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!