One of the most addictive shows on network TV returns in a boxed set just before Season 3's scheduled premiere, with greater extras and a more organized presentation than Season 1. This time Fox made it much easier to navigate between episodes, and a more robust 5.1 Dolby mix that should make good use of a basic surround setup. The transfers also maintain better black and dark blue levels, given the colour scheme of the series is very low-key; when reds and amber hues figure, they appear with organized precision.
With 45 indexed scenes to play with, running a smidge over 60 minutes, viewers can hear an optional commentary with cinematographer Rodney Charters (a veteran of genre TV series, both as cinematographer and occasional director) and director Jon Cassar (better known for the TV series “Nikita”). With a few exceptions, most of the deleted scenes are alternate versions shot when scripts were still being tooled during filming, or scene extension that add extra dialogue at the beginning or end of specific scenes. Sometimes the bits were victims of TV's rather ruthless 42 minute running time, and other times the materials became redundant during final editing. A good example is an extra chase scene with Kim and her peroxide companion: Cassar explains the scene was meant to show her agile mind and constant efforts to contact father Jack, but viewers will laugh at such nonsense, well aware the scene is an example of the Kim Factor: keep her running, keep her jiggling for the souls with pubescent fantasies, and keep her busy.
Kim Bauer's role vacillates between juvenile eye candy with filler escapades, and direct links to her father's traumatic efforts to maintain family ties after the tragedies of Season One, and the nightmare of a nuclear bomb on American soil. Even co-creator/executive producer Joel Surnow explains in his commentary track on Disc 3 (with actress Penny Johnson Jerald) that Kim must be thrown into the peril blender every 15 minutes. (More candidly, though, Surnow refers to Kim as an “idiot' in his track on Disc 5 – arguably said in jest, but given her history of marathon flights from cops and crooks, it's not a completely groundless observation.)
The 6 commentaries in this set are spread out evenly over the 6 discs of the show's 24 episodes. Recorded in one of the production offices while Season 3 was underway, it's a good mix of different teams for each track that graces one episode on each disc. The information spans cast members discussing their characters, the show's supportive team, and facets of their craft; plus more leisurely observations concerning production aspects.
The actor's are given episodes rather important to their characters to talk over, so we have a Berkeley – a man of few words – describing the importance of his pivotal episode, and a natural progression of a character that's generally regarded as one of the few with a sense of (wry) humour, and a high point for Berkeley who's made a career playing mostly nasty people deserving a good punch in the nose. Sarah Clark – who married Berkeley between the first 2 seasons – gives her views on her character who underwent significant changes in Years 1 and 2, with memorable results.
Each of the 6 discs contains a collection of deleted scenes – identical to those archived on Disc 7 – which are accessible via optional branching: see the “24” logo, press “Enter,” and the alternate or extra scene will play. The only irritant to the menu setup is the same pulsating theme music which begins each time the menu flips to a new page and back. The whole setup requires a move from main menu, to the episode chapters, special features menu for extra scenes option, a page for the activation (with warning that it will only function when subtitles are not engaged), and back to the episode chapters before play is engaged. Sean Callery's Emmy-Nominated score is outstanding, but some musical variation between menus is a good thing.
Disc 7 offers some fun extras that will genuinely please fans, and those in search of more candid material on the nuts and bolts of mounting a 24-episode season.
“On the Button: The Destruction of the CTU” (13:14) offers a brisk but informative behind-the-scenes examination of an explosion – relax, this isn't a pivotal spoiler – that affects the headquarters, and the two main explosions that strategically destroy a huge indoor set where all debris is meant to remain for the remainder of the show. Special Effects Coordinator Stan Blackwell gives us a guided tour, and the featurette establishes a dominant theme of cooperation that's prevalent in every facet of the included featurettes.
“Multi-Angle Scene Study” takes a look at an Interrogation scene between Jack and a major nemesis, with the viewer given the option of watching a composite of footage from Cameras A and B, or each stream of 24 camera setups separately, with rough location sound. It's a nice compliment after hearing a discussion from actress Sarah Clark and director Jon Cassar on their commentary track for the episode "“1pm-2pm” on Disc 2.
“24 Exposed” Parts 1 and 2 begin with an intro from Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran, and producer Howard Gordon – the latter executive producer a major veteran of genre TV (with “Angel” and X-Files” among his credentials), and then digs into the script conferences and final shooting days of the show's last 2 episodes. Covering stunts, cinematography, editing, casting, location shoots and many candid moments between the production's huge team, and though Part 2 hovers a bit longer at a major location for the finale, it's a well-assembled look that's constructed like a standard “24” episode, with “ka-dink, ka-dink, ka-dink, ka-dink” in between transitions.
The best aspect remains the careful subterfuge and misinformation meant to offset internet gossip and spoilers before the season finale. It's an amusing parallel of what “Dallas” had to do when a major character was put in harms way, leaving fans screaming over the summer for a resolution. The ploys devised by “24” are clever, with Cassar spinning a particularly ridiculous finale for a production conference, and extra material shot for the finale (accessible in the deleted gallery) meant to add another variation on existing rumours. Brilliant, funny, and worth an award of merit, given the power of the internet and the hunger of fans.
Do yourself a favour: don't read any gossip, don't seek out newsgroups, don't read news clips about who's in and out of season 3 (or 2, for that matter), and enjoy the show for what it is – a throwback to classic movie serials.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan