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.