Jack Bauer plays a superhero on “24,” valiantly vanquishing a variety of villains. Each season brings a new crop of bad guys to be defeated, and Bauer always rises to the challenge. It’s never easy, and he usually comes close to being killed at least once per episode.
Each season of the show is meant to take place over a 24-hour period, and thus the show’s title. Like much that goes on in the show, this notion requires the viewer to willingly suspend disbelief. The characters of “24” never seem to sleep, eat, or go to the bathroom. They can drive from one end of a large congested city to the other in a few minutes. They pack more into one 24-hour day than a thousand ordinary people will pack into a lifetime.
The best part of the show is the way it generates suspense. They make good use of music to heighten tension, and they were one of the first, if not the first, show to use a split screen to show simultaneous action happening in different places.
The weakest part of the show is the dialogue, which is often wooden. The acting is uneven. Kiefer Sutherland always does a terrific job as Jack Bauer, and the show has used an impressive array of guest stars. Mary Lynn Rajskub, as the anti-social computer whiz Chloe O’Brien, is a pleasure to watch in the role of a female nerd who is Jack’s true – if not (yet) romantic – soulmate. Some of the characters, though, can make the viewer cringe, mostly notably Kim Bauer, Jack’s daughter. She is supposed to be a sympathetic character, but instead is just annoying, thanks to the bad dialogue and Elisha Cuthbert’s unconvincing performance.
The show almost derailed a few seasons back when it started to take a leering interest in showing frequent scenes of torture. But they’ve backed off on that, and while the show is not completely free of sadistic scenes, those have been relegated far more to the background.
The key to enjoying the show may be to treat it as a cartoon. Jack Bauer is like Superman without the spandex costume. He is indestructible. And just as Superman flew faster than a speeding bullet, Jack Bauer drives across L.A. faster than any mortal human could.
Implausible as the show may be, it is still exciting. From the thumping music, to the Perils-of-Jack cliffhangers, to the split screens showing multiple plotlines unfolding, “24” almost always holds one’s attention.