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The success of the first season of 24 was phenomenal. The unique way of telling the story using “real-time” events was an out-and-out hit, providing a gimmick with which to pin the ongoing storyline. Incidentally, upon the completion of the first series it wasn’t so much the use of time that many thought was the appealing element of the series, rather the storylines were so strong that viewers couldn’t help but tune in week after week. And therein lay the problem. It was a heavy commitment keeping up with events every episode, which ran once a week save for a few weeks where the episodes ran twice. Missing an episode wasn’t really an option for fans as crucial plot points arise every hour, so VCRs ran overtime trying to capture the weekly instalment so it could be squeezed into a viewer’s very busy schedule. So if ever a series was improved by being presented on DVD, it was this one.

A second series was inevitable after the first was such a hit, though front-man Kiefer Sutherland stressed that the story had to be on par with the original, if not a marked improvement, for him to be involved. The use of real-time in the story was no longer the biggest selling point, so again the storyline had to be the major emphasis in the second series. It’s pleasing to be able to say that for the most part, it well and truly succeeds.

24: Season Two
The Series
It’s extremely difficult trying to explain this show without travelling headlong into a series of plot spoilers. Never before has a series been so dependant on the viewer knowing nothing beyond what has just transpired, so outlining what happens throughout is a tough task. Rest assured there will be nothing to ruin the drama and suspense in this review.

As mentioned, Sutherland, happy with the accomplished script for the second season, returns as Jack Bauer, a Counter Terrorist Unit burn-out following the dramatic events of the season one finale. His daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), has been employed as carer of a young child and speaks to her father very rarely it seems. These two inevitably become caught up in world-changing events that take many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

The highlight of this kind of series is that you never quite know what to expect. The events that transpire are indeed a very mixed bag; there’s murder, corruption, terrorism, double-crossing, triple-crossing, power-plays, love interests, tears, fears, fights, explosions, chases, the lot. Nothing pans out according to plan so the story can at times be all over the place while still remaining riveting viewing the whole time.

Possibly the greatest drawback of the whole series surrounds the all-too-frequent use of pure coincidence and contrivance to keep things interesting. Again, with an emphasis on being spoiler-free it’s extremely difficult to explain without using examples, but you’ll most likely find yourself asking a few questions about the flow of the plot here and there. The story was written on the fly for a large portion of the series, which may not have given those in charge of the script quite enough time to nut out just where things looked a little too contrived. But with the story moving at such a breakneck speed you’ll probably forget them within minutes anyhow.

The cast becomes crucial in such a lengthy series, which is basically the equivalent of around eight whole movies in one. Sutherland has perfectly moved from the first series to the second, even keeping his trademark frown and look of concern, as has Elisha Cuthbert as his daughter, Kim. Australia’s own Sarah Wynter gets caught up in proceedings early on and more than holds her own in the acting department. Carlos Bernard’s Tony Almeida has been developed a great deal between series which sees him become a major player this time. The most credit, however, must go to Xander Berkeley as CTU head George Mason. His role in the first series was more incidental than important but his character arc is one of the most interesting elements to the second instalment. Berkeley carries the role perfectly and becomes one of the most unexpectedly endearing characters of the show.

24: Season Two
Overall, this has to be one of the most interesting and accomplished series on television. Now the series has been transferred to DVD it can be safely be said that the show grows in stature even further as the ad breaks are non-existent, the episodes can be watched at your leisure (and believe me, you won’t want to put the discs away once you begin) and the story is even more effective when you don’t have to wait a week between drinks. If you haven’t seen the first series you’re missing out, as the second series builds on the foundation provided by the groundbreaking first instalment. Go out and buy both and you won’t be disappointed.

Another reason to enjoy the series on DVD lies in the presentation. On this release we are treated to a lovely-looking 16:9 visual presentation that easily surpasses the 4:3 television version. Granted, the split-screen technique to show simultaneous locations and characters is still within the ‘safe’ 4:3 boundaries but the show looks so much better on these discs. Grain is visible on a number of occasions but the majority of the episodes (shot on 35mm film) come up a treat. Colours are vibrant and contrasted well with the predominantly dark sets as the series descends into night. The print is completely free from any visual defects so the story will definitely be your main focus.

Television shows, even those that deal with terrorism and violence, don’t normally lend themselves to an impressive audio mix. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track accompanying every episode is quite surprising in that the soundtrack has been used very intelligently to provide an extremely immersive environment. While there’s nothing really flashy or extravagant going on for the most part, the surrounds are used to really push home the impression that there is much more going on than what we see on the screen, which is a must for this kind of production. You’ll hear a variety of noises here and there which help greatly in bringing you into the tense environment and keeping you there. This is a surprisingly good mix that makes great use of surrounds to replicate the world of 24.

24: Season Two
The first series was rushed so quickly onto DVD there was little time to produce any extra material. In what looks like an apologetic second season release, we are given a whole range of supplements to keep us entertained after the marathon 24-episode drama has unfolded. Needless to say, you won’t want to view any of them until after you’ve watched the final episode as they represent yet another way to spoil the surprises of the series.

First up, there is a commentary track for one episode per disc. Doing the whole 24 episodes would have bordered on redundant, so kudos to those in charge for keeping the tracks fresh and informative. This is also helped by the fact that a different group participates in every session. For example, the disc two commentary sees director Jon Cassar team up with actress Sarah Clarke, who plays a big role in the episode in question. The first commentary track is less technical and more giggle, with actors Carlos Bernard, Michelle Forbes and Sarah Wynter teaming up to give their thoughts on an episode. These are great to listen to for fans and a many and varied in their focus and information.

A featurette called On The Button (it has another title as well which would give some crucial info away to those who haven’t seen the series yet) is the next extra. Running for 13-minutes, this piece details how one of the larger stunts was performed. Let’s just say there was so exploding to do and we get to see how it all came about.

24: Season Two
The best extra on the disc is the making of documentary entitled 24 Exposed. Split into two parts over different layers, this 89-minute piece chronicles the shooting of the final two episodes in the series, We are privy to the whole process from pre to post and get to see some great footage relating to how the last two episodes were constructed. Fans will love this feature, and the lengthy running time gives enough detail to make up for the lack of anything similar on the season one release.

The meat of the disc lies in the deleted scenes. A total of 44 clips are available here, some merely extensions of already existing scenes while others are stand alone scenes cut from the final version. They all vary greatly in terms of running time, effectiveness and importance but as a collection they are well worth a look. You have the choice of viewing them separately on disc seven or cutting them back into the series (which does come with a pretty lengthy delay every time one is accessed during the episode). Nice to have the choice but watching them all back to back is probably the easiest and most effective option.

Rounding out the extras package is a multi-angle feature of an interrogation scene. You get to choose between three different views for this 8-minute scene, and they’ve chosen a good one to let you play with the angle button on your remote. In all, this package may seem a little light on top compared with a lot of other releases but the lengthy documentary, the comprehensive deleted scenes package and the six great commentary tracks (yes, six, which pretty much equates to two film’s worth if you think about it) make this collection a standout.

24: Season Two
The storyline would beat the majority of series’ hands down, the core characters are played extremely well throughout and the rest of the cast play their often fleeting roles to perfection to keep things interesting. Thanks to a great looking transfer, an extremely intelligent audio mix and an extras list that is well worth a look in all instances we can safely say that this release surpasses the first series by quite a margin. The stories themselves may be on par because the second instalment seems a little contrived at times, however there’s no doubt that this is easily the most entertaining television series to go to air in recent times. It’s also the series most fitting of an accomplished DVD set, so this seven-disc release fulfils expectations extremely well.