On Nov. 6, 2001, the Kiefer Sutherland-starrer from Imagine Television bowed on Fox in the 9 p.m. hour, kickstarting a franchise that aired for more than a decade. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
No question, there are some eerie similarities between the premiere episode of 24 and the terrible events of Sept 11. The tightly woven drama includes vague warnings of terrorist activity, an assassination plot and an imperiled airliner. But instead of causing discomfort, 24 grabs you by the collar and simply won’t let go. Few shows are ever this riveting.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
A creation of exec producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, 24 employs a couple of novel but extremely effective story telling techniques. First, it unravels its story in real time, with each hour on the screen representing an hour in the life of its characters. Second, it makes frequent use of split-screen shots, showing different angles of the same character or different characters at the same time. Ironically, the additional onscreen images make the story easier to follow and not more complicated. That, in turn, allows Surnow and Cochran, who wrote the episode, to insert complicated twists and turns that make the story intriguing but not confusing.
Kiefer Sutherland stars as Jack Bauer, who runs a government counterterrorism unit. Minutes after midnight in Los Angeles, Bauer is called to a briefing in which he learns that an attempt is to be made on the life of Sen. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), a formidable candidate in that day’s California presidential primary and the first black with a chance to win his party’s nomination. Moments before he gets the call, Bauer and his wife, Teri (Leslie Hope) discover that their teenage daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) has snuck out of the house to party with friends.
Things are even rockier at the counterterrorism unit, where Bauer has made enemies after his internal investigation led to several firings for corruption. In addition, his assistant, Nina (Sarah Clarke) is also his former lover. And, to make things even spicier, there’s a chance that the plot to kill the senator might be the work of rogue agents fearful that his victory will lead to the unit being dismantled.
There are no weaknesses in the cast, starting with Sutherland, who creates a tense, elegant balance between his roles as anxious father and supersharp agent. At the same time, director Stephen Hopkins, working with a palette that includes mood lighting, creative camera angles and the aforementioned split screen, delivers a taut, thrilling masterpiece.
Putting this show at 9 p.m. Tuesday, up against NBC’s Frasier, CBS’ The Guardian and, yes, the WB Network’s Smallville, makes this, at least from the standpoint of quality, among the most competitive hours of the week. — Barry Garron, originally published on Nov. 5, 2001.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter