24 is on my short list of all-time favorite shows. There’s few greater small screen joys for me more exciting then settling down for a 24 binge session. But Season 1 was horrifically spoiled for me thanks to me deciding to wait for the DVD and overeager FOX commercials ruining the big season twist in a promo for a Season 2 episode.
So as much I loved it, Season 1 lacked a lot of impact for me. My wife was game to watch it after literal years of me trying to convince her she’d love it. Years away from watching Season 1 and the taint of the spoiler long gone, I was able to watch it with (nearly) fresh eyes. And without remembering every single twist and turn, this was an even better series debut than I remembered.
24 Season 1 is one of the few series that didn’t have to stumble along in finding its way. The show was a fully-formed, crazy addictive adrenaline rush right from the start and it doesn’t let up until the final minutes of the 24th hour.
24 benefited from being a timely series. In the wake of 9/11, there was this sense of hopelessness. That we were vulnerable whenever threats intended to do harm to America. Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer represented that defender of the gates screaming at any terrorists ‘not on my watch!’ ready to take out any and every threat to our borders. Jack made for a perfect action hero in the post-9/11 world.
But it wasn’t just stopping a terrorist threat on presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) that made 24 Season 1 click. It was Jack constantly having to worry about a mole in his Counter Terrorist Unit — an increasingly more unnerving and twist-filled subplot — and the unwelcome distraction of his wife, Terri (Leslie Hope) frantically searching for their missing daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), who got in way over her head in a night of partying.
There was a welcome sense of real life here. Jack was every bit as formidable as Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt or James Bond, but he had very real, equally important concerns when he was off the clock. Sutherland was born to play this role. He’d always been a quality actor, but this was his big moment. And he completely ensured he’d never be second fiddle again.
Sure, Terri and Kim’s exploits began to get frustrated after a while. For the most part, Kim’s idiotic decisions can be chalked up to being a stupid, know-it-all teenager. Terri fared better, but she saddled with the most eye-rolling soap opera moment of the season.
Jack’s professional life was also amazingly complex and throughout the season we got a look at government maneuvering and inefficiency in action. Sarah Clarke and Carlos Bernard were outstanding as Jack’s closest CTU allies Nina and Tony while Xander Berkeley was hilarious as Jack’s gruff supervisor George Mason.
Season 1 also benefited from a powerful subplot involving Palmer and the splintering of his family in the wake of hidden truths finally being revealed. Haysbert and co-star Penny Johnson Jerald played off each terrifically as a husband and wife realizing they hardly know each other. Long before 2008 when a black president seemed too far out for even most movies, 24 made a powerful statement. I seriously doubted we’d ever see a black president and just assumed David Palmer would hold a special place in my heart as the ideal of something that would never come to reality.
Another notable element of Season 1 was the impressive commitment to diversity. Jack’s world wasn’t extensively populated by various shades of white guys. The show runners made a commendable attempt to display a more multi-cultural world than what had been the norm on TV during that era.
The writing was largely very intelligent with the bad guys exhibiting smarter than average decisions. I loved the setup of the first half big bad (Michael Massee, Richard Burgi) before escalating to the far more dangerous real villains (Zeljko Ivanek and spoiler redacted).
All those assets make 24 a great show, but what really set it apart was its ingenious real time storytelling format. The artistic and creative layout of the window panels peering in on the various characters was a clever manner to check in on everyone at any time. It also made for a more dynamic presentation as the viewers’ perspective wasn’t fixed on one character at a time. Wide, sweeping shots of the various locations also helped foster a sense of a larger, less controllable arena for Jack.
That technique made something as simple as a phone call a tension-filled, nerve-wracking moment. Sean Callery’s outstanding score also proved invaluable in ratcheting up the tension of every scene.
While it would continue to evolve, 24 was already a superior series with a unique gimmick, outstanding ensemble, unflinching action and unpredictable writing. Season 1 sets the series up for bigger and better but sets the bar decidedly high.
Rating: 9.4 out of 10
Photo Credit: FOX
Season 1 Worst Moment:
Terri loses it (literally) while Kim gets in trouble again chasing after Rick [Hour 6 to 7 p.m.]
Season 1 Best Moment:
David has enough of Sheri while Jack deals with the Drazens and the CTU traitor, but not without a cost [Hour 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.]
It’s weird watching 24 now and seeing stars from other shows making random cameos. Test your 24 trivia knowledge and impress your friends.
Which Young Guns co-star made a special guest appearance in Season 1
- Dermont Mulroney
- Emilio Estevez
- Lou Diamond Phillips
- Christian Slater
This NCIS star helped Terri out when she was in a bad spot:
- David McCallum
- Michael Weatherly
- Cato de Pablo
- Pauley Perrette
Which Arrow guest star played a pivotal role?
- Caity Lotz
- Megalyn Echikunwoke
- Jessica De Gouw
- Kelly Hu
This Supernatural regular played a heartbreaking heartthrob:
- Jared Padalecki
- Jensen Ackles
- Misha Collins
- Mark Pellegrino
Ok, let’s talk spoilers real quick:
Seriously, here come the spoilers…
I knew going in Teri was going to get killed. Thanks FOX. With that mindset, I didn’t bother getting attached to her. Re-watching it now, I really came to appreciate Hope’s performance and Terri’s journey throughout the season. She wasn’t some panicky damsel in distress. Sure, she was out of her element, but Terri continually evolved as the season played out. That amnesia bit was incredibly silly, but Teri proved very resourceful. This time, losing Terri had a much greater impact. It definitely helped instill that no one is safe dynamic, but it was an incredibly ballsy move.
Ditto for outing Nina as the traitor early on. Not only did Nina fool Jack, but she conned the rest of the audience into writing off her suspicious activity as just looking out for her buddy. Instead of clearing a path for the Drazens to get their revenge. Dennis Hopper might have played Victor Drazen a bit too hammy, but he made for a legit final boss.