’24’ Still Holds Up 21 Years Later

Currently watching 24 and realized, despite me rewatching the seasons off and on throughout the years, the series still holds up.

The show originally aired in November 2001. I hadn’t realized until now how close this show aired to the events of 911 and how the first season, or in 24 term, Day 1 could be a little nerve wrecking to viewers back then. Times may be different now, so I wonder how people would react to a show with a first season about terrorism airing so close after a tragedy. Back then, I remember people were welcoming of the show because the nation was angry and wanted to see terrorist get their butts kicked by Jack Bauer. I wish I could remember the reaction to the first season, but there was so much going on in the world at that time. I think was 24 was recognized right away, but didn’t start to generate mainstream attention until later seasons.

The iconic clock didn’t get it’s signature sound effect until Day 2 and I forgot Terry received the first silent clock at the end of Day 1. If you’re a 24 fan, you know what the silent clock means. The clock was so simple, but recognizable. If you see an image of the clock, you immediately know it’s the 24 clock. If you only hear the sound, you know what it is. Also want to point out the phone ringtone at CTU became a popular ringtone for cellphones. The fact that events happened in “real time” was always interesting to me as it provided a sense of urgency and a timeframe despite knowing the entire season was 24 hours.

The incorporation of the split-screens with the clock provided context as to what everyone was doing at that moment. Sometimes there was so much going on at any given point, we had to be reminded via split-screen of that particular storyline. It usually acted as a reminder before and after commercial breaks. Even an episode of The Simpsons used the 24 format.

24 left us with some wonderful meme moments. Whenever something was happening in the world, viewers of the series would respond, “We need Jack Bauer,” or “Where is Jack Bauer when we need him?” Bauer was known as the unorthodox protagonist who would get the job done in 24 hours. He was also known to tally quite the kill count per season. Fans noted Bauer killed 309 people during nine seasons with the highest kill count of 52 in Day 6.

Bauer was known for saying “damn it” so much that college students watched each episode weekly and took a shot each time the phrase was uttered. According to a tally, the phrase was said 145 times in the series with Day 4 and Day 7 pulling in the highest total of 20 each. Kiefer Sutherland became aware of the drinking game and would purposely add a few more “damn it” phrases to mess with the college kids. I’m tempted to play this game as I was under the legal drinking age to actively participate. All I need is a buddy.

I think Day 2, 4, and 5 were my favorites. Day 1 wasn’t bad, but viewing in retrospect, it was to establish the heart of Bauer and partially why he became so ruthless. Some of the character bickering in Day 1 comes off as petty, but I didn’t notice during first viewing. Despite 24 having an audience and mainstream media coverage, Day 5 is when I remember entertainment news checking in on 24 weekly. This is the same season that won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Dramatic Series. The talk at the time was the assassination of President David Palmer and Michelle Dessler. Two key characters from the start of the series and close allies to Bauer. To start the season premiere with a bang was shocking to many fans. Even my mother, who didn’t watch all of the shows, was shocked at how sudden the events happened, but laughed at the reaction of fans due to our disbelief. The only other shocker I can think of is Day 6 when Bauer shot Curtis in the neck and a nuke went off soon after. I swear, 24 was an action soap opera.

I can’t talk about Bauer without mentioning his ride or die people Chloe and Tony. Chloe was there for him to the end while Tony did snap slightly after losing Michelle. These two consistently broke the rules to allow Bauer to operate in the dark. They were confident he’d get the job done by any means to justify their choices. Realistically, Chloe and Tony should have been fired a few times.

Kim Bauer… dear gosh this character was stupid, annoying, and a waste of screen time. If you edit Kim out of each season she appeared, the story wouldn’t change. You’d make some minor tweaks, but she wasn’t needed at any point. Kim was that unwanted side character you had to deal with in order to get XP. Even when she worked at CTU for a season, anyone could have taken her place. Kim’s character wasn’t well written and overstayed her welcome. Eventually, she did vanish, but they could have cut her out after Day 1.

24: Legacy wasn’t horrible, but it struggled to find its identity in 12 episodes. It was riding on the back of the original series and had a lot of pressure to succeed. I think fans didn’t latch on because Kiefer Sutherland is 24 and that show is nothing without Jack Bauer. Bauer carried the world on his shoulders and we watched him make tough decisions to save the country, the president, his family, and friends countless times. I don’t think FOX was confident in 24: Legacy as it didn’t have the standard 24 episodes like it’s predecessor, but that also could have been a sign of the times when it came to shorter seasons.

In the end, I can rewatch 24 anytime. It’s one of few shows that can hold my attention despite viewing the episodes multiple times throughout the years. There has been talk of rebooting or brining the remaining cast back for a new 24 series. This is one of those franchises that is best left alone. In today’s world of hypersensitive people, I don’t think it would get away with half of what they showed years ago. 24 should remain untouched.

Forgot to mention, when you watch the earlier seasons of 24, the Los Angeles air quality was horrible. There as a constant fog. I’m not sure if the camera they used had an orange/yellowish filter on it or if Los Angeles simply looked like the dusty wild west.