24: THE COMPLETE SERIES (2001 - 2010)
Rating: 4 on 4 / Buy the Complete Series on DVD here
Tagline: Sometimes the men sworn to keep us safe...
are the most dangerous of all.
Created by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Elisha Cuthbert, and Dennis Haysbert
THE PLAN: America (mostly just Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York City) is under attack by various terrorist cells and organizations. The Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) is America’s last line of defense against these terrorists and Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) is CTU’s finest agent. With the power of the U.S. Government behind him, Bauer (and his team) does everything he can to stop these threats against the country, saving hundreds (if not thousands) of American lives in the process. Each episode takes place in 60 minute increments. The events occur in real time.
THE KILL: Fox’s show about fighting terrorists premiered in November of 2001, just 2 months after the devastation of 9/11. Before, the show about tracking down stereotypical terrorists (Middle Eastern, Chinese, Russian...) might not have been P.C., but in the wake of the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the show was welcomed with open arms and stuck around for 9 solid years of slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am entertainment. Eight seasons later the show has (regretfully) wrapped, earning its place in Reel Action history as one of the greatest (if not, the greatest) action-packed television shows in history with one of the greatest action hero characters ever conceived in Jack f*cking Bauer.
Beyond kicking ass and fighting threats, the uniqueness of the show really comes from its most basic concept: each episode is played out in real time (including the time of commercials), so every week we see 1 actual hour in the life of Bauer and his CTU cohorts, as told through a beloved ticking digital clock that pops up sporadically through the course of each episode. The season, therefore, is 24 episodes long / 24 hours long, and thus taking place over the course of a single day. Or, as Bauer himself used to say, “… the longest day of my life.” It also happens to be the most action-packed day of anyone’s life (except for maybe John McClane), with every episode featuring an elaborate action sequence or shoot-out or race-against-the-clock moments, all of which would climax right around the top of the hour, just in time for something crazy to happen in the last few seconds, thus creating the biggest string of cliffhangers in television history.
Through all 8 seasons (or through all 8 Days, as their commonly referred to), the show can be summarized by a few talking points or common threads, of which are present in each Day in some way, shape, or fashion. Considering I’m talking about 8 full, 24 hour days of entertainment, I’m bound to miss something, but I’ll do my best:
Loyalty to One’s Country: The basis for the entire show is what essentially drives each episode: Bauer and the rest of CTU are dedicated to saving America and are extremely loyal to all that is the United States. They will follow all leads and every order as given by the U.S. President at the time based on this loyalty. If CTU agents aren’t loyal to the overall cause, that usually means they’re traitors, they’re undercover for enemy terrorists, or they don’t live long enough to see the end of the Day. It’s Jack’s loyalty to his country that essentially fuels his drive, even after it appears that the Government turns their back on him and makes him out to be the enemy (starting about Day 6). Regardless of whether CTU or the FBI gives Jack the middle finger or leaves him to rot in some Chinese death camp, Bauer will always be back to help… because of his love for his country.
Corrupt / Dirty Politicians: Because Bauer works closely with the U.S. President and the other half of the show is not on the battlefield but in the Oval Office, there’s a ton of sketchy shit going on behind the scenes, mostly fueled by dirty politicians. Money is usually the basis, but sometimes it’s their thirst for power. The series saw the first black President with President David Palmer (David Haysbert), then two white a-hole Presidents (including Powers Booth!), then the President Palmer’s brother was stepped into office, followed finally with the first female President with President Allison Taylor. Alongside each President are a number of aids and advisors, half of which are corrupt and either wanting the President to fail, Jack Bauer to fail, or for the said terrorists to win. And if all that wasn’t enough, each President’s spouse (the First Lady / the First Husband) is bat-shit crazy. So while Bauer is fighting terrorist cells and knee-deep in action, he’s also fighting with the politics taking place in Washington (or on Air Force One or in a remote underground bunker).
Redemption / Revenge: Beyond loving his country or taking orders from the President, the only other thing that could possible motivate Jack Bauer is simple: revenge. Without giving too much away, every person that Bauer cares about is eventually put in harms way, and when that happens… Jack Bauer goes apeshit. Nothing motivates a man more than revenge and there’s enough revenge going on in these 8 Days that it’s impressive how Jack can even keep it all together. So much tragedy for one man to go through and he hasn’t been committed nor does he suffer a complete and total mental breakdown. So whether its his wife and daughter who are kidnapped (Day 1), or his special lady friend is put in danger (Day 4 and Day 8), or when his dad or his brother double-cross him for money (Day 6), if you’re close to Jack’s heart, count on being put in danger… or put in a body bag.
Doing Whatever it Takes to Get the Job Done: One of Jack Bauer’s M.O.s is his ability to interrogate suspects. When the rest of the world is worried about the treatment of possible convicts, criminals, or terrorist agents, Jack Bauer doesn’t give a f*ck. He’ll scream in their faces, break an arm, break some fingers, threaten to shoot them in the face, shoot them in the arm, shoot them in the leg, or simply kill them and used their severed head as collateral to negotiate with other terrorists. It doesn’t matter if Jack knows the suspect, or if he’s slept with the suspect or is good friends with the suspect, he’ll interrogate the shit out them (preferably with the cameras in the cell turned off) to get the answers he’s looking for. And for the first 5 years, this style of interrogation was somewhat approved by his Government higher-ups, but somewhere on Day 6 they (the royal they) decided it wasn’t legal to do what Jack does, thus putting the man on trial for pushing the envelope during the first hour of Day 7.
Sacrifice: The show wouldn’t be as intense or balls-out surprising if Bauer and his co-stars weren’t all about sacrifice. Whether Jack joins the Mexican mafia to infiltrate their inner-workings, getting a forearm tattoo and becoming addicted to heroin in the process, well… that’s the sacrifice Jack’s willing to make for his job. Others have sacrificed even more (their lives) for the greater good, including former CTU director George Mason flying a detonating atomic bomb into the Californian desert; other former CTU director Ryan Chapelle ordered to be executed, albeit willingly, to stop known terrorists; CTU liaison Lynn McGill (played by that Hobbit Sean Astin) saving a building of CTU agents from nerve gas by poisoning himself in the process; Bill Buchanan using himself as a human shield for the President; and even Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) sacrifices her personal relationships with others and her father for the good of all that is CTU. The show is full of sacrifices—trust me when I say these here just scratch the surface.
Don’t F*CK with Jack Bauer: In a way, Jack Bauer is like a modern-day MacGyver… who uses guns, knives, explosives, and extreme deadly force to do his job and save American lives. After Day 1 (I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s a doozy), Bauer simply doesn’t give a f*ck about anything anymore, thus making his actions and what he’s willing to do unpredictable. The moral of each episode is simply… don’t F*CK with Jack Bauer! If you do, he will f*ck you up. He’s a fan of using deadly force and carrying out any means necessary to get the job done. He’s been tortured, beat up, shot, exposed to chemical warfare, hit by exploding shrapnel, choked, tasered, and tried for treason. But in the end, everyone who ever wronged Jack, whether in battle or on the phone in the Oval office, they wished they never f*cked with Jack Bauer by the end of the Day. His actions and overall badassness coined the phrase WWJBD? What Would Jack Bauer Do? Driving in traffic and someone cuts you off? WWJBD? He’d run the a-hole off the road, and before the guy has a chance to get out of his car, he'd smash his hand in the door repeatedly, demanding to know why he did what he did. Oh yeah… Bauer has some serious anger management issues and we love him for it.
That’s the show in a nutshell. The most action-packed, politically charged day ever (especially since no one sleeps or eats or poops during the 24 hours the show is on, yet they keep going and going and going) can be seen through each of the 8 Days (plus one made-for-TV movie entitled REDEMPTION, bridging the gap between Day 6 an Day 7) that ran over the course of 9 years. Following Bauer and his almost-iconic Bauer bag (his man-purse, if you wanna be a dick about it), the show had great recurring characters, including Chloe O’Brian (the only character besides Bauer featured in every season of the series), Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler, President Charles Logan, Mike Novak, Chase Edmonds, Audrey Raines, Renee Walker, and Nina Myers. Not to mention all the special guest stars, including Dennis Hopper, Tony Todd, C. Thomas Howell, Michael Madsen, James Cromwell, Lou Diamond Philips, Tobin Bell, Sarah Gilbert, Janeane Garafolo, John Voight, and Peter Weller (to name a few).
The series pushed the envelope every way it knew how and if you missed it, now’s the perfect chance to catch up, as 24 is a way better show to check out on DVD, as you’ll want to plow through 3-4 episodes per sitting, without commercials or other distractions getting in the way. It’s a bummer the show’s no longer on the air, but then again… you can only detonate nuclear bombs in the Los Angeles area so many times before it wears out its welcome.
Every Jack Bauer kill EVER!
TOP DEATH: This one’s a tie between the suspect Jack killed during an interrogation, then sawed off his head and used it as evidence to help infiltrate a terrorist cell, or the Russian baddie that fist-fights with Jack using wrenches and chains while kicking the shit out of each other right before Jack hangs his ass and breaks his neck. Though, most recently (Day 8), Jack gutted a dude who thought swallowing key evidence was a good idea. (see video above to see why this was a tough one)
TOP ACTION SCENE: If I had to pick just one, I’d have to go with the rescuing of the hostages at the airport on Day 4, with Jack taking out the terrorists and saving the day. Or maybe I’d have to go with later in Day 4 when Jack outruns an exploding oil refinery. Or maybe…
TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Hate to break it to everyone, but there’s not a single ounce of homoerotic in the show, unless you count Edgar Stiles, one of the tech savvy CTU agents and best friend of Chloe O’Brian (the guy's a little fruity).
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Not a whole lot (it’s TV, afterall), but Elisha Cuthbert was damn fine in every season she’s in, not to mention Annie Wersching (as Renee Walker), Reiko Aylesworth (as Michelle Dessler), or Kim Raver (Audrey Raines).
Bauer: If you don't tell me what I want to know, then it'll just be a question of how much you want it to hurt.
Bauer: The only reason that you're conscious right now is because I don't want to carry you.
Bauer: See you in hell! [right before killing someone]
DRINKING GAME: Every time Jack Bauer says “Damn It!” you have to drink. It’s an actual game… if you don’t believe, just ask Jack Bauer about it (see video below).
The 24 Drinking Game, as described by Jack Bauer himself.
TRIVIA: It’s claimed that over 25 hours of footage are edited into a single show and that cast members are required to have their hair trimmed every 5 days during the filming of each season. Also, cast members are never given a script in advance, so no one knows if they’ll live or die before shooting. Finally, I own the Jack Bauer Bag he carries around in Day 4, which makes every day a Jack Bauer day.