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review added: 9/4/02



24: The Complete First Season
2001-2002 (2002) - Imagine (20th Century Fox)

review by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

24: The Complete First Season Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/D-

Specs and Features
Approx. 999 mins (24 episodes at 41 mins each), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, custom gatefold packaging, 6 single-sided, dual-layered discs (4 episodes per disc), alternate ending to final episode with optional audio commentary (by executive producer Joel Surnow), video introduction with actor Kiefer Sutherland, program-themed menu screens with music, episode access, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned


This is a great concept and we can't believe someone hasn't tried to pull it off before now. A man on a mission has 24 hours to prevent something bad from happening... something that can utterly change the world as he now knows it. At every step, something or someone stands in his way. Oh... and to make it all the more interesting, the story is told in "real time" over the course of 24, 1-hour television episodes. Brilliant. But can it work logistically? Yes and no.

24, as it is, is full of plot holes you can drive a truck through. It's got major logic jumps, hackneyed story lines and even a few real world math problems, like... how the hell does a guy get through LA traffic in 10 seconds without a helicopter? But you know what? The whole thing works because it so friggin' fun. Kiefer simply IS Jack Bauer, and we loved his character from the minute we first saw him on the screen. Believe me, we didn't think he could do it - be the tough guy we actually route for. But after the mid-way point in the show, he's in your hearts and you want him to win.

Now... half the fun of the show lies in going into it without knowing anything. So if you don't know the show, and you haven't seen it yet, good. Watch the DVD. If you did watch the show, then regurgitating the story for you won't do a lick of good. You either loved it or hated it. But here's a summary of JUST the first episode so you can get an idea of what 24 is all about.

It's midnight on the day of the California Presidential Primary and Jack Bauer, head of the government's counter-terrorism unit (CTU) based in LA, is called in to investigate the possibility that Senator David Palmer, the first African-American with a shot at being elected President, is the target of an assassination plot. Meanwhile, Jack's teenaged daughter Kimberly sneaks out of the house with her friend Janet for a date with two young guys. When Teri (Jack's wife) calls and lets him know that Kim's gone, he tells her not to worry. We then establish Jack's team at CTU: Nina (his right-hand "man"), Jamey (the computer geek) and Tony (aka Soul Patch Tony, the shifty-eyed bad boy who may or may not be up to something). We also meet George Mason, a co-worker who has it in for Jack because of a past situation involving dirty agents that Jack turned in. Jack doesn't trust Mason, because he's been tipped that the assassination plot might involve someone working on the inside at CTU. Meanwhile, at his campaign headquarters, Senator Palmer gets a mysterious phone call from a reporter who claims to know something dangerous about his son's past. Back at Jack's house, Teri's hooked up with Janet's father to go looking for the missing girls... a plan which soon leads them to believe that the girls are in trouble. And high above, in a plane bound for California, Mandy (aka Naked Mandy) joins the mile high club with a photographer named Martin, in hopes of getting his credentials to access a press conference that Palmer is expected to attend later in the day. All of this ends with an explosion high over the Mojave Desert. And where all these events might be going is anyone's guess.

No doubt about it. The 24 sounds cool... and it is. Directed by Stephen Hopkins, the first episode is one of the best. When watching this series during its broadcast run, each episode kept you hanging on pins and needles for the next Tuesday to come around, so you could tune in to the further adventures of Jack and company to see what happened next. Thankfully, now you can watch 24 at home without the wait.

On DVD, this video quality is quite good. First of all, the episodes are all presented in anamorphic widescreen - this show was DEFINITELY meant to be seen in widescreen. Viewing it that way makes the experience seem like a continuous, 24-hour long film that you just can't stop watching. Colors are rich and accurate, with excellent contrast and shadow detailing. The look of the series is dark, ominous and moody, reminding us in many ways of The X-Files, and the DVDs capture this look perfectly. There is a certain graininess to the episodes by design, and this is noticeable on the video. You will also see a certain amount of MPEG-2 compression artifacting, particularly in overly-bright or washed out areas of the picture. But none of this is distracting in any way. Fans who watched the original broadcasts will experience video on these DVDs that is far and away superior to what they remember.

The audio on these discs is also good, but not outstanding. English only audio is presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and the track generally services the video and the story well. Dialogue is always intelligible, and the series' tension-ratcheting musical score is well presented without overwhelming the action. The rear channels provide some light ambience and fill, but don't expect much in the way of true surround play beyond this.

The extras are disappointing, in that all you get is an alternate ending to the final episode of the season (with optional audio commentary by the show's executive producer) and a video introduction of the first season by star Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland also briefly hints at what's to come in season two (all without spoiling anything for either season). As far as the alternate ending, it goes without saying that you shouldn't watch this until after you've seen all the episodes. And we think you'll agree that the ending that WAS used is much more dramatic and effective.

Naturally, we would have liked more in the extras department, but the lack of them was necessitated by the quick release of the season to DVD, just a scant few months after its original Fox network run. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has already let it be known that future seasons will feature much more extensive bonus material (and yes, future seasons will be released quickly after they are broadcast). We'd like to suggest that someone go back and produce a retrospective documentary on season one to include with the next set.

All in all, 24 isn't perfect - it's not the best dramatic television you'll ever see. But it IS original, wild, fun and very, very cool. We highly recommend it... and this new DVD release is absolutely the perfect way to enjoy it.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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