Tomorrow night begins a new season of “24.” I’ve watched the DVD box set of the first season, and to me there is one main reason the show was so successful. It isn’t the “real time” setting. It isn’t the brisk pace of the story, although the fact that the story is well constructed adds much to the show. The main reason is the shows two stars, Keifer Sutherland and Dennis Haysbert.
Yes, two stars, not one. Without Dennis Haysbert, 24 would not have had near the success that it did. That becomes apparent after watching the DVDs. Haysbert plays presidential candidate David Palmer, the man whom Sutherland’s character, Jack Bauer, is trying to protect from an assassination attempt. Interspersed in this main plot are two sub-plots involving Palmer. The first involves his son Keith, played by Vicellous Shannon, who may be facing jail time for the killing, albeit accidental, of his sister’s rapist. This sub-plot leads seamlessly to the second one, involving Palmer’s scheming wife Sherry, played by Penny Johnson Jerald.
The sub-plots increase the intrigue of the story, and maintain viewer interest. We are not only eager to see what happens with the assassination attempt but also with Palmer and his family. What makes this work is Sutherland and Haysbert. Sutherland is excellent as the relentless, bend-the-rules Counter-Terrorist Agent. Haysbert has the role of his career as the presidential candidate who is trying to do what is best not only for his family, but also for Bauer’s family, who are constantly in danger. He does all of this while keeping his presidential ambitions alive. Indeed, Palmer finds himself in situations almost as difficult as Bauer.
Sutherland and Haysbert are just the top two actors in what is a great job of casting. Leslie Hope, Sarah Clarke, Xander Berkeley, Carlos Bernard and Elisha Cuthbert round out a great cast. The only real stinker is Dennis Hopper as the assassination mastermind, Victor Drazen. His acting is overdone, and the Eastern European accent is phonier than an Ed McMahon TV special.
That is the only major problem with the first season. There are some minor ones, primarily in the improbabilities in certain portions of the story. For example, when Jack’s wife and daughter, Teri and Kim, are rescued the first time and taken to a safe house, only four agents are guarding the safe house, and all with mere handguns. That the house wouldn’t be guarded by a battalion armed to the teeth and then some seems almost as likely as my winning the lottery next week — and I won’t be buying a ticket. If you buy the box set, you’ll see a few moments like that which seem unreal. There is also some sloppiness. Watch Nina Meyers, played by Sarah Clarke, in episode 8 to see what I’m talking about.
Two last things: First, should you buy the DVD box set? If you are a big fan of 24 like me, then yes. It is worth it. If you are a casual fan, it might make a nice birthday or Christmas gift. Other than that, I’d say no as the $45 price tag is too steep. Wait for re-runs on FX.
Second, will the second season be as good? No one can be sure, but I’m pessimistic. Based on the previews, it seems that Haysbert will have no where near the role that he had in season one. It appears that the creators think the success of the show is due to the format, story, and Sutherland. If they relegate Haysbert from a central to a supporting role, 24 may be a one-season success.