For the past 2 years (as of this writing) no show on TV has taken it's audience for the ride that "24" delivers week in and week out (and with more episodes then any other show). It grabs you and won't let go for the entire season. It is tightly directed, smartly written and powerfully acted by all involved. Not to mention the musical score is gorgeous and very versatile - with different themes for different characters and situations. But above the nuts and bolts of it, "24" is just rousing television entertainment in it's purest form. It's real-time continuous format (if you don't know it by now...) literally redefines the way we watch TV. It is a show that through it's sheer greatness and effort demands to be watched and it is done in a format that requires it be watched every week. Despite what most people who haven't seen the show think, coming back every week isn't a problem - watch it once and, through whatever twist or cliffhanger it ends with - you're going to want to come back. It is cinematic, yet a product of it's medium. A TV show that could only be a TV show.
We spend 24 hours with Jack Bauer - our hero for the new millennium played with mind-blowing force by Kiefer Sutherland - as he and his Counter Terrorist Unit race against the clock to diffuse whatever crisis is set to occure that day. In season one the senator was going to be assassinated. It ended with quite possibly the best single hour of a TV show I've ever seen. In season 2 a nuclear bomb was set to detonate in LA. That one was a little darker, more realistic and delved into the characters a little more. Using split screen and multiple story archs we follow nearly everyone involved from the CTU computer hackers to the terrorists themselves to the president (Dennis Haysbert making a star of himself) to Jack's precocious, rather flaky daughter (hottie Elisha Cuthbert, who is able to deliver the acting goods on the occasion the writers give her a chance). While the format only gives us snapshots of these characters, the show takes such care in their development and the acting so in tune that if you watch pretty regularly you get a feel for everyone and their traits all start to come out. When one of them dies you really feel it - and on "24" anyone can die (or turn bad) at ANY moment.
Yes, there is certainly a soap opera quality to this show. It compels us with shootouts, endless chases, constant double-crosses, smart a** one liners and one cataclysmic set back after another for our heroes. It's like a soap opera for men. It is not ment to be funny, but it is also not entirely serious. It is often wholy absurd and not above reveling it's own ridiculousness or even a few clichés. I particularly love the constant conflict - typical in these type of shows - between "loose cannon" Jack and his superiors. And Bauer always gets the best of them. "Damn it, Jack, as usual I don't know whether to congratulate you or demand your resignation". There's lots of fun to be had here amid the tension. Yet the show also cares for it's characters, it's audience (rare in TV today) and even the world it's in. "24" deals directly with the post-9/11 world and the new millennial fears of terrorism. At times in a not-so-politically correct way. It looks at the world in terms of black and white, good and evil and with a sense of sacrifice for the greater good. It's the type of stuff that would frighten and confound the average Hollywood liberal. It is a fantasy world where it's players seem to be in an alternate universe slightly askew from our own. Where our world has caught up with their scripted one. Frightening "What if" scenarios from talking-head terrorist experts are the exactly the type of things that "24" is made of. Headline speculation about biological, chemical and nuclear agents are played out and dealt with head-on here. And sometimes the ending isn't a happy one. This is true water cooler TV. At least it would be if the American public wasn't so stupid and suckered into
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