On November 6, 2001, television drama changed forever with the debut the first episode of ‘24’. ‘24’ wasn’t an ordinary drama. It was a thriller with an edge-of-your seat quality and unique format that has drawn millions of fans all over the world.
Beginning today, I am going to post a series of installments with my commentary on the episodes of ‘24’ that made me love the series and that have made the series in my opinion the best drama ever in the history of television.
I will begin by commenting on my favorite episodes of season 1 beginning with the pilot episode.
Episode #1, Season 1
12:00 am – 1:00 am
Writers: Robert Cochran & Joel Surnow
Director: Stephen Hopkins
“Don’t trust anyone…not even your own people. We’ve got to find the shooter Jack…whatever it takes.”
– Richard Walsh
The first thing you notice about the pilot episode of ‘24’ is its unique format. The ticking clock, “Events occur in real time”, the boxes. No other show had attempted the real-time format before so that alone made the show very different. It was also interesting that the ticking clock had a much different sound to it in the pilot.
The pilot episode is special because it establishes the unique format, introduces the viewer to the characters and the basic storyline that’s going to take place over the next 24 hours.
The first scene shows a mysterious man in Malaysia who gets a message to a man in LA that warns of a possible assassination attempt on Senator David Palmer. Meanwhile, a guy named Jack Bauer is playing chess with his daughter looking like an ordinary family man. Little does he know the day in store for him.
The buildup of this story in just this one episode is brilliantly done. Not only are we introduced to the main characters, but there is a great deal of development of these characters as well.
Just as an example: in just the first exchange between Jack Bauer and George Mason, you get to find out so much about these characters. George Mason is a sarcastic smart-aleck who is willing to keep Jack in the dark and lie to him about a source for some information. We also find out that Jack Bauer is a take-no-prisoners kind of guy who is willing to do anything including tranquilizing Mason (who is also his boss!) and blackmail him in order to get the information he needs.
Other great aspects of Episode 1:
- Jack’s talk with Nina about compromise: Great glimpse into Jack’s moral center and character.
- Senator Palmer & Sherry Palmer: We don’t see a lot of their relationship in this episode ,but you get a good idea that at least at the beginning of that day they seemed like a happy couple with a successful marriage. Little did we know at that time about the real Sherry Palmer.
- Mandy is not what she seems: We are introduced to the character of Mandy who seems to be a just a passenger on a flight interested in the photographer she’s sitting next to. By the end of the episode we find out she’s an assassin who proceeds to blow-up a passenger airliner in mid air. I love how ‘24’ makes you think a character is certain way then totally does a 180 and shows the character as being completely different from your initial impression.
- Kim Bauer’s teenage antics: When I first saw this episode, I thought what does this have to do with the main plot? I wasn’t exactly crazy about Kim’s storyline at first, but I eventually found out this was actually a great way to build up to the kidnapping story and its tie-in to Jack and Palmer. I have found that patience is a virtue when watching ‘24’.
- Richard Walsh/Jack Bauer relationship: You can tell from the conversation between Jack and Walsh that these characters had a great deal of respect for each other and that Walsh trusts Jack more than anyone. Too bad this relationship didn’t get to be explored further since Walsh only lasted two episodes.
- '24' Look/Feel: The pilot episode also established 24's unique look. The lighting and dark "feel" to the show was quickly established in the first episode. Starting the season at midnight was another great way they made the show different from anything else on TV.
- Good Introduction Of Other CTU Characters: I liked the way the other CTU personnel were introduced in the pilot. Tony Almedia's character being hostile and not liking Jack too much was interesting. You didn't quite know if Tony was a good guy or bad guy at the beginning of the series. Jamey Farrell, CTU Analyst; seems like a good character in the first episode. A competent analyst willing to help Jack when needed. And of course, there is Nina Meyers. There are hints of her and Jack having some kind of history, but it is not specifically stated in the pilot. You also find out that she and Tony are apparently currently an item, not gone unnoticed by Jack.
Final Thoughts: You can’t talk about the episodes that made ‘24’ a great show without talking about the pilot episode. The way the basic plot and the characters were introduced it made you want to see what was coming in the next episode. '24' has this unique ability to draw in the viewer and make you want to see what happens next. I will be forever grateful that FOX decided to pick up this show after seeing the pilot and sticking with it despite surprisingly low ratings for the first season. If they had not picked up '24', TV viewers would have been deprived of many great hours of drama and suspense. I'm also thankful for the creators of '24', Bob Cochran and Joel Surnow. What a great concept for a television drama/thriller. Thank you Bob and Joel!
Next Installment: Season 1, Episode 5: 4:00 am - 5:00 am