24 has been one of television’s most riveting shows for the past five years. I say this knowing full well that I’m extremely biased as I own the Jack Bauer action figure and am typing this in my “Jack Bauer for President” t-shirt. Still, the praise is warranted, regardless of my obsessive nature concerning the show. Don’t just ask me—there are millions of fans of the show, which is returning sometime in 2008 with a seventh season, and while the show has took a nosedive in terms of quality in this sixth season, it’s remarkable to note that even on 24’s worst days it obliterates the competition that surrounds it. The series simply set the quality bar for itself in the first and fifth seasons that it is unlikely it’ll ever meet it again—although the upcoming seventh season, whenever it airs, looks to be a thrillride for the first few episodes, at least.
In 24’s sixth season, we see the release of Jack Bauer, a prisoner of China for twenty months and subjected to countless days worth of torture and mind games. While it’s questioned whether the Chinese got anything out of Bauer with their with him, the United States had no choice but to barter for his life when a nuclear attack threatened the United States from a terrorist that Bauer once knew. Even with Bauer out and working for the U.S. government, the United States experiences some of the worst twenty-four hours in its history, with a nuclear bomb going off only four hours into Bauer’s working for CTU again.
There were several things about the sixth season of 24 I had issues with, although in retrospect they seem to stem from me wanting too much from the show after the previous season, which was undeniably one of its strongest. The main problem that the sixth season suffered from was the strong opening—with the four episodes airing in two nights, the level was set too high, with us losing a major character from the past few seasons and a nuclear bomb actually going off. After that you expected the show to keep its pace and instead it stumbled and faltered its way to the season finale. Very few times did I remember watching it with my friends and commenting on something awesome that went on the screen…it was simply a very hit and miss season.
Bauer’s attitude adjustment, from being in the prison, seemed to be a great source of contention with fans as well. He wasn’t the same bad ass as he always was and when he finally did come back, it was a short lived triumph because when he came back, he came back to the man he was prior the torture meaning it was just more of the same. Although it was a rollercoaster season in terms of quality, there were still several strong points to it that are enjoyable to this day.
The first is the revelation that one of the big conspirators behind the Palmer assassination in the fifth season was actually Bauer’s brother and the whole introduction of Bauer’s family, which, although out of left field, was still a real treat. The tension between Jack and Grant’s wife filled every scene they were in and the reappearance of Milo, alongside CTU newbie Nadia, also added something to the show. Morris’s expanded roll got a bit on the annoying side for some of the season, but it quickly cleared up and Milo’s eventual demise still angers me to this day—I remember him as one of the cooler one-shot characters and to just off him kinda blew. I’d rather have seen Chloe die, to be honest.
Still, fanboyism and qualms aside, whatever issues I had with this sixth season seem to have dissolved for the most part while rewatching it. 24 really benefits from the DVD format, as without the week long wait in between episodes, the poorer storylines or moments pass by like lightning and you don’t notice the flaws so much. It also helps knowing where the story is going, which it felt like the writers didn’t know half the time. The one that does still stick out and annoy me, however, is Palmer as president—not that I didn’t think he could be, but they took his character through so many odd turns in the season that by the time he was on his death bed I didn’t really care whether he lived or died. He seemed more believable as an aid, rather than the leader of the country.
There’s a lot to enjoy in these twenty four episodes in this sixth season. The weak moments whizz by and the series finale is still one of the more visually impressive in the series history. Jack sliding along the ground with two guns blasting is always a treat and the supporting cast this season was also quite strong throughout, particularly Powers Boothe as the vice president that you want to hate and love at the same time. Definitely the shows weakest since the third season, but still entertaining. Recommended.
The 24 sets have always come in seven disc sets since the second season, but there hasn’t been a really solid set since the third season in terms of extras. With this season the weak chain is broken up by a slew of commentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes. First up, however, we’ll discuss the seasons presentation on DVD. Arriving in an all American flag box set, the art was criticized by most (well, me at least) for being incredibly strange, but the season was quite patriotic at times so it does fit. Not to mention it’s a pretty bad ass image of Jack, so the cover is forgivable. Inside the slipcase is four thin pak cases with two discs each, except the final disc which only houses one. While the slipcase inserts feature characters from the show, the disc art instead feature props or locations from the show and the booklet for the set, which his able to be housed neatly in the seventh disc case, is really just a book full of ads and coupons this time around.
Moving onto the video and audio elements of the show, they’re comparable to past seasons. This season has some great audio mixing going on for the surround elements and on more than one occasion we get a full and immersive experience. Video quality varies depending on how much grain trounces along the screen, which the series is well known for, but even then it’s clean for the most part. This is certainly a beautiful show to watch on DVD, even in standard definition.
Moving onto the extras we have a great solid amount of deleted scenes (29:57) spread throughout the six discs, all of which are collected and repeated on the seventh disc. All of the scenes come with commentary by co-Executive producer Stephen Kronish, co-producer Paul Gadd and editor Scott Powell. Speaking of commentaries we also have twelve commentaries spread throughout the set; we get to hear from stars Kiefer Sutherland, Carlo Rota, Powers Booth, Eric Balfour, Mary Lynn Rajskub and executive producer Evan Katz and creator Joel Surnow, among many others. The tracks can range from lively (the actor commentaries) to more technical and a bit dull, but all are worth watching if you’re a fan of the show. I find it a bit odd to watch the show with commentary, if only because it takes a bit away from the show to hear people commenting what’s happening on screen. Sure the show is hardly completely believable, but it does have elements of reality that can be taken away from it.
Moving on we enter into a series of featurettes. First is “Master Illusionist: 24’s Special Effects Make-up featurette” (11:38) which goes into detail about the gruesome and bloody makeup that we’ve seen applied to our actors over the years. “24 Season 6: Inside the Writer’s Room featurette” (18:06) is a nice and lengthy featurette that interviews the writers of one of TV’s most exciting shows and just how grueling the writing process is (hint: it’s very grueling). “24 Season 6: Opening with a Bang featurette” (12:45) takes a look into the series first few episodes and how they were produced and the final featurette, “The Technology of 24” (9:09), is just what it says and looks into the realistic and not-so-realistic devices used in the show.
Two of the biggest things that happened during the production of this past season of 24 were the online webcast diaries and the mobisodes produced, both of which are provided here. With over an hour (1:00:17 to be exact) of behind the scenes footage packed into the webcast diaries, it is definitely the way to handle the extras. I never watched these, or the mobisodes (14:54) during the original airing of this season, so watching them all on DVD was a really nice treat. I’m not one to read spoilers for the series and avoid them whenever I can, so I steered clear of those “online extras” until now—but they’re really quite good. I was also surprised to see Sutherland make appearances in the mobisodes…I honestly thought that was a completely different storyline.
On the shorter side of things we have a hilarious Deleted cameo scene with Ricky Gervais (2:16) which culminates in D.B. Woodside, as President Palmer, conceding to Gervais’s suggestion to call Jack Bauer by saying “Well **** me, call him, all right.” It’s a hilarious little scene and, when combined with the brief clip of Sutherland and Rajskub from The Simpsons as an easter egg add a little bit of humor to this seventh disc. Finally “Public Service Announcement from Kiefer Sutherland” (1:01) is a brief message with Sutherland telling us about the shows efforts to make a smaller carbon footprint on the environment.
Without a doubt this is one of the more packed seasons of the show I’ve seen in terms of disc content. With commentaries on half of the episodes and the inclusion of the web-exclusive behind the scenes webcast diaries and mobisodes, it’s a really nice treat for those that only experienced 24 on TV. While one of the weakest seasons, this is one of the strongest DVD sets and it comes Highly Recommended.
24: Season Six is now available on DVD.