24 is a wicked fun card game for math nerds. It is made by Suntex International, Inc. The purpose of the game is to build math skills by making people think quickly about possible formulas.
Each card is square and has combinations of four numbers on it. The purpose is to add, subtract, multiply and/or divide the numbers in order to make the number 24. For example, if a card has the numbers 4, 4, 9 and 1 a possible solution is:
9 - 4 = 5;
5 + 1 = 6;
6 x 4 = 24.
Each card has either one white dot, two red dots, or three yellow dots in the corner to gauge the difficulty of the particular card. A white-dot card might have the combination of 6, 6, 6, and 6 (the solution being to add them together) and a yellow-dot card might have 8, 4, 6 and 2 (one of the possible solutions:
8 / 4 = 2;
2 + 2 = 4;
6 x 4 = 24;
don't be fooled into thinking it's easy; it was the first card on the stack and took me three tries. I'm out of practice.)
The game can be played by one person or by multiple people competing against each other to find the solution the fastest. In some school enrichment math programs, 24 is used as a math game and there are regional and state-level tournaments.
Players of 24 also frequently enjoy the card game Set or pursue childhood pastimes such as Science Olympiads or Odyssey of the Mind.
Action/drama series that's been touted as the best new show on American television for the 2001-2002 season. 24 takes place in a single day, midnight to midnight: one hour per episode, 24 episodes, with all the action taking place real-time. High concept.

The show's barely begun as of this w/u, but here's the gist: counterterrorism specialist Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) has been called upon to stop an assassination attempt against a presidential candidate -- not just any candidate, but the first African-American with a real shot at the White House. Bauer's briefing is short and disturbing: The assassin, hired by persons unknown, is arriving in Los Angeles that day; the hit is going down sometime in the next 24 hours; and the bad guys are probably getting help from inside the agency. Trust no one. Separately, Jack's teenage daughter has snuck out to do some partying, and is apparently being kidnapped by some-or-other evil faction that has it in for Jack.

Overall, the plot promises to be a nice twisty X-Files-style conspiracy, only with a real ending!

Now, obviously they needed to create multiple overlapping storylines. Because what you want to avoid with a real-time show is this:

JACK: We gotta get there before the assassin does. How long a drive is it?

OTHER GUY: About an hour.

JACK: Great. Let's get going.

(They drive for an hour. FADE TO BLACK.)

To that end, we've got these subplots: David Palmer, the candidate, has some horrible secret (possibly untrue) that's about to come out in the press today; the agency's expert who was sent to help Jack is clearly lying to him; Jack uncovered a bribery scandal that's made him enemies throughout the agency; everybody in Palmer's office is/was sleeping with everybody else. Oh, and: It appears the assassin is a gorgeous female daredevil who's extremely intelligent and speaks perfect English (she may be American).

It looks like they'll be using split-screen sequences to trace the overlapping action from time to time -- these were used poorly in the first episode, where not much really happened, but they could be exciting as the plots take shape.

As for that first episode -- truth be told, I didn't like it. I suppose it was engrossing enough, but Sutherland spent about half the show sitting in his office next to a tranquilized guy. His daughter, in the throes of being unknowingly kidnapped, spent the entire episode drinking and necking with a new friend -- yawn.

But overall, I'm hooked on the gimmick and impressed that a TV network is taking a chance on it.

There's just one problem: 24 hours is a long time, and as the first episode showed, they're not going to pack every episode with an Indiana Jones avalanche of action and reaction. This show's going to bog down at some point, I'm afraid. Plus, there's lots of TV relationship nonsense to sit through -- not that I disapprove of relationship stories, but the ones here feel recycled and contrived; in particular, the romantic triangle with Jack and his co-workers has "Widen Your Demographic" written all over it.

Finally, I'm just not that dedicated to TV -- 24 episodes of anything is too much for me to watch. Although I'm curious how realistic they'll get with the time span. I don't expect them to show bathroom breaks, but I'll be there's at least one major character who goes the entire 24 hours without eating ...

24 was created by Joel Surnow, who was a writer on Wiseguy and more significantly a producer on Nowhere Man, which had the big-conspiracy feel of 24 but without the gimmick (or the high-profile support from its network). Co-creator is Robert Cochran, who's written for La Femme Nikita and produced JAG and The Commish.

Thanks to WolfDaddy for some much-needed proofreading!

As a kind of update, I've been watching 24 for the past 22 episodes (I seem to be more of a telly addict than wedgeantilles), and as you would expect, the story seems to be on its way to winding up. Unfortunately, as I am a Brit, and the programme is shown on BBC, it lacks the commercial breaks that make each episode up to an hour. Therefore for me, each hour of Jack Bauer's time only lasts 45 minutes, which makes for some interesting questions about just what our friends at CTU (that's the counter terrorist unit to you and me) get up to in their 15 minutes off. As was predicted in the previous write-up, the plot has got bogged down a bit, as Jack Bauer's daughter has just been kidnapped for a third time as far as I can make out, and now Jack himself is in the evil clutches of Dennis Hopper, who plays the arch bad guy in the series. There seems to be some problem with having the whole Bauer family together, as at least one of them seems to be being held captive at any one time!

However, despite these criticisms, I have to say i'm hooked. The split screen, which I was skeptical of like wedgeantilles in the first episode, has proved to be a good way of keeping the sense that lots things are happening simultaneously. The fact that the BBC have taken to showing the previous 3 episodes on Saturday night every month (that's 2 hours 15 minutes of solid 24) to keep you up to date on what is happening seems to suggest that the show is a hit, and it certainly seems to be popular with everyone I talk to (apart from my mother, who claims to despise and loathe television and then watches Holby City avidly every week).

A recent interview with Kiefer Sutherland in the Radio Times raised some interesting points in my view. The first is that since the timing on this programme has to be perfect, the actors must have to do each scene in a specific time limit, and get it pretty damn close to being right (I admit, there will be some leeway given the magic that editors can do). This seems like me to be a pretty tall order, but I haven't noticed any forced lines or speeded up dialogue by the actors, which impresses me a lot. The second point is more of a question. How are they going to make a sequel that isn't exactly the same as this series? (According to Sutherland, a sequel is in the works, and it will cover another 24 hours in Jack Bauer's life. Given that the opening titles include Bauer saying "This is the longest day of my life", what will the second series include? "This is the longest day of my life - again"? 24 episodes is as long as 3 seasons of a lot of series, so maybe the makers should stop the idea here? Who knows, they might make it work again.

Anyway, even after 22 episodes, I'm still intrigued as to what will happen in the end, and my father is still convinced that Tony is a bad guy (shock horror!), so I guess we'll have to watch the last two episodes too!

Give it a try. You may like it, you may find it totally monotonous and plodding, and if you start watching it now you probably won't have a clue what's going on, but at least it's an innovative idea in the sea of American sitcoms.

My name is TallRoo and this is the longest day of my life

or

How to survive a 24 hour TV marathon


Some friends and I talked for a long time about watching all 24 episodes of 24, back to back. As rawden helpfully points out, if you take out the trailers each episode is only 45 minutes long. Rather disappointingly, this means that a 24 marathon is only actually 18 hours of televisual entertainment. To watch all 18 within one day leaves 6 hours of peeing and napping time. An excellent plan. After all, if you're going to spend 24 hours of your life watching a TV series, you might as well get it all over with in one day. It's an epic undertaking, and one which we understood would involve plenty of planning and preparation.

Stage 0: How to watch the series.

Ideally, we'd start at midnight and follow Jack Bauer's longest day in real time. Wherever the adverts pause the action you could take a break until you are in sync again. This means stopping every quarter of an hour, but only for about 5 minutes; a rather inflexible schedule. Furthermore, finishing a 24 hour TV marathon at midnight would be much more painful than finishing at say, 8 or 9 pm and getting an early night. We decided to aim to begin our marathon at about 9pm and play the episodes back-to-back, pausing to nap when we get really tired. In this manner we aimed to save up the 15 minutes worth of adverts for a few long breaks, making watching Jack's 18 hour day within 24 hours perfectly feasible.

Stage 1: Preparation

Friday. 5pm.
It's Friday, so we leave work early. Preparation begins. We hit the supermarket first. A good selection of food is important, and we realised that we'd want lots of liquid. Plenty of carbohydrates would also be important. For the three of us, we purchased

Stage 2: Set up

We pick the room in which we want to relax for the next day of our lives. The living room, with its TV, comfortable seating and ample floor space, seems to be the best bet. We set up the room for maximum comfort by turning down the lights, placing a mattress on the floor and bringing in an extra beanbag. The three of us (my wife, delFick and I) now have a wide choice of places to relax.

We unpack the shopping. The drinks go straight into the refrigerator, and most of the food is put straight onto the dining table. One long buffet seems like the best way to eat during this marathon TV session. Managing and controlling your own diet, while not easy, is a great way to stay awake. Large meals take a lot of digestion, leaving you feeling sleepy a while afterwards. Taking on small morsels whenever you feel hungry prevents this problem. With the wide variety of foods we've got, controlling our sugar levels should be easy.

Stage 3: The marathon

Friday. 8:45 pm
Press play on tape. Umm.. media player. Whatever. We set up an 18 hour playlist and 24 begins.

9:30 pm
1 episode down, 23 to go. Great stuff. I've already seen the first half of the series, so the first few hours are just a recap for me. I spend the whole episode making notes in my laptop for a review of 24, doing an episode-by-episode overview thing.

10:15
No more typing. My arms are already tired and my wrists ache. I decide it's impossible - however fun it sounds - to node for a whole day, especially on a laptop, so I give up on that project.

Saturday. 1 am
24 is most exciting. For them it's 6 am already. That's ¼ of the way though. We've just met Milo at the CTU. He's the suicide toe guy from 6 Feet Under! We're all starting to fade. I've eaten too much, so I'm bloated and sick feeling. It hasn't turned into tiredness yet, but I worry that it will do soon. The Red Bull is calling me.

3:30 am
I just finished my first can of Red Bull, but the effect was not immediate. Tiredness comes and goes. For the past hour my eyes have been closing. Dry eyes. Perhaps I need more water. I don't think I've slept, but I came pretty close. Just went outside to look at the stars. It's a clear night. The coldness was refreshing and woke me up. Perhaps the Red Bull is kicking in.

We've found we keep changing positions. After every episode it's good to stand up, walk around and sit or lay down somewhere different. We've also noticed that, as nice as Coke is, it's very sugary. Sugar crash is exactly what you don't need if you're trying to stay awake. I've moved onto cold water. Others have been sensibly using diet fizzy drinks instead.

4:45 am
The others have been snoozing for a few minutes. They've both seen this episode before, so they're not missing anything. I think it's time to pause the action at the end of this episode and have a nap.

7:45 am
We slept for 2 hours. We're still amused by how crazy our marathon is. We keep describing it as 'epic'. Having woken up and breakfasted (grapefruit). Though tired, we continue at 11am Jack Time.

10:00 am
The past 2 hours have gone by very quickly. We need to get air in our lungs, sun on our skin and infinity in the eyes. We go for a walk. The morning sunlight reduces our melatonin levels and increases our wakefulness.

1:30 pm
Lunch. Nice to eat some bread and ham. Refreshing. Not so tired now. We're now ¾ of the way through the series, and we've given up counting the number of dead people. It's becoming highly exciting and captivating.

4:30 pm
Last two episodes. Very tired now. Blinks are becoming increasingly long. We devise a 24 drinking game. Hysterical laughter at every suggestion. Not concentrating hard enough on plot. More Red Bull.

5:15 pm
Wow! End of penultimate episode. Wuh? Big twist. How does this work? What will happen? Suddenly awake and paying attention.

6:00 pm
Finish. Tired. Good series. Looking forward to the sequel. There's going to be a sequel, right? They can't just end it there.

Watching 24 within 24 hours turned out to be easy enough. You get 6 hours off after all. We actually only used about half of our allotted break time, so the next 2¾ hours we can relax, satisfied.


The 24 Drinking game

What could be harder than a 24 marathon? A 24 drinking game of course. This beats the Star Wars drinking game hands down. It's on a different scale. Even a new Star Wars drinking game, with extra rules, for all SIX episodes will not involve as much drinking as the 24 drinking game. Anyone crazy enough to undertake this should be congratulated.

Take a drink whenever...

  • you see someone using one of the following three laptops: a Thinkpad, an iMac or a Powerbook
  • someone closes a door in someone else's face
  • someone in CTU uses the word "socket"
  • Jack flips out and loses his cool
  • Nina lies
  • someone is killed. (If a plane is blown up, you only need take one drink)
  • someone, who looked liked they were dead, turns out to be alive. If later in the story, then do die, then drink again.
  • any person, place or thing is described as being "compromised"
  • someone in CTU says "line 2"
  • someone refers to 'secret' 'private' love triangle between Jack, Nina and Toni
  • someone tries to phone someone, and gets voicemail instead.
  • someone reassures someone by saying they will "get through this"
  • a character suddenly turns out to be untrustworthy and dangerous
  • a new character is introduced.. and they have an East European accent
  • someone in a governmental agency 'breaks protocol' or goes against 'procedure' (examples include but are not limited to hacking without a warrant, giving computer access to an unauthorized party, tranquilising a superior, ...)
  • you notice a continuity error
  • anyone uses the word 'patch', as in "Patch me through"
  • someone mentions "The Balkans", "Bosnia" or "Kosovo"
  • Jack says "Palm Pilot" when he means Handspring Visor
  • you see one of the characters sleep, eat or go to the toilet.
  • Jack is given, borrows, or otherwise obtains another mobile phone or ear-piece.
  • Senator Palmer's wife uses the word "election"
  • any character is handcuffed

NB: I have not attempted this game. We designed it while watching the series to keep ourselves amused. If you try it, make sure you first purchase copious quantities of alcohol. Going shopping half-way through playing this game is not advisable. You'll look like shit and you'll be very, very drunk.

Season two of 24 opens one year after the first finished. Jack Bauer is no longer with the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), and apparently spends his days growing a beard and lamenting the death of his wife last season at the hands of turncoat CTU agent (and Jack’s ex-mistress) Nina Meyers. Despite the trials and tribulations of the “Day of the California Presidential Primary,” Senator David Palmer is now President David Palmer and enjoying a morning of fishing in Oregon with his son Keith. David, we learn, is also newly divorced. Meanwhile Kim Bauer is working as a nanny employed by a wealthy LA family and thankfully no longer sports her “Mad Max” party clothes of the previous season. “SoulpatchTony Almeida and George Mason are still at CTU, surrounded by new supporting players to replace last year’s team.

We learn early on that terrorists are planning to detonate a nuclear device somewhere in Los Angeles, requiring Jack to come out of retirement and stop them. British-Saudi Reza may or may not be involved -- but his future sister-in-law Kate Warner suspects that he is. Meanwhile, David Palmer faces continued intrigue and betrayal amongst the members of his staff. And Kim Bauer discovers that her boss might not be the ideal guy she thought he was -- not only does he sexually harass Kim, we also learn that he regularly abuses his wife and daughter.

24’s second year is even better and more stressful than its first. The body count is quite high (as of this writing, Jack is personally responsible for the deaths of 37 people and 1 dog), and the dramatic tension is turned up a notch as both Nina Meyers and Sherry Palmer are both reintroduced into the mix. What’s more, the story is paced better than last year -- and there’s ample chances for the cast to change clothes (which Jack has already done at least twice). The only downside to this year’s outing is Kim’s storyline, which has little to do with the main plot, and is really quite expendable. Kate Warner is -- as of yet -- a very unappealing new character. Rumor has it that she will eventually become romantically linked to Jack -- I hope this doesn’t come to pass. Or better yet, that Kate suffers the same fate his wife did at the end of year one.

The First Season

The first season of 24 aired on Fox from November 6, 2001 to May 21, 2002. As noted above, the series was widely acclaimed during its run for providing an interesting new twist on episodic television: this drama-based program ran for twenty-four episodes, which paralleled the twenty-four hours in a rather intense day in the life of Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland), who is head of the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit which becomes aware of an assassination attempt on Senator David Palmer, the first African-American to be a serious contender for the United States presidency.

Cast
The cast for the first season is listed below, in alphabetical order by character:
Carlos Bernard portrays Tony Almeida
Elisha Cuthbert portrays Kim Bauer
Kiefer Sutherland portrays Jack Bauer
Leslie Hope (I) portrays Teri Bauer
Tanya Wright portrays Patty Brooks
Paul Schulze portrays Ryan Chappelle
Currie Graham portrays Ted Cofell
Misha Collins portrays Alexis Drazen
Zeljko Ivanek portrays Andre Drazen
Dennis Hopper portrays Victor Drazen
Karina Arroyave portrays Jamey Farrell
Michael Massee portrays Ira Gaines
Tamara Tunie portrays Alberta Green
Xander Berkeley portrays George Mason
Sarah Clarke portrays Nina Myers
Kara Zediker portrays Elizabeth Nash
Jude Ciccolella portrays Mike Novick
Dennis Haysbert portrays David Palmer
Vicellous Reon Shannon portrays Keith Palmer
Megalyn Echikunwoke portrays Nicole Palmer
Penny Johnson portrays Sherry Palmer
David Franco portrays Philip Parslow
Eric Balfour portrays Milo Pressman
Sara Gilbert portrays Paula Schaeffer
Zach Grenier portrays Carl Webb
Richard Burgi portrays Alan York

Episode Synopses
Here's a brief, largely spoiler-free list of episode synopses for those interested.

12:00 AM - 1:00 AM
Written by Robert Cochran & Joel Surnow
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on November 6, 2001

The day starts off normally for Jack Bauer and his family, with Jack and his daughter Kimberly Bauer playing a game and Kimberly going to bed. However, Jack takes a peek into Kimberly's room and discovers the window open and Kimberly nowhere to be found. As he gets ready to go out looking for her, though, he's called into work: the CIA's Los Angeles Counter-Terrorism Unit. Once there, he's told that an assassination attempt will be made in the next twenty-four hours on the life of presidential candidate David Palmer and it's up to him and his team to keep Palmer alive. Meanwhile, Teri Bauer (Jack's wife) sets out to look for Kimberly.


1:00 AM - 2:00 AM
Written by Michael Loceff & Joel Surnow
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on November 13, 2001

Teri receives a phone call from Alan York, who tells her that his daughter, Janet, is a friend of Kimberly's and that Janet is also missing; Teri and Alan spend much of the episode working together to try to find the two girls. At the Counter-Terrorism Unit, Jack is given a key card (under some weird circumstances) with encrypted data on it about the Palmer assassination that seems to indicate that there is a dirty agent in the CTU. Also, a Boeing 747 is blown up over the Mojave Desert under mysterious circumstances.


2:00 AM - 3:00 AM
Written by Michael Loceff & Joel Surnow
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on November 20, 2001

Kimberly and Janet realize that their two dates are actually their kidnappers, so they try to think of a way to get out of the situation. Meanwhile, Senator Palmer, ignoring the threat on his life at the moment, sneaks out of his hotel to meet with a newspaper reporter who claims to have devastating information that could damage Palmer's presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Jack has Jamey Farrell (one of his team member) decrypt the information from the key card, while Jack starts to act a bit erratic.


3:00 AM - 4:00 AM
Written by Robert Cochran
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Originally aired on Fox on November 27, 2001

One of the members of Jack's team, Tony Almeida, becomes convinced that Jack needs to be relieved of command, so he calls a higher-up in the CIA, George Mason, who comes in and locks down the CTU. However, with the help of his second-in-command, Nina Myers, Jack is able to escape from the CTU and heads to an address that was obtained from the encrypted information on the keycard. When he arrives at the address, a shooter is waiting, who seems to hint that the kidnapping of Jack's daughter Kim is just a small part in a much bigger plan. At the same time, the two boys deliver Kim to a man named Ira Gaines after discarding Janet.


4:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Written by Chip Johannsen
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Originally aired on Fox on December 11, 2001

Jack follows the shooter to the police station following the shooter's arrest in order to interrogate him, but when Jack gets to the station, he finds out that Mason has already taken over the situation. However, the shooter, when interrogated by Mason's men, refuses to speak to anyone but Jack, but Mason refuses to allow the two of them to speak to each other. Jack comes up with a plan to break the shooter out of jail so that he can find out who kidnapped Kim. Meanwhile, Senator Palmer finds out more about the potential information leak that could destroy his campaign.


5:00 AM - 6:00 AM
Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by Bryan Spicer
Originally aired on Fox on December 18, 2001

After receiving a call from his wife, Jack meets Teri and Alan York at the hospital where Janet has been admitted. However, the reunion is interrupted when Ira Gaines calls him, telling Jack to follow his instructions if he hever wants to see his daughter again. Meanwhile, a dead body found in a car trunk is identified as Alan York, so when Nina calls Teri and asks her to relay this information to Jack, Teri realizes that the person she's with is not the real Alan York and that she is also likely in danger.


6:00 AM - 7:00 AM
Written by Andrea Newman
Directed by Bryan Spicer
Originally aired on Fox on January 8, 2002

It turns out that Jack has been under constant surveillance from Gaines for quite a while. Jack goes back to the CTU where Nina, seemingly by accident, gets in the way of Gaines' plans. Meanwhile, Teri tries to escape from "Alan York," but when she calls the CTU, more help shows up for "York," lending creedence to the idea that someone in the CTU is a rogue agent. Meanwhile, Senator Palmer and his family have a meeting, where they discuss telling the press about a secret tragedy from their past before its too late and the story destroys his chances at the presidency.


7:00 AM - 8:00 AM
Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on January 15, 2002

In exchange for his wife and daughter, Irv Gaines orders Jack to deliver a briefcase to a man at Senator Palmer's rally. Realizing that this briefcase is likely an assassin's weapon and that he would be delivering the weapon of choice right into the assassin's hands, Jack tries to find a way to protect both Senator Palmer and hs family. Meanwhile, Nina and Tony back at the CTU believe that they have determined who the traitor within their organization is.


8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Written by Virgil Williams
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on January 22, 2002

Although he manages to prevent the assassination attempt on Senator Palmer, Jack is arrested and taken to police headquarters, where he tells them of the kidnapping of his wife and daughter. The police don't believe the story. Realizing that his family will only be kept alive if he is able to do what Gaines orders him to do, Jack decides that he must escape from the police station. Meanwhile, back at Gaines' headquarters, Teri and Kim both struggle to stay alive, while at the CTU the "traitor" reveals that the whole unit has been wired so that Gaines can keep an eye on their every move.


9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Written by Larry Hertzog
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Originally aired on Fox on February 5, 2002

The episode begins with a new boss (Alberta Green) taking over the CTU. Even with this change in direction, Nina secretly continues to help Jack locate Teri and Kim while Jack looks for Ted Cofell, an investment banker whose name was mentioned in the decrypted information from the keycard. Back at Senator Palmer's hotel, he discovers to his amazement that one of his associates may be willing to kill in order to protect Palmer's campaign from being destroyed.


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Written by Robert Cochran
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Originally aired on Fox on February 12, 2002

A man named Andre Drazen contacts Ira Gaines. Andre is clearly disappointed that the morning's events did not go as planned, and he threatens to "relieve" Gaines of his assignment if things don't quickly begin to improve. Meanwhile, Jack kidnaps the heavily-accented "Ted Cofell" and, upon hearing the accent, has Nina break into an old case file that details a secret mission that Jack was on in Belgrade and Kosovo in 1999. Then Jack meets Cofell's contact: the bogus "Alan York."


11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on February 19, 2002

Alberta Green, the new head of the CTU, pressures Nina and Tony into revealing Jack's whereabouts. At the same time, "Alan York" leads Jack to Ira Gaines' compound, where Jack attempts to rescue Kim and Teri without CTU backup, because of his suspicions of a conspiracy there. Meanwhile, Senator Palmer's plan to prevent a murder involving his own staff fails and he begins to suspect that his wife, Sherry Palmer, may be involved in the conspiracy.


12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Written by Andrea Newman
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on February 26, 2002

The show begins with a confrontation between Jack and Ira Gaines. Gaines realizes that he has failed the orders of Andre Drazen and chooses death over helpling Jack in any way. Meanwhile, Nina and Tony interrogate the traitor's mother and learn of a secret bank account containing deposits from Belgrade, as well as hints of additional assassins on their way to Los Angeles to ensure that Palmer is finished off.


1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Written by Michael Loceff & Joel Surnow
Directed by Jon Cassar
Originally aired on Fox on March 5, 2002

Jack heads back to the CTU for debriefing while Teri and Kim are taken to the clinic to be examined for their injuries. Meanwhile, Senator Palmer finally acts on the fact that the name Jack Bauer is very familiar to him. When Palmer discovers that Jack was the only survivor of a scret mission to Kosovo that Palmer authorized years ago, the senator becomes convinced that Jack is out for revenge and insists on talking to Jack face to face.
This was the episode that irrevocably hooked me for the remainder of the series.


2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Written by Michael Chermuchin
Directed by Jon Cassar
Originally aired on Fox on March 12, 2002

After a rather heated confrontation, Jack finally convinces Palmer that he is not out to kill him, the two of them review the file from the Kosovo mission. The mission's goal was to kill a man named Victor Drazen, and a rather surprising section of the file convinces both Jack and the senator that they are both being targeted by the assassins. Meanwhile, a scare at the clinic results in both Teri and Kim being taken away to a "safe house."


3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on March 19, 2002

Jack discovers that one of the assassins, Alexis Mecir, is actually the son of Victor Drazen, Alexis Drazen, and has become intimate with one of Palmer's aides. In an attempt to find out who the man is that is ordering the assassinations, the aide agrees to plant a tracking device in Alexis' wallet. Meanwhile at the safe house, Teri and Kim overhear some communication that reveals to them that their location is no longer secret or safe.


4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Written by Michael Chermuchin
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on March 26, 2002

During their attempted escape from the "safe house," Teri and Kim are separated. While wandering about looking for Kim, Teri becomes overwhelmed with stress and exhaustion and passes out, bumping her head. When she reawakens, she's badly disoriented and confused. Kim assumes her mother has been kidnapped again, and so Kim begins to conduct her own search for information about her mother's abductors. Meanwhile, the plan to track Alexis goes badly awry, and so Jack pretends to be Alexis and goes to a planned rendezvous with one of Alexis' contacts.


5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Written by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Frederick K. Keller
Originally aired on Fox on April 2, 2002

Against the wishes of his family, Palmer decides to go public about the secret scandal that involves his family. We are also introduced to Alexis' brother, Andre Drazen, who seems to be in charge of the plot as he sends an assassin to the Bauer house in hopes of finding and taking out Teri and Kim. Meanwhile, a confused and frightened Teri meets Dr. Philip Parslow, a man who claims that he and Teri are good friends. Unaware of the danger that Teri is in, he gives her a ride home.


6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Frederick K. Keller
Originally aired on Fox on April 9, 2002

The contact that Jack meets turns out to be an employee of the power company who was being paid to shut off the electricity to a power grid. When Jack traces down this grid, it turns out that it is merely an empty field. Jack and Mason decide to work together to figure out what is going on with this lead. At the same time, Kim winds up being arrested during her search for information, and Palmer's press conference gets underway, where the secret he reveals could land his own son in jail.


7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on April 16, 2002

Jack discovers that the empty field where the power grid is located is actually an underground government prison and that the night's scheduled arrival is none other than Victor Drazen, the man Jack was sent to kill in Kosovo (and believed that he did kill). Now, Jack is convinced that Andre and Alexis are going to attempt to break their father out of prison. Meanwhile, Kim tries to convince the police to call the CTU so things can be straightened out.


8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Written by Michael Loceff & Joel Surnow
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on April 23, 2002

Jack's suspicions from earlier are shown to be true when Andre Drazen breaks into the underground facility to rescue his father. When Jack attempts to stop this, Victor captures Jack and places a call to the CTU. Mason answers, and informs Victor that he doesn't negotiate with terrorists. When it appears as though Victor is about to kill him, Jack buys a bit of time by telling Victor that his son Alexis is still alive. Meanwhile, the police seemingly release Kim, but when she tries to reach the CTU, she is kidnapped again.


9:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Written by Michael Loceff & Joel Surnow
Directed by Paul Shapiro
Originally aired on Fox on May 7, 2002

Jack has Nina connect Victor Drazen to the hospital room of his son Alexis; now that she knows the situation, she informs Palmer of the latest events. Palmer urges Mason to make the exchange that Victor proposed: Jack for Alexis. Although Alexis is delivered, Victor reveals that he has one final card in his hand: Kim, and if Jack doesn't do one final thing, then he will never see his daughter again.


10:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Paul Shapiro
Originally aired on Fox on May 14, 2002

Jack arrives at Palmer's hotel with a phone on which Victor will call and ask Palmer to unfreeze $200 million of his assets. When Palmer tells Jack that Victor knows that this is impossible, Jack grabs the phone and throws it off the balcony; the phone explodes a couple of seconds later. Realizing that Drazen will never give up until both Palmer and Jack are dead, Jack suggests having the media report that Palmer died in the explosion, leaving Jack to offer himself up in exchange for Kim.


11:00 PM - 12:00 AM
Written by Joel Surnow, Michael Loceff, Robert Cochran, and Howard Gordon
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Originally aired on Fox on May 21, 2002

Hmm... how to synopse this one spoiler free...
When Jack arrives at Drazen's location, he calls and asks to speak to Kim. Andre angrily refuses and says that they know that Palmer is not really dead. Stunned, Jack hangs up and calls Nina, letting her know that there is still a traitor inside of CTU. Nina then calls back with tragic news, and with that in hand, Jack formulates a plan.

Innovations
This series features a number of innovations that are noteworthy, but two innovations truly stand out above the rest.

The first is the nature of the program itself, in that it shows twenty four hours of a person's life in more or less real time, along with the intertwining threads around it. Thus, at least for the central character, a strong and deep characterization occurs.

The second is more in terms of cinematic techniques. During many of the episodes, a split-screen is used to show two parallel threads of activity occurring at the same time, which in many cases do not directly overlap. This is a great technique that provides a much greater sense of a "real-time" progression of events.

Availability
The first season of 24 is available on DVD at most major retail outlets for a price less than $50 US. For those interested in region markings, I have been able to verify its availability in Region 1 and Region 2 at least, which means most of the English-speaking world should have little difficulty finding a version that they can watch.

Is it worth picking up? Well, if the concept of the series is intriguing to you at all, then it likely is; it far exceeded my expectations.

24 is an action/drama show broadcast on Fox. The main concept/principle/hook/gimmick of the show is that events shown occur in real time - the events of a one-hour episode (which usually boils down to roughly 45 minutes after commercial breaks) are supposed to take place in a real time hour. A given season of 24 consists of 24 one-hour episodes, taking place consecutively.

The show loosely focuses on a federal agent named Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland), who works at the Los Angeles branch of a fictional U.S. government agency called the Counter-Terrorist Unit (CTU).

Against scenarios of progressively more severe terrorist threats against America and (less frequently) specific Americans, Jack, aided by a large number of other principal characters including his superiors and subordinates at CTU, races against time (and any number of other factors, but mostly time) to avert disaster and root out the invariably many-tentacled and near-omnipotent heirarchy of increasingly sinister terrorist leaders responsible. The result is a show constructed from action, drama, tension, gunfights, explosions, espionage, gob-smacking plot twists and deaths of major characters, though rather less in-depth political commentary or ethical debate than you might imagine.

Style

The real star of the show is - or should be - the clock, a big yellow digital readout which appears before and after each ad break, counting off the seconds with its trademark tick. (Actual clocks and watches are surprisingly few and far between in the programme itself, probably due to the continuity hazards they present.) If somebody says the strike team will take four minutes to arrive at their destination, they'll be there after the next ad break. If the bomb is set to go off at 9:30am, you can bet it'll go off halfway through episode ten/two/twenty-one/whatever.

Another motif is the split screen. At any given moment there are typically three to five smaller interrelated story arcs in progress, so before and after ad breaks, and at the end of an episode, each of these is displayed in its own smaller window just to remind viewers of everything that's going on at the same time. These are also used during telephone conversations, and for dramatic effect during key scenes.

24 is perhaps most (in)famous for its plot twists. There are many of these, large and small, but the most dramatic ones usually occur just before an hour mark, so as to provide plenty of suspense for the next episode. A good guy turns out to be a bad guy, or someone is ambushed or kidnapped or killed, or CTU's only lead in the investigation is blown up in the faces of the pursuing agents, that sort of thing. These twists provide IMMENSE spoiler potential while at the same time being critical to the plot - making it near-impossible to provide episode-by-episode or even season-by-season synopses in any detail without ruining something major.

This also makes it very difficult to provide background info on the major characters - or even the seasons in which they appear - without giving certain facts away. Turnover is high. Nobody, not even a major, season-spanning character, is safe.

Opinion

In its first season, 24 was one of the best shows I'd seen in a very long time. The relentless pace, endlessly ticking clock and the aforementioned plot twists led to a show where pretty much every episode left me desperate to find out what happened in the next one, and the final episode lived up to all expectations.

I started getting tired of 24 around the start of season 2, when we had

  • A-plot: There's a nuclear device under terrorist control somewhere on American soil!
  • B-plot: Jack's daughter is being chased by some guy.

I really wanted to quit, however, around the end of season 3, when the present head of CTU, that means "Counter Terrorist Unit", lest we forget - starts negotiating with a terrorist. Plot twists in the third season stretched suspension of disbelief to breaking point, and gaping plot holes, pointless story arcs and flailing, untied plot threads abounded, but that moment stands out for me.

Unfortunately it took me until a few episodes into season 5 to quit entirely.

The real time aspect ceased to have any kind of real bearing on events in the show somewhere around the middle of the first season. Nobody sleeps. Nobody eats. Nobody goes to the toilet. There are no shift changes at CTU - which appears to have roughly four employees who do all the work. Everybody seems to run for a straight twenty-four hours on pure adrenaline. But the real kicker is that nobody even mentions this. Nobody complains about missed meals. Nobody yawns. All of these subtract from the basic realism of the show, the whole point of which is everything occurs in real time. Without basic pointers as to what time it is, and how people are reacting to being up so early/called in so late, the real time element is negated, and so is the entire point, the reason for being of the show. It's just an action movie with a clock, a clock which the writers continuously treat as an obstacle rather than an asset.

In addition, it is a bad action movie. It is not boring, but it is stupid, sometimes offensively so. 24 is supposed to be edgy and relevant and a lot of people interpret it as such, but it is not a show set in the real world. It is set in a crazy fantasy world where enemies of America lurk in every dark shadow and can get hold of nukes at fifteen minutes' notice, you can get away with torture and murder if you do it patriotically enough, and everybody goes around and around and around explaining the same things to each other over and over again and asking each other suspiciously "What are you doing?" Jack Bauer is treated as a hero, but time and again he proves himself to be no better than the terrorist he fights. And this issue, like all the other really interesting issues, never gets touched upon.

It is possible to analyse the show, look for deeper lessons, choose to take it as cautionary example, as modern fable, or whatever, but if nothing in the show itself hints at any such greater depth, aren't we just finding meaning in vacuum? 24 could be so good. It could be exciting political commentary AND nerve-shredding adrenaline at the same time. But it's neither. It's an endless, pointlessly over-the-top MacGuffin hunt which lacks realistic dialogue, human drama, believable characters, credible threats, ethics, story planning, plot cohesion and continuity. It is a show which punishes the viewer for paying attention and knowing things about reality.

It is okay for a show to be like this. It is okay for a show to be shallow and gratuitous.

What angers me is the number of people who take the lessons of 24 at face value.


Sources:
The Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/title/tt0285331/
Fox's official 24 website: http://www.fox.com/24/
tvtome.com: http://tvtome.com/24/index.html

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