24 is presented in real time, with each season depicting a 24-hour period in the life of Jack Bauer, who works with the U.S. government as it fights domestic threats. Bauer is often in the field for the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit as they try to safeguard the nation from terrorist threats. The show also follows the actions of other CTU agents, government officials and terrorists associated with the plot. The first six seasons of the show were all based in Los Angeles and nearby locations — both real and fictional — in California, although occasionally other locations have been featured as well — most notably, Washington, D.C., where a significant portion of the episodes took place during the fourth and sixth seasons. Promotional materials for the seventh season have already established that, departing from tradition, it will be set primarily in Washington, D.C.
After leading actor Kiefer Sutherland won a Golden Globe for his role in the first 10 episodes, the ratings of the show increased, leading FOX to order the second half of the season. There have been six seasons of 24 produced. On May 15, 2007, it was confirmed that FOX has ordered seventh and eighth seasons. A motion picture based on the show has been written and was scheduled to be filmed in 2007 for a 2008 release but plans for production were put on hold to focus on the TV series.
The seventh season, originally scheduled to premiere on January 13, 2008, was initially postponed in the wake of the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike to ensure a non stop season, a trademark of the show since the start of its fourth season in January 2005. It is now officially postponed until January 2009.
To help offset the strike-induced delay, 24 will return on Sunday, November 23, 2008 with a two-hour prequel (titled 24: Redemption) that will take place almost a year after season six and will "set up the story that launches season seven".
24 is a thriller which is shown in "real-time", with each minute of airtime corresponding to a minute in the lives of the characters. Commercial breaks are placed at times when non-essential plot is taking place (e.g., characters driving somewhere will begin when a commercial break starts and arrive at their destination at the end of the commercial break). This allows for the show to actually occur in real time without compromising action. The real time clock of the show continues to roll during the commercials, emphasizing the reality of the 24 hours of the season in which the characters work. Finally, 24 does not use slow motion techniques, even on moments of rapid action or sleight-of-hand, which other franchises might choose to emphasize in that way.
Actual show run time without commercials is between 42 and 44 minutes, as is typical for hour-long television shows on many commercial stations. However, the effect only works if episodes are shown with commercial breaks during the show and then only if these are inserted at the right points in time and have the same length, which may not fit in with the normal programming of a commercial station.
Watched continuously, each season would take approximately 17 hours to finish. This real-time nature is emphasized by an on-screen digital clock appearing before and after commercial breaks, with a distinct beeping noise for each second, alternating between C and D tones (The sound associated with the on-screen digital clock is not played when a main character dies at the end of an episode, e.g. Teri Bauer and Edgar Styles). This time corresponds to the in-universe time of the show. The characters will often place time windows (such as the common "within the hour") on certain events such as terrorist threats, thus strongly hinting the attack/event will occur before the end of the episode.
The action switches between different locations tracing parallel adventures of different characters involved in the same overarching plot. As a result, there may be long sections of unseen narrative for each character, in which case a character may only be seen for a portion of an episode's overall running time.
A recurring theme of 24 has characters faced with the decision of whether to let something tragic happen for the sake of a greater good. In Season 2, a Dept. of Defense staffer has the chance to warn CTU of an imminent attack on their building, but argues doing so would put the culprits on alert and thus cause a valuable trail to go cold. A similar situation occurs in Season 5, when terrorists plan to release a canister of nerve gas inside a busy shopping mall. In Season 3, the President and CTU agents must choose between the life of a high-ranking CTU official and the imminent threat of further attacks, while Season 4 is notable for a scene in which two men — one of whom possesses crucial information about a nuclear missile strike, and the other is the husband of a major character — lie dying in an emergency room, creating the ethical dilemma of whom to save. In addition, the sitting President often has to deal with a similar quandary. For example, in Season 6, President Wayne Palmer asks Jack Bauer to sacrifice himself in exchange for the location of a known terrorist.
The first season began and ended at midnight, and during its ninth episode (8:00 - 9:00 AM) Jack mentioned that he had already been awake for 24 hours. Later seasons have tended to use a different time window, starting in the morning or early afternoon to allow filming to begin in the summer when there are more daylight hours available. This also makes for a more realistic period of time for the characters in the show to be continuously awake.
24 frequently uses split-screen action to follow multiple plots, phone conversations, and shots leading into and out of commercial breaks, and emotional conversations, allowing the depiction of both participants' faces without breaking tension by cutting back and forth between camera angles.
In addition, 24 borrows some aspects of the 1997 film Air Force One, namely the plane itself and the use of the 25th amendment. In Seasons 2, 4 and 6, Air Force One can be seen (Although in Season 6 it is actually Air Force Two, as it is the Vice President on board.) and the series reused the same set as the one featured in the movie. Additionally, four actors featured on 24 — Xander Berkeley, Glenn Morshower, Wendy Crewson and Spencer Garrett — played roles in Air Force One.
CTU appears to have been somewhat clandestine, or at least kept out of the public eye. Particularly in the early seasons of the show, CTU agents who identified themselves as such to outsiders were frequently met with skepticism by those who had never heard of the organization, including police officers, until they produced their federal identification.
CTU offices are run by a Director, also called the Special Agent in Charge, to whom the Director of Field Operations and the Chief of Staff report. Departments within a CTU office include Communications ("Comm"), Logistics, and Tactical ("Field Ops"). Communications and Logistics personnel report directly to the Chief of Staff, whereas Tactical personnel are deployed into Tactical Teams ("Tac Teams") by the Director of Field Operations.
The Los Angeles CTU Field Office houses several areas. The first floor contains the Situation Room, as well as the main communications complex and command center, often referred to as "The Floor." On the second floor is the Director's office and Field Ops office. Situated elsewhere in the building are the Information Technology department (I.T.), an in-house Medical clinic, Meteorology department, several Holding Rooms used for interrogation and confinement, and Tech Rooms, which contain the bulk of the physical computer hardware used by CTU.
The CTU offices within a region report to a Divisional Office, overseen by the Division Director. Divisional offices cover a larger amount of territory in their jurisdiction. Finally, the Divisional office and all other offices report to a District Headquarters, overseen by a Regional Director. This title implies each District Headquarters has jurisdiction over an entire region of the United States. However, in Season 1, the reverse was implied: the District Director, George Mason, reported to District Manager Richard Walsh (who was killed in the third episode), and then Ryan Chappelle, the Regional Director from Division. However, in the Season 2 finale, Chappelle referred to a Mr. Vaughn, the District Director, as his superior.
CTU often suffers setbacks for the sake of plot. Despite the high-profile and high-risk nature of its duties, it is frequently infiltrated by double agents, and several times has been attacked or seized by terrorist forces.
It has been confirmed by the Season 7 Trailer that "CTU is gone" and Jack Bauer is on his own while Chloe has to help him. According to issue #11 of The Official 24 Magazine, CTU has been disbanded at some point between Day 6 and Day 7, although it is possible that this is only a ruse, and that the organization has actually gone underground.
Because of the intense nature of the series, the number of onscreen deaths is high compared to other television dramas. Of the 28 characters who have comprised the main cast over the past six seasons, nine are deceased. This number is considerably higher when guest characters—be they government agents or terrorists—are also included.
|Actor||Character||Episode Count||Main Cast Seasons||Recurring Cast Seasons|
|Kiefer Sutherland||Jack Bauer||144||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7*||NA|
|Leslie Hope||Teri Bauer||24||1||NA (deceased)|
|Sarah Clarke||Nina Myers||36||1||2, 3 (deceased)|
|Elisha Cuthbert||Kim Bauer||72||1, 2, 3||5, 7*|
|Dennis Haysbert||David Palmer||80||1, 2, 3||4, 5 (deceased)|
|Sarah Wynter||Kate Warner||25||2||3|
|Xander Berkeley||George Mason||27||2||1 (deceased)|
|Penny Johnson Jerald||Sherry Palmer||45||2||1, 3 (deceased)|
|Carlos Bernard||Tony Almeida||95||2, 3, 5, 7*||1, 4|
|Reiko Aylesworth||Michelle Dessler||62||3||2, 4, 5 (deceased)|
|James Badge Dale||Chase Edmunds||24||3||NA|
|Kim Raver||Audrey Raines||52||4, 5||6|
|Alberta Watson||Erin Driscoll||12||4||NA|
|William Devane||James Heller||20||4||5, 6|
|Lana Parrilla**||Sarah Gavin||12||4||4**|
|Roger Cross**||Curtis Manning||43||4, 5||4**, 6 (deceased)|
|Mary Lynn Rajskub||Chloe O'Brian||88||5, 6, 7*||3, 4|
|James Morrison||Bill Buchanan||54||5, 6, 7*||4|
|Gregory Itzin||Charles Logan||36||5||4, 6|
|Louis Lombardi||Edgar Stiles||37||5||4 (deceased)|
|Jean Smart||Martha Logan||24||5||6|
|D.B. Woodside||Wayne Palmer||48||6||3, 5|
|Peter MacNicol||Tom Lennox||24||6||NA|
|Jayne Atkinson||Karen Hayes||30||6||5|
|Eric Balfour||Milo Pressman||28||6||1 (deceased)|
|Carlo Rota||Morris O'Brian||26||6||5, 7|
|Marisol Nichols||Nadia Yassir||24||6||NA|
|Regina King||Sandra Palmer||9||6||NA|
|Bob Gunton||Ethan Kanin||3||7*||6|
|Colm Feore||Henry Taylor||NA||7*||NA|
|Annie Wersching||Renee Walker||NA||7*||NA|
|Jeffrey Nordling||Larry Moss||NA||7*||NA|
|Janeane Garofalo||Janis Gold||NA||7*||NA|
|Rhys Coiro||Sean Hillinger||NA||7*||NA|
|Cherry Jones||Allison Taylor||NA||7*||NA|
|Jude Ciccolella||Mike Novick||1, 2, 4, 5||58|
|Glenn Morshower||Aaron Pierce||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7*||39|
|Paul Schulze||Ryan Chappelle||1, 2, 3||24 (deceased)|
|Zachary Quinto||Adam Kaufman||3||23|
|Geoff Pierson||John Keeler||3, 4||19|
|Daniel Bess||Rick Allen||1||18|
|Michelle Forbes||Lynne Kresge||2||18|
|Arnold Vosloo||Habib Marwan||4||17 (deceased)|
|Adoni Maropis||Abu Fayed||6||15 (deceased)|
|Željko Ivanek||Andre Drazen||1||14 (deceased)|
|Laura Harris||Marie Warner||2||14|
|Jesse Borrego||Gael Ortega||3||14 (deceased)|
|Powers Boothe||Noah Daniels||6||14|
|Vicellous Shannon||Keith Palmer||1,2||13|
|Joaquim de Almeida||Ramon Salazar||3||12 (deceased)|
|Tzi Ma||Cheng Zhi||4, 5, 6||12|
|Michael Massee||Ira Gaines||1||12 (deceased)|
|Ricky Schroder||Mike Doyle||6||12|
|Rena Sofer||Marilyn Bauer||6||12|
|Jonathan Ahdout||Behrooz Araz||4||12|
|Shohreh Aghdashloo||Dina Araz||4||12 (deceased)|
|Nick Jameson||Yuri Suvarov||5, 6||12|
|John Allen Nelson||Walt Cummings||4, 5||12 (deceased)|
|John Terry||Bob Warner||2||12|
|Julian Sands||Vladimir Bierko||5||11 (deceased)|
|Peter Weller||Christopher Henderson||5||11 (deceased)|
|Vanessa Ferlito||Claudia Hernandez||3||11 (deceased)|
|Kari Matchett||Lisa Miller||6||10|
|Lourdes Benedicto||Carrie Turner||2||10|
|Evan Ellingson||Josh Bauer||6||10|
|James Cromwell||Philip Bauer||6||10 (deceased)|
|Paul Blackthorne||Stephen Saunders||3||10 (deceased)|
|Sean Astin||Lynn McGill||5||10 (deceased)|
|Misha Collins||Alexis Drazen||1||7 (deceased)|
|Dennis Hopper||Victor Drazen||1||4 (deceased)|
|Sara Gilbert||Paula Schaeffer||2||5 (deceased)|
|John Noble||Anatoly Markov||6||2 (deceased)|
Season 1 begins and ends at 12:00 AM, and occurs on the day of the California presidential primary. Jack Bauer must protect Senator David Palmer from an assassination plot, and rescue his family from those responsible for the plot, who seek retribution for Jack's and David Palmer's involvement with a covert U.S. mission in the Balkans.
Set 18 months after season 1, season 2 begins and ends at 8:00 AM. Jack must stop a nuclear bomb from detonating in Los Angeles, then assist President David Palmer in proving who is responsible for the threat.
Set 3 years after season 2, season 3 begins and ends at 1:00 PM. While struggling with a heroin addiction, Jack must re-infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel in order to acquire a deadly virus being marketed underground. Jack must then stop the mastermind behind the virus from releasing it.
Set 18 months after season 3, season 4 begins and ends at 7:00 AM. Jack must save the lives of Secretary Heller (his new boss) and his daughter Audrey Raines (with whom Jack is romantically involved) when they are kidnapped by terrorists. The same terrorists then launch further attacks against America, and Jack is forced to use unorthodox methods to stop them, methods which will have long-term consequences for both Jack and the U.S.
Set 18 months after season 4, season 5 begins and ends at 7:00 AM. Jack is believed to be dead by everyone except a few of his closest friends. Terrorists with connections to the U.S. government attempt to steal nerve gas in order to protect U.S. oil interests in Asia, and Jack must resurface to stop them as well as dismantle the government conspiracy.
Set 20 months after season 5, season 6 begins and ends at 6:00 AM. Jack is released after being detained in a Chinese prison for twenty months. Terrorists plot to set off suitcase nuclear devices in the United States and Jack must stop them; later, Jack has to prevent sensitive circuitry from falling into the hands of the Chinese to prevent war between the U.S. and Russia.
24: Redemption is an upcoming television movie, bridging the gap between the sixth and seventh seasons of 24. Set partially in Southern Africa, Jack finds himself caught up in a military coup whilst trying to find somewhere he can 'be at peace'. Meanwhile, in the United States, it is Inauguration Day, where Allison Taylor is being sworn in to office.
Season 7 will begin and end at 7:00 a.m. and will begin airing in the United States in January 2009, having been delayed by the writers' strike. The producers of the show have announced that there will be a 2-hour season 7 prologue, 24: Redemption, bridging seasons 6 and 7, to air on November 23, 2008. The initial back story will feature Jack Bauer on trial for his actions in the pursuit of justice. Meanwhile, a major national security incident occurs when the firewall responsible for protecting America's government computer infrastructure is breached. It will also feature the show's first female president, Allison Taylor, played by Cherry Jones, and ex-main character Tony Almeida will be returning to the show despite his apparent death in season 5. This will be the first season to see Jack not working with CTU because it was disbanded by the U.S. government at some point after the events of Season 6.
Plans for the movie were later put on hold with Kiefer Sutherland saying "It's impossible to ask writers to work on the show and then come up with an amazing film we can shoot in the break between series."
Note: Most USA network television season starts in mid-September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps. However 24 begins its season in January and runs new episodes non-stop until May, a trend which began after many fans grew unhappy with constant pre-emptions. 24 airs during February and May sweeps.
|1||Tuesdays 9/8c||November 6, 2001||May 21, 2002||#76||8.60|
|2||Tuesdays 9/8c||October 29, 2002||May 20, 2003||#36||11.73|
|3||Tuesdays 9/8c||October 28, 2003||May 25, 2004||#42||10.30|
|4^||Mondays 9/8c||January 9, 2005||May 23, 2005||#29||11.90|
|5^||Mondays 9/8c||January 15, 2006||May 22, 2006||#24||13.78|
|6^||Mondays 9/8c||January 14, 2007||May 21, 2007||#27||13.0 'Note: Click on ratings list "22-48" for '24's ratings|
|'''7^||Mondays 9/8c||November 23, 2008||TBA 2009||N/A||N/A|
Viewership increased midway through its second season when the mega-hit American Idol became the lead-in to 24 starting in February 2003. For its fourth season, FOX gave the show a vote of confidence by moving 24 out of the post-American Idol time slot (to make room for the eventual hit drama, House) and placed it on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern (8:00 p.m. Central) while it aired the show in consecutive weeks, beginning in mid-January of 2005. The consecutive-week schedule was also implemented for 2006, beginning in mid-January 2006.
In comparison to its 2005 season, 24 in 2006 was up 16% in overall viewers and 14% in viewers of the advertiser-friendly 18 –49 age demographic. Thus, the series has so far reached its ratings peak in 2006.
The sixth season's two-night, four-hour premiere gained its largest audience ever, scoring an average 15.7 million viewers. At one stage, ratings peaked at 16.3 million viewers. The first 4 episodes of season 6 gained an average of 33 million viewers.
Viewership has increased steadily for 24, except for a slight fall in the third season. FOX was able to continue gaining audience share in 2005 and 2006 with non-stop seasons and the number of viewers was up over 60% in season 5 vs season 1.
Because of the "real-time" storytelling approach to 24, and the series' willingness to directly address the threat of terrorism, the implementation of torture as a way to acquire information and the use and misuse of government authority, the series has generated a sizable critical reaction, both positive and negative. The series and the main character, Jack Bauer, have been accused of promoting the use of excessive violence and torture in the minds of the voting public, in part to support the policies of the current federal government. Slate magazine commented that the United States' torture policy has deeper roots in 24 than in the U.S. Constitution.
In Europe, 24 is under heavy criticism due to its glorification of governmental tortures and its permanent violation of human rights (e.g. privacy, dragnet, computer surveillance etc.)..
The series has won numerous Emmy Awards for its technical and artistic achievements, but at the same time has been criticized by a number of prominent individuals and organizations who have objected to how the series has handled story and character elements.
In 2008, according to Empire magazine, 24 was ranked as the sixth greatest television show of all-time, trailing only behind The Simpsons, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, The West Wing, and Lost, respectively.
At CES 2007, Fox Home Entertainment announced the complete first season of 24 would be released on the Blu-ray disc format in early 2007 although this has not yet come to fruition and no date for the Blu-Ray release has been confirmed.
The Region 1 DVD releases of 24 strictly emphasize actor Kiefer Sutherland on the cover art for all six seasons to date, while the Region 2 & 4 DVDs instead echo the series' split-screen format by featuring the major players in each respective season. This presented audiences who had not seen the TV broadcast (since the series moved to premium channel Sky One) in the UK with a large spoiler on the front cover of season four — which featured 'surprise' special guest star Tony Almeida.
A "limited special edition" of Day Six is also available in the United States. In addition to the DVDs, the box includes a booklet with an episode guide, each major character's job description and biographical information, and script excerpts. A limited edition of Day Six was also released in the United Kingdom, available from HMV stores.
In mid-2007, the first four seasons were re-issued, featuring slim-packaging in line with the season 5 release, and improved video quality, especially in the first season, which was initially rushed to DVD. The metallic "24" logo has also been dropped in favor of the seven segment display logo.
Fox announced a special edition re-release of season 1, which was released on May 20, 2008. The new set includes a 7th disc of bonus features, while disks 1-6 contain all 24 episodes with deleted scenes, audio commentary, and 5 extended episodes. The set is released in a steel box.
Seasons 1-6 are also available for purchase on iTunes.
The success of 24 has led to the series being extended into other arenas, including media specifically created for mobile devices and the internet. In addition, the series has spawned video and board games, toys, soundtracks from both the series and the video game, and a number of original novels inspired by the series, as well as a number of "behind-the-scenes" books. A feature film based upon the series has been written but the project has been put on hold to focus on Seasons 7 and 8.