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A new style of television series was proposed a couple of years ago. It would be set over the period of a day, shown in real time and mainly following the activities of one character. Each hour of the day represented by an episode, the plan was to make a total of twenty four episodes. It didn’t sound that impressive at the time, but Fox execs gave a partial commission the go-ahead, with remaining episodes to follow if it proved successful. So there we have it, 24 became a reality and although not a massive ratings winner, it brought critical acclaim and won many awards.

24: Season Two
Season
A year and a half after last season’s crisis’ we return for season two. This time David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) has progressed from lesser known Senator to the President of the United States, with all the resources that such a position offers. He appears to have settled in well, with full support from both his family and followers. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on the other hand isn’t doing so well. No longer actively working for CTU, he has reached an all time low - obviously still suffering from the events of the previous season. Daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) appears to have gone through less but refuses to have anything to with Jack. She is now working as an au pair for an affluent family, looking after their only daughter Megan.

The first episode opens with President Palmer enjoying a relaxing fishing excursion with his son in the mountains. Unfortunately for Palmer his trip ends abruptly when news reaches him that a nuclear device has made it into the country. A terrorist organisation intends to detonate the device in the city of Los Angeles today. It is now his responsibility to decide how to approach the situation. Should he go public and arrange an evacuation, or attempt to find the bomb in secret? Whatever he decides, it isn’t going to be as straightforward as you might think. Kim yet again has her own issues to deal with. Megan’s father isn’t as nice as she expected, acting sleazy around Kim whenever his wife is away and apparently physically abusing Megan. In a fit of panic Kim does a runner in their family car taking Megan. Megan’s father is in hot pursuit keen to get his daughter back and wreak revenge on Kim. As with the previous season, Kim Bauer does some pretty daft things. It’s almost frustrating at times.

This second season is actually the first where writers were assured there would definitely be twenty four episodes. Unlike the first season, writers were able to plan it from the beginning, not writing for a conclusion part the way through, and then come up with another even better conclusion for the rest. As such, this season feels far superior, with sometimes totally unexpected plot twists happening frequently.

24: Season Two
I did find it to be pretty slow at first whilst they built up the scenarios and reminded viewers of the characters, but after the eighth or ninth episode it becomes compulsive viewing. Don’t let those first few episodes put you off; 24 is so much more suspenseful this season, particularly after the halfway point. I would find myself not being able to stop watching! It took me a few days to view all the episodes but on the final night I was up a lot later than normal knowing that if I stopped I just wouldn’t be able to sleep. It was like a permanent adrenaline rush, similar in fact to watching those moments in horror movies where you can’t bare to watch but just have to.

As with all big television series, there were more that one director and writer working on it, but of course this is not evident to the viewer. There were clearly episodes that covered a lot more than others, but this wasn’t really an issue. Some of the episodes towards the end did finish with pretty silly cliff-hangers that you knew minutes beforehand would be used as such - you know, like watching a typical soap opera such as the Aussie Neighbours. About the only complaint I have is the bit where the adverts would normally appear. I don’t actually want to see the adverts but the way the clock suddenly jumps forward several minutes is a bit disconcerting. Maybe they could have reedited the series for DVD so that the transition was less apparent. To be honest I’m not sure what they could have done, I think I’m just nitpicking!

Video
24 offers a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. On the whole it appears to be pretty good with a warm feel. At times becoming somewhat soft but I’m certain that this was on purpose. Scenes set in the CTU headquarters are particularly dark, during these scenes there is no noticeable compression artefacts.

On closer inspection the transfer does however suffer from a lot of grain which only really became apparent when taking the screenshots for the review. I’ve had to specifically modify the screenshots to remove most of the grain although if you look closely it can still be seen. When viewing the episodes it is particularly noticeable in scenes lit brightly by sunlight.

24: Season Two
Audio
This season we get a proper Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Given that 24 is for the most part a dialogue driven production, much of the output is from the front – particularly the front centre. Every now and again when we get to an action sequence the rears and subwoofer do kick in. Overall I would describe the soundtrack as both subtle and organic.

Extras
24 is spread over a total of seven discs. The first six contain the episodes and associated extras such as commentaries and deleted scenes, whilst the last is dedicated to extra features.

Where appropriate there’s the option to watch the deleted or extended scenes of each episode discs as mentioned. Though slightly more unusual is the option to watch the episodes in full with the deleted scenes inserted. All you have to do is go into the special features submenu of the episode menu and switch the option on. Most of the scenes cut from episodes were done so for timing reasons, others were due to pacing. A few are quite interesting, offering some background information on the characters - giving an indication of what they have been up to previously.

There are six commentaries, one per disc: 11am-12pm by Actors Carlos Bernard, Sarah Wynter and Michelle Forbes; 1pm-2pm by Director Jon Cassar and Actor Sarah Clarke; 5pm-6pm by Actor Penny Johnson-Jerald and Executive Producer and Co-Creator Joel Surnow; 10pm-11pm by Executive Producer, Co-Creator and Writer Robert Cochran and Actor Xander Berkely; 3pm-4pm with Executive Producer and Co-Creator Joel Surnow (not credited in the menu) and Actor Kiefer Sutherland; 4pm-5pm by Actor Dennis Haysbert and Executive Producer and Writer Howard Gordon.

All commentaries had their own unique feel, the first for example exclusively by actors was funny and relaxed, Carlos swearing regularly. On the other hand, the third commentary and to a lesser extent those that follow it, were formal and reserved. The second commentary (1pm-2pm) felt the most professionally recorded as though the others were rushed, both participants complemented each other. I do remember noticing Sarah Clarke’s voice for how pleasant she sounded throughout. It should be noted that all commentaries were recorded with all participants present.

Moving on the last disc there’s three custom made featurettes (well two, with the second in two parts), a multi-angle segment, and forty five deleted and extended scenes with commentary.

24: Season Two
First featurette: “On the Button: The Destruction of CTU” (from menu) or “On the Button: Exploding the CTU” (from title sequence) takes us behind the scenes of one of the biggest physical special effect shots for the season. With lots of explosions and debris flying all over the place, it requires all of Special Effects Coordinator Stan Blackwell’s concentration. Since this is a production intended for television - with a limited budget to match - these sorts of sequences have to be shot from multiple angles and they only have one chance. This featurette effectively follows Stan’s efforts to make sure everything is in place. It finishes by comparing the end result with clips from the series. Shot in 1.33:1, this featurette proves to be wonderful insight into the job of a special effects coordinator and the immense amount of effort such a person puts into his work.

Second and third featurettes (titled “24 Exposed”) are effective one big programme split down the middle. Framed in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and running around the ninety minute mark, this has been especially commission for the 24 DVD collection. Featuring everyone from the executive producer trio and directors, to most of the cast and crew, this is an exceedingly in-depth glimpse of the season. Filmed towards the end of the production it shows the urgency and pressure everyone was under to get the season finished in time. Starting with the board meetings and then slowly moving to the production side of things with the cast and crew, and finally ending with the editing and post production team. All of the people interviewed have a lot to say about their involvement and are given the time to do so. I honestly don’t think I have seen a featurette of this size and more importantly quality before.

The multi-angle feature offers a unique shufti into the filming of one particular scene. They captured the scene using two cameras and synced the results to the audio track giving you the chance to switch between the two viewpoints whenever you want – effectively editing the scene. A third option is also provide that displays both video streams on the one screen for lazy people like me! Reproduced anamorphically in 1.78:1 widescreen, this eight minute long production adds a somewhat usual but highly welcome element to the collection.

Finally there’s the forty five deleted and extended scenes again, but this time with commentary from Jon Cassar and Rodney Charters. Most of them are extended scenes, but the highlights are mainly the earlier deleted scenes, dropped because of pacing and timing issues. They featured quite a bit of character development that brings some background and reasoning for character’s reactions during this season. Both commentators do a great job describing the scenes and why they were removed. As you would expect from the amount of scenes they have to cover, the amount of pauses increase from episode to episode. It sure is a heck of a lot of deleted/extended scenes and they add some useful background information.

24: Season Two
Overall
I’m glad I gave up watching this season when it was first broadcast. I just wouldn’t have been able to cope having to wait a week between episodes and of course would have forgotten all of the important details. Television series of any kind always appears vastly superior on DVD than when originally broadcast, whether that’s the lack of adverts or simply the choice of viewing it whenever you want, I don’t know.

DVD Producer Marc Ostrick and his team did a great job with this box set, noticeably going for quality over quantity. His purpose made featurettes really do add a lot of value of the set, showing what happens behind-the-scenes without containing unnecessary promotional material.

I would highly recommend this DVD collection to anyone that can afford it. The series was purposefully produced to attract a general audience. For those that haven’t seen the original season, just think of a good quality action movie that somehow lasts for slightly less than seventeen hours. For the rest of you that have already seen the previous season, expect more of the same but this time far, far more intense. Just stick with it at the beginning, you will get hooked, and boy, will you enjoy it!


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