It’s difficult to review a season collection of 24. While the show draws in a massive audience each week, all eager to see the new adventures of Jack Bauer, there is a large chunk of fans that wait for the DVD release to view the series. So, where a synopsis and detailed thoughts on the season would usual go, you can’t really do that without ruining everything for people who waited so long for the newest season to hit DVD.
There are only a few aspects I can really discuss without giving away the entire season, despite all the twists and turns later down the road. If I went into detail about even the first half of the season premiere, there’s a pile of spoilers just waiting for those not wanting to know. So, without giving too much away, Jack Bauer discovers that he has been framed for murder and is now on the run. If I remember correctly, the tagline for last season was “The Most Wanted Man in America” (or something along those lines). At the same time, he has to stop Russian terrorists from unleashing nerve gas in Los Angeles. The closer he gets to the truth, the deeper he finds this conspiracy goes.
This is the season that finally won the show its’ much deserved Emmy. Many feared the show slipped in recent years, with the third season arguably being the worst of the bunch. This is the season that not only managed to push in more intensity and drama, but produced a powerhouse cast. The most notable has to be, no question about it, Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin as the current First Family of America. It’s no wonder those two in particular managed to garner critical acclaim and Emmy nominations for just astonishing performances. Itzin in particular managed to create a startling and disgusting character over the twenty-four hour span of the series. His multi-layered role was astounding, and Smart’s tragic and aggressive First Lady is something to behold. Don’t be thrown off by the first couple episodes of the season. Once the plot really gets underway, this couple is irresistible to watch.
While finding new ways to keep the formula fresh after five years, 24 sticks to the real-time formatted it has perfected so well. Yes, there are instances where it’s really stretched (and it’s amazing how everything that happens in Los Angeles happens anywhere from ten to sixty minutes from CTU), but you get so engrossed in the series that it becomes easy to suspend disbelief. Although, and while not giving anything away, I had a hard time stomaching that the last ten minutes of the season, and what transpires, actually took place in ten minutes. I had the same problem with season four’s finale. What sells the show are the solid performances across the board. I can think of rarely a weak link in the series. Sutherland, in the best roll of his career, managed to add more intensity and complexities to roll every season, adding more crushing weight to Jack Bauer’s shoulders.
The show, after five seasons, still managed to throw surprised at every corner. You can never be too sure about the fate of a character, no matter how established they may be in the show’s lexicon. There’s always that knife dangling over every single one of them, even Jack Bauer. You can just never be too sure of a character’s fate, I find, especially in this series, and that helps in keeping the shocks and surprises coming. Add in a tight script (despite the leaps in logic), superb acting, and wall to wall action, there’s always something new that 24 brings to the table, and season five is no exception.
As great as the show is to watch in the weekly serial format, being able to watch the show in a solid stretch is a blast. Sure, the cliffhangers become less of a jaw-dropper usually, knowing we don’t have to wait a week for the resolution, but being able to watch a quarter of a day at a time is simply spectacular. I still get a thrill out of watching it every week but I love being able to soak up every plot detail when it hits DVD. The show truly compliments both formats.
And, as usual, 24 excels on DVD. After a barebones release of the first season, rushed out in time for the second season, each DVD release has stepped up in terms of quality in both presentation and audio/visuals. And, a first for the series, 24 has adopted the slim case packaging, abandoning the clunky digipak style. The entire season is housed within four slipcases. Each case, save for the special features, houses two discs in each, collecting all seven discs in the set.
24 is presented in 1.87:1 anamorphic widescreen, adding to the theatrical feel of the series. While there is some of the usual grain, the detail and sharp quality of the video remain. It’s not a perfect picture, but that in itself adds to the overall design and feel of the series. With a solid 5.1 audio soundtrack, everything sounds crisp and clear. Whether it’s a dialogue driven moment or an action sequence, everything sounds dynamic and crystal clear. The show manages to find a perfect balance between the film-created sounds and the excellent score.
The extras are plentiful here, with the series once again providing us with a heaping helping of bonus materials. Commentaries cover half the series, and are listed below:
-7:00am-8:00am – Kiefer Sutherland & director Jon Cassar; and Jon Cassar & producer Howard Gordon
-10:00am-11:00am – Jon Cassar & Howard Gordon
-12:00pm-1:00pm – Producer David Fury & John Allen Nelson (Walt Cummings)
-2:00pm-3:00pm – Writer/producer Evan Katz & director Brad Turner
-3:00pm-4:00pm – Producer Tim Iacofano & Julian Sands
-4:00pm-5:00pm – Jean Smart & Greg Itzin
-5:00pm-6:00pm – Writer Nicole Ranadive, script supervisors Matt Michnovetz and Duppy Demetrius
-9:00pm-10:00pm – Jon Cassar & production designer Joseph Hodges
-12:00am-1:00am – Howard Gordon & Mary Lynn Rajskub
-3:00am-4:00am – Writer Manny Coto & Jude Ciccollela (Mike Novick)
-6:00am-7:00am – Executive producer Bob Cochran & Greg Itzin
Overall, the commentary tracks are solid. There are quiet moments and sometimes the participants have to be coaxed to talk, but it’s a solid collection. As can be expected, Kiefer Sutherland isn’t exactly a chatterbox, but other participants usually help to pick up the slack. The tracks aren’t dripping with juicy tidbits and behind the scenes detail, but they do provide some insightful information on the basic day to day operations of the series. They discuss particular scenes, working with other actors, production designs, shooting on various locations, and the occasional interesting tidbit. If anything, it provides a real “job” approach to the series and how the actors and crew handle it.
A short prequel for the upcoming sixth season is provided and, given the context of the prequel, I’m not sure how relevant it will be to the upcoming season. If it’s building on a plot point to be later explored or if it’s just a random tale of Jack’s current situation, then it doesn’t add much. And the blatant showboating for Toyota sticks out like a sore thumb. Not as good as last year’s prequel, but not a wasted ten minutes by any means. A short trailer for the next season (where’s the long six minute-ish trailer?) is also included.
The main extra on this season collection is the “Unsung Heroes” documentary, which provides a step-by-step exploration of their crew’s work on the set. It dives into the show’s cinematography, the choices the make, and how even the slightest different angle or approach can radically alter a scene. It’s also fascinating to see how risky it actually is to work on this set, as a lot of the crew wear protective garb during the more intense action sequences.
Other extras include a featurette on the construction of President Logan’s retreat, a great look at the extraordinary music made for the show, a promo for the upcoming behind-the scenes book, and a look at the past 100 episodes of the series that fans should find fun. It’s amazing to see just how the cast has evolved over the past five years. There’s also a selection of deleted scenes that are accessible on this disc or spread out through the episodes they were culled from. Most are cut for sensible reasons while others would have been nice add-ons to the season. It’s a pretty well-rounded and quite complete set.
Like with most of the previous collections, Fox has released another stellar DVD set for 24. Fans of the show will no doubt be pleased. Arguably one of the best shows on television, this show has received top-notch treatment from Fox’s Home Video Department. The presentation of the episodes, the packaging itself, and the extras are very hard to pass up. It’s no wonder Fox is basically leading the way in collected television sets. In fear of being interrogated by Jack Bauer, this set comes Highly Recommend (hell, I’d give it that recommendation regardless!).
Originally posted on DVD Discussion forum in December of 2006.