work undercover to provide Jack with information about Gaines and the whereabouts of his family…

One thing needs to be said of 24 from the off, and that is it's not truly a real-time show. Due to it being American, and the fact that all Yank channels have commercials, there needs to be room in the 60 minute allocated slot for ad breaks. So, each episode is only 45 minutes long, with 15 minutes set aside for 4 lots of breaks... and on the DVD - where of course no adverts are present (thank God) - the clock that pops up on screen now and again to remind the viewer of the time jumps forward a few minutes. Simple.

The show itself is very accomplished indeed, with frequent nail biting, adrenaline-pumping moments combined with moments of tenderness as Bauer frantically searches for his abducted family.

The use of split-screen is very successful, something that is rarely used well in cinema/TV nowadays, and it definitely ups the suspense seeing all of the protagonists and antagonists together, plotting their next line of direction.

That comment brings me to the acting in 24, which is excellent. Sutherland stands out of course as the main character - good guy to those he respects, vengeful bastard to those he hates - and after recently seeing him in Phone Booth alongside Colin Farrell, I am assured he is a massively under-rated performer. Special mention must also go to Dennis Haysbert (most recently seen in Far From Heaven), who carries a very strong presence as Presidential candidate David Palmer. All the other supporting actors have been cast supremely well in the roles, as they fit the modus operandi of their characters like a glove... a cliché I know, but needed nonetheless.

24: Season One
Are there any bad points to 24 you ask? Well, only a couple of minor ones. Each episode is like dynamite, save for a couple towards the middle of the season, where the pace and electricity is replaced by repetitiveness (the same sort of dangerous scenario is encountered again and again) and then a bit of a sedated pace. Luckily, the action does pick up as the season gears itself towards the highly anticipated finale. The only other bad point is a tad amount of implausibility - throughout some of the set-pieces (Hollywood glamorisation again!).

Overall, it is a breathtakingly fresh and original show, pushed to the limit as good tries to triumph over evil and corruption in a variety of ways, whether it is preventing an assassination or saving a family. Highly, highly, recommended.

This being a TV show, it is refreshing to see that 24 is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, and the visuals are much better for it. Crisp and clear throughout, with no artefacts visible, this is a very accomplished transfer of a very good quality print. Much better than some may have anticipated - well done Fox.

Unfortunately, although the sound was originally advertised as being a 5.1 mix, it arrives as sadly only Dolby Digital 2.0 (English). However, that is not to say it has a bad soundstage, because as 2.0 soundtracks go, it again is very accomplished, offering enough ambience and crispness to create a level that places the audio on 24: Season One between standard 2.0 and 5.1…so again, well done Fox, although next time a 5.1 mix would be preferred only for its extra oomph and clarity.

24: Season One
This DVD was released immediately after the episodes finished being shown on British TV, and the RRP is pleasingly low (£39.99 is very good value for six discs, with 18 hours of footage)... so will there be any decent extras to compliment the release, or is that pushing our luck too far?

Well unfortunately, yes, our luck has indeed run out now. Instead of insightful extras such as a documentary, audio commentaries and interviews, we are left with an alternate ending, which resolves the climax in directly the opposite way... some may say that it is better for it, but I’m undecided. There is also a season two preview, which is basically 2 minutes of Kiefer Sutherland talking about the implications of the first season, with absolutely no footage from the second season - meaning this is a worthless feature really.

The menus are animated well, with music in the background and clips from the season playing in the foreground. They are easy to navigate.

Much has been said about 24, with the hype machine in overdrive as the season went on. Well, luckily, for once that hype is justified and now with the DVD release in my collection I can see just how good it really is.

With strong acting, excellent writing from the ensemble team, and direction that deserves more acclaim than TV can ever give the directors; there is no reason not to indulge in the chaotic journey that Jack Bauer et al undertake.

24: Season One
The DVD itself is very good: strong video, nearly very good audio, and extras that are worth spending 5 minutes watching - although that is their downfall, being very, very low on the ground.

The low price and electric content overcomes the poor extras to justify a high overall score, and because the show really does boast a large repeat value, this is definitely worth owning and not just watching once. Roll on season two…