24 (television)

From Academic Kids

24 is a current U.S. television action/drama series, produced by the Fox Network and syndicated worldwide. It is named 24 because the action on the show ostensibly occurs in "real-time", with each season covering the events of one day in the life of Jack Bauer, who is played by Kiefer Sutherland. The show also follows Jack's colleagues at the Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles, as well as the actions of both various terrorists and the White House. Every episode in a season covers the events of one hour in that day (hence 24 episodes per season). 24 makes frequent use of hand-held cameras and split-screens to show the actions of various characters concurrently.

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Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

24 was created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran (La Femme Nikita), and premiered in 2001.



24 is a thriller which purports to be shown in "real-time", with each minute of airtime corresponding to a minute in the lives of the characters. This real-time nature gives the show a uniquely strong sense of urgency, emphasized via the ticking of an on-screen digital clock appearing from time to time. Action that takes place during the advertising breaks is not shown, and so most episodes actually last around 44 minutes (although some episodes do not have breaks thanks to sponsorship deals). Throughout every episode the action switches between different locations, following the parallel adventures of different characters all involved in the same story. The result is that there are long sections of narrative for each character that are not seen, and mundane actions (such as car journeys) are skipped just as they are in conventional drama.

The "real-time" technique is not frequently seen in television series, but it is hardly new. For example, the "real-time" format was used in an episode of M*A*S*H. In film, the technique dates back to at least 1949, with the film noir The Set-Up. 24 also borrows its use of split-screen techniques from Timecode, a film released in 2000, to show events in two different places at once. Despite not having invented the "real-time" and split-screen techniques, 24's techniques are regarded as innovative. Much like the BBC spy series, Spooks, (which, although not "real time" is heavily dependent on split-screen technology), the usage of these techniques has largely defined the visual and technological feel of the series.

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24 poster

24 has received critical and popular acclaim, and become a true "watercooler" show (i.e., a TV show that everyone talks about the next day). However the necessities of its format sometimes lead to lots of egregious padding and some manifest absurdities (for example, traffic jams are surprisingly uncommon for a show set mostly in Southern California), which call upon the audience for a considerable amount of suspension of disbelief.

The show is notable for its unusually accurate approach to technology, although many have found Season 3 and Season 4 to be less accurate than the two preceding series. It has shown the use of the operating system Linux multiple times, and in one season, appeared to touch on the Mac vs. PC debate (http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,52559,00.html).Another aspect of the show that has been praised as accurate is the depiction of interpersonal friction and tension between and within the various agencies charged with national security, even in times of severe crisis.

At first sight, it may seem as if characters rarely eat, rest, or take bathroom breaks - and this is a common complaint made by people who haven't seen the show - but in fact, due to the sheer number of storylines, characters will usually only be seen for at most 15 minutes per episode, so there is plenty of time for these things to happen offscreen.

In the first season, Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the main character Jack Bauer, won a Golden Globe for his performances; Surnow and Cochran (the creators of the show) won an Emmy Award. In 2004, the show won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series. 24 won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing For A Series, Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series, and Outstanding Stunt Coordination.

Main cast

See List of characters in 24 for a more thorough list.

Haysbert and Devane received the 'And' credit during their runs on the show.

Season synopses

Every season so far follows a similar format, centering around a central threat posed by terrorists. Surprise sacrifices, backstabbings, and other plot twists are common. Besides the central threat, each season has several major subplots that span the majority of the episodes and become interwoven with the main plot, which itself tends to change once or twice as a season progresses. Throughout each season, Jack Bauer often faces intense personal anguish in addition to his tasks to stop the terrorists. Each season starts at a different time of the day in Pacific Standard Time.

Season 1

The first season (2001–2002) revolves around an assassination attempt on Senator David Palmer, an African American candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, on the day of the California Primary. The central character is Jack Bauer, a former Delta Force member who now works for the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) in Los Angeles. Bauer becomes personally as well as professionally involved when his wife and daughter are kidnapped by the people behind the assassination.

Major subplots:

  • A mole at CTU is sabotaging efforts to stop the assassination
  • Kim and Teri Bauer are kidnapped
  • Political scandals threaten to erupt, centered around Senator Palmer's son having killed his sister's rapist
  • Jack's personal anguish: worried about the safety of his family

The season starts and ends at: 12:00am (midnight - LA time); the action begins in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (4:00pm, Kuala Lumpur time). Although it is not clear what year the series is set in, presumably it is for the 2004 election.

The season has a dramatic and unexpected ending: the death of Teri Bauer. Many fans were dismayed by this sudden plot twist, while others applauded 24's genre-defying willingness to kill major characters with little warning. As a consolation to fans who hated the fact that Teri died, the producers filmed an alternate ending in which Teri, Kim, and Jack are reunited. This alternate ending is available on the Season 1 DVD boxed set, although it is noticeably less dramatic than the actual ending which was aired.

Season 2

The second season (2002–2003) takes place a year and a half later and follows the work of now-President David Palmer and agent Jack Bauer to stop terrorists from detonating a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Season two must take place after 2001, since it is set in September, and references are made to sending terrorists to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation, which was not done until 2002. Following the theory that season one was set during the 2004 Presidential elections, this would place season 2 in September 2005.

Major subplots:

  • Kim is on the run, having rescued a child from her abusive stepfather
  • Kate Warner suspects that her sister's Middle Eastern fianc is a terrorist
  • President Palmer faces traitors in his own cabinet, who attempt to remove him from power to advance their own agenda
  • George Mason, director of CTU, is dying of radiation exposure
  • Jack's personal anguish: worried about Kim; develops a heart condition after being tortured by terrorists

The season starts and ends at: 8:00am (LA time); the action begins in Seoul, South Korea (midnight, Seoul time).

After the nuclear bomb is disposed of safely, the story focuses on the United States' retaliation against the people responsible for constructing it. A recorded conversation between a terrorist involved with the bomb and high-ranking officials of three Middle Eastern countries (which are never specified) is used to implicate those countries in the plot. However, Palmer is reluctant to order military action against them until he has absolute proof that the recording is genuine. Several members of his staff then vote to relieve Palmer of his position under Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, believing his hesitation to be a sign of indecision and weakness. The Vice-President then orders military strikes against the three countries to continue.

Jack, Michelle and Tony race to find the evidence that the recording is a forgery, and they eventually discover that a group of American businessmen fabricated it in order to wage war with the Middle East so that they could benefit from rocketing oil prices that would result. The strikes are called off and Palmer is reinstated as President after the proof is produced, thanks largely to Sherry Palmer (who risks her life). The seven cabinet members and vice president tender their resignations (Palmer does not accept them), and Palmer then tells his staff that he believes that the strictest evidence of hostile intent is required before waging war. The entire storyline has thinly veiled references to President Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East following the September 11th attacks and the "three Middle Eastern countries" could be a reference to the Axis of Evil.

Like the first season, the second ends with a surprise twist. The nuclear bomb situation is resolved without massive loss of life, but President Palmer collapses after being attacked with a biological weapon, presumably in an assassination attempt. Viewers were forced to wait until the third season to see whether Palmer survived the attack. The sudden shift from a nuclear to biological threat also foreshadows the third season, which initially centers around the threat of an engineered virus being set loose on the general public.

There were several large plot threads left unresolved from the second season into the third and fourth seasons, most notably the characters of "Max" and Trepkos, two men who seemed to be the driving force behind the day's events, as well as President Palmer's assassination attempt. How the assassination attempt ties into a war for oil is something that never quite fit together, and many have suspected that they may have had some larger and more sinister goal in mind. They were never seen again, and the only clue to their fate is a cryptic hint given by Wayne Palmer in the premiere of season 3. However, it has been revealed that the events directly preceding season 3 will be chronicled in the upcoming video game, currently in production. Presumably, the fates of Max & Trepkos will be dealt with, as well as how several of the characters at CTU in the third season began working there.

Season 3

The third season (2003–2004) takes place three years after the second season and centers around the threat of a deadly virus being released in Los Angeles while President Palmer is visiting to participate in a debate with his chief opponent in his re-election campaign.

Major subplots:

  • President Palmer faces scandal during his re-election campaign involving his official doctor (unusually a civilian) and girlfriend (whose ex-husband may have 'cooked the books').
  • Strained romantic relationships between Tony and Michelle, Kim and Chase
  • Jack's personal anguish: recovering from a heroin addiction that he claims he developed as part of an undercover operation

The season starts and ends at: 1:00pm (LA time). This is the first season where the action starts in the United States.

The driver's license of a 19-year-old character in the third season, Kyle Singer, shows his date of birth as 1987, thus setting the third season in 2006 or 2007, with the first season therefore being in 2002 or 2003. However, some believe that since the first and third seasons fall in Presidential election years, it could be a mistake and the seasons actually take place in 2004 and 2008. However, like The West Wing, it is possible that elections in the 24-world do not coincide with ours.

Unlike the first two seasons, the third does not end with a sudden plot twist. It is also the first season which has not concluded with a silent timer, though the silent timer was used earlier in the season when Jack was forced by the terrorists to murder his boss, Ryan Chappelle. Despite the lack of a last-minute plot twist, important events occur at the end of the third season that have major consequences for the next season. First, Jack chops Chase's hand off with an axe to detach a timed-release device containing the virus that was secured to Chase's wrist, thus saving both their lives. Second, Tony turns himself in to the authorities for his role in helping the terrorist mastermind escape in order to save his wife's life. Third, President Palmer decides not to run for re-election due to his ex-wife Sherry being murdered under suspicious circumstances. Presumably, Vice President James 'Jim' Prescott took over the Democratic Party ticket.

One of the greatest successes of the first season was that any one of the characters could have been good or evil. To bring back this feel, and to revamp the show, the producers decided not to renew the contracts of most of the cast. Thus, many fans see the first three seasons as a trilogy of sorts.

Season 4

The season starts and ends at 7:00 AM

The fourth season (2005) is set a year and three months after the third and sees Jack, now working for Secretary of Defense James Heller after being fired by CTU, caught up in an elaborate terrorist plot which involves both men and the daughter of Heller, Audrey Raines, who doubles as her father's chief policy assistant and Jack's lover (whilst married to another man, but separated). Jack must work with CTU and Erin Driscoll, the new director and woman who fired him, to uncover what is happening. Again, one or more moles is revealed to inhabit CTU, aiding the terrorists. Unlike previous seasons, which focused on a singular threat, this season is based around a vaguely Arab terrorist named Habib Marwan who controls an unknown number of Middle Eastern terrorist cells that launch a series of attacks against the United States.

Based in part on the success of their earlier summer programs such as The O.C., the Fox Network decided to implement a year-round schedule, and aired the entire season, without any hiatuses, over 19 weeks - with double episodes airing twice in the first week, and again at the end of the season. Utilizing the extended planning session that this opportunity afforded the writers, they attempted to map out the season like never before, but as the season wore on, they eventually fell back to writing on an episode by episode basis, without any planning or foreknowledge.

This was particularly evident in the way the story was told. Unlike previous seasons, which all began with the discovery of the threat and went through the investigation, the containment of the threat and followed the aftermath, season four began with no one knowing what the threat was to be, and the characters - and audience - were kept in the dark for several episodes.

When the season began, every character from the first three seasons was absent except for Jack Bauer, President Keeler (Palmer's Republican opponent in season 3), and Chloe O'Brian. However, as the season went on several characters came back, including Tony Almeida (for 18 episodes), Michelle Dessler (13 episodes), Mike Novick (7 episodes), David Palmer (6 episodes), and even Mandy the assassin from seasons 1 and 2 (3 episodes).

There have been many criticisms of Season 4, including complaints regarding its disregard for the real time format (with characters getting to anywhere in Los Angeles within 10 minutes), the complete implausibility of most of the season's plotlines, and some plots which could be interpreted as a rehash of season 2, including the multiple nuclear threats, and a possible constitutional crisis due to the 25th Amendment. In addition, the show was sharply criticized for its portrayal of people of Arabic descent as terrorists, while failing to portray any such characters positively. However, positive Arab characters did appear later in the season.

Although torture, real and feigned, by both the U.S. and its opponents, has been depicted in previous seasons, there was noticeably more of it in Season 4, and the characters seemed on the whole much less disturbed by it. In the wake of the real-life Abu Ghraib scandal and similar allegations at other U.S. military facilities housing suspected terrorists, some commentators accused[1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/22/arts/television/22gree.html) the show of legitimizing the use of torture in the war on terror.

The season also played with the cast line-up in a way no previous seasons had done. The season began with Sutherland, Raver, Watson and Devane as main cast. Watson left after twelve episodes, Lana Parrilla - upgraded from recurring to main character in episode six - was gone by episode thirteen, and Roger Cross was then put into the main cast. Devane then left after episode fourteen, returning briefly later in the season. Some criticisms were levelled at the writers for removing these characters simply to bring in characters from previous seasons.

Future seasons

24 has been officially renewed for two more seasons [2] (http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/050517g.php). Season five will premiere in January 2006 and will presumably run over five months, similar to season four.

For season five, David Fury and Manny Coto are joining the crew as writers/executive producers. Kiefer Sutherland, Roger Cross and Mary-Lynn Rajskub are also rumoured to have signed on for season five.

In an interview with the cast and producers of 24 on the Charlie Rose Show it was said that the gap between seasons 4 and 5 will be shorter than the usual 18 month gap. Also, season 5 will be more directly affected by season 4 than other seasons have been by the preceding season.

Richard Marcinko, one of the founders of SEAL Team 6 and Red Cell, and novelist Vince Flynn, have been signed onto season 5 as story consultants.

Miscellaneous information

  • Alberta Watson was hired for the first season but was ill and couldn't work, so her character was recast with Tamara Tunie and renamed Alberta. Watson later joined the cast in season four.
  • DVD Seasons One through Three are available in DVD box sets, each containing all 24 episodes of a season. The DVDs present the episodes in widescreen (as it was aired on FOX's High-Definition Channel and enhanced for 16x9 TVs) and, in Seasons 2 and 3, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The DVD set for Season 1 contains an alternate ending. The DVD sets for Seasons 2 and 3 both contained featurettes and deleted scenes, and the Season 3 set contains a preview of Season Four.
  • A graphic novel based on the show and titled One Shot was published in July 2004. Its story is set prior to the first season of the show, and details Jack Bauer's first day on the job at CTU, involving debriefing a former terrorist from the IRA and later defending her life from her former associates. A second graphic novel titled 24 Stories was also published in February 2005. A third graphic novel titled Midnight Sun is due to be published in July 2005.
  • To keep viewers hooked, 24 was aired more than once a week in many countries. Most notably, the first season aired with back-to-back episodes three nights a week in Germany, making for a run of barely four weeks; and during its Australian airing, season one was shown twice a week, and season three regularly aired as double episodes.
  • For the fourth season, Fox is giving its affiliates two public service announcements that portray Muslims in a positive light, due to criticisms raised by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [3] (http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/news/bal-artslife-240114,1,6630820.story?coll=bal-entertainment-headlines&ctrack=1&cset=true)
  • A Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka Seiyaku, has started an advertising campaign for Calorie Mate; a nutrient snack bar featuring Jack Bauer. Titled "Calorie Mate x 24", the first 15 second episode aired from April 9th. 15 second and 30 second versions of episode 1 (12:00.00 - 12:00.30) can be downloaded from the Calorie Mate x 24 website (http://www.cmt24.net/cm.html).
  • In the third season, a website, (http://www.sylviaimports.com/) sylviaimports.com is given to President Palmer by Saunders, who wants Palmer to send him a list through the website. The website leads to a "Thank you"-note from the crew of 24.

Fan phone

In Episode 5 of Season 4, the cell phone of Debbie (a minor character) could be heard ringing. A close-up shot was then shown of the phone's LCD, and a real phone number (as opposed to a 555 number) was visible. Many fans noticed this and began calling the number as soon as the episode concluded, however the number led only to a voice mail box. Persistent fans soon discovered that a member of the show's crew would eventually answer and chat with you. Among those answering was Joseph Hodges, production manager of the show. If the show was shooting at the time, you could even speak to a cast member. This phone number was repeated in the episode where Jack attempts to recover the nuclear football; he gives his cell number to a man and his wife fleeing from Marwan.

In an interview on The Charlie Rose Show dated 5/20/2005, this was revealed to be an accident: the phone actually belonged to a member of the staff, and was not meant to be seen. After the episode aired and knowledge of the phone number became public, the phone was described as "always ringing". Staff members would occasionally answer to talk to fans. Due to the excessive volume of phone calls, the number was disconnected after a few months.


24 is syndicated worldwide, being broadcast in the following countries:

External links

de:24 (Serie) fr:24 heures chrono nl:24 (televisie) hu:24 (televzisorozat) ja:24 (テレビドラマ) pl:24 godziny (serial) sk:24 hodn fi:24 (televisiosarja) sv:24 (TV-serie) zh:24 (电视剧)


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