Two iconic TV shows, 24 and Law & Order, air their final episodes Monday night. We'll always have both with us, thanks to reruns and DVD sets -- especially Law & Order, which has been on for 20 seasons (24 has been on a mere eight), seems to be in perpetual rerun mode on cable TV, and has spawned several spinoffs.
With all that in mind, we pay tribute in list form to both shows with 24 things we'll remember about 24 and 20 we'll remember (for better or worse, in both cases) about Law & Order. Yes, it's a little unfair that we have more about 24 than L&O when the latter has been around longer, but to paraphrase Cool Hand Luke, these just seem like good round numbers.
(Warning: If you haven't seen these shows and plan to catch up on DVD, there are spoilers lurking.)
24 things we'll remember about '24'
1. Jack Bauer
Of course. Played by Kiefer Sutherland, the off-and-on CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) agent is quite possibly the most uncompromising hero in TV history, saving America and sometimes the world by any means necessary, even when presidents and supervisors think he's dead-wrong. But he's also haunted: by things he has done, by things that have been done to him and mostly by things that have been done to people he loves.
2. Chloe O'Brian
The show's best female character, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, she's a computer analyst with a brusque manner, a knack for being right when everyone else is wrong (and yet not being able to get anyone to believe that she's right till its too late), and the ability to be one of the few people Jack Bauer trusts. Chloe has been watered down a little bit in recent seasons, but we still love her early exchanges, such as this one: Colleague: "Why are you always so impatient with everybody?" Chloe: "Not everybody, just you. Now please go away."
3. President David Palmer
Played by Dennis Haysbert, who went on to headline The Unit (and a series of Allstate commercials), Palmer was the type of president both sides can agree on: smart and tough but compassionate. He was a presidential candidate when the series began, and the discovery of a plot to assassinate him set in motion a series of events that still crops up in various ways.
4. Shocking deaths
Shows had killed off regular characters before 24, but 24 was pretty ruthless about it, starting at the end of (spoiler alert) Season 1, when evil mole Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) kills Jack's wife, Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope). After many attempts on President Palmer's life, he was killed at the beginning of Season 5, when he was no longer president. The deaths on 24 could be as touching as they were jarring, such as when Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi), a computer analyst arguably even grumpier than Chloe, is killed in an attack on CTU.
5. 'The following takes place between ...'
Kiefer Sutherland's ominous intro to the week's events on each new episode of 24.
6. The real-time gimmick
Every season of 24 took place during a 24-hour period, with each hour representing an hour during that period, and events taking place in real time. The most dramatic events always took place around five till the hour, echoing old cliffhanger movie serials. Apparently, nothing of import happened during commercial breaks. The real-time approach led to some crazily self-conscious dialogue: The phrase "I'll be there in 20 minutes" has probably been uttered more in 24 than in all other TV shows combined.
7. Kim Bauer
Played by Elisha Cuthbert, she's Jack's perpetually in-distress daughter, a regular in early seasons and then used more sparingly in later seasons. Most bizarre moment(s): cornered by a cougar (and unable to run because she has stepped into a trap, Kim is rescued by Lonnie (Entourage's Kevin Dillon) who turns out to be a crazy survivalist who concocts a hoax about a bomb attack, essentially keeping Kim captive for a couple of episodes before she gets the jump on him and he lets her go without much of a fight. Even the writers didn't seem to know what to do with this subplot, and they got out quickly.
8. Sherry Palmer
President David Palmer's obsessive, Lady Macbeth-esque wife, played with increasingly sinister panache by Penny Johnson Jerald.
9. Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler
Played by Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth, the duo was 24's prime love connection. Tony was a more emotional version of Jack; Michelle was a smart CTU operative but essentially eye candy. They're both apparently killed, but Tony later resurfaces, and this time he's playing for the bad guys. Or for the good guys and it only seemed like he was playing for the bad guys. It got a little tough to keep track after a while.
24 debuted less than two months after 9-11, airing during a time of war and a rising national debate over "enhanced interrogation techniques." The show made it pretty clear which side it took in the debate: Jack Bauer used torture to get the information he wanted, and he usually got it. He was also tortured a few times himself, including one time when his heart actually stopped.
11. President Charles Logan and first lady Martha Logan
Introduced in Season 4, Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) was vice president to the barely remembered President Keeler (Geoff Pierson), who is critically injured when terrorists shoot down Air Force One. Logan takes over and turns out to be an indecisive wimp, which conceals the fact that he's actually an evil, manipulative weasel (he's still around, and in last week's episode it took about two seconds of Jack's abuse for Logan to betray his latest accomplices). Martha Logan, memorably played by Designing Women's Jean Smart, was his hard-drinking wife, who seemed to have walked in from a Tennessee Williams play or the set of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They helped make Season 5 24's best one.
12. Agent Aaron Pierce
Played by Dallas' Glenn Morshower, he often turned up for only a handful of episodes each season, but Aaron could always be counted on to be both heroic and a voice of reason, even when saddled with the nutty Logans.
13. President Allison Taylor
Played by Cherry Jones and introduced in Season 7, Taylor had such a no-nonsense attitude that she had her own daughter arrested when she found out she was engaged in illegal activity (her husband, the latest in 24's series of troubled presidential spouses, wasn't any picnic either). In Season 8, Taylor has gone against her principles (big time, including covering up an assassination conspiracy) in pursuit of completing an international peace treaty. There hasn't been much peace for anyone in Season 8, especially Taylor, who is learning the dangers of compromising for "a greater good."
14. The villains
There were a lot of them -- Serbian war criminals, Mexican drug dealers, Turkish terrorists, Russian arms dealers, people from made-up countries with "stan" in their names -- and they offered guest actors plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery, although Dennis Hopper chewed so much of it in his Season 1 turn as Serbian war criminal Victor Drazen that it's a wonder there was any scenery left over.
15. The neo-Jacks
Younger, more idealistic CTU agents, they included Agent Chase Edmunds, who was also Kim Bauer's boyfriend (The Pacific's James Badge Dale); director of field operations Mike Doyle (Rick Schroder), who with his glowering looks and humorless character seemed to have come out of a Jack Bauer-making machine; and this season's Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who has the very tough task of tracking down Jack, who is on a vengeful rampage. Which brings us to ...
16. Agent Renee Walker
Played by Annie Wersching, who belies her musical-comedy background with a portrayal of a tough, troubled agent who is one of the few women to make a love connection with Jack. Too bad she's fatally shot by a sniper moments after she and Jack first sleep together.
17. The rare change of clothes
People on 24 were often so wrapped up in what they were doing, whether it was committing evil or trying to stop it, that they rarely changed clothes during their sleepless 24-hour periods. But we do recall clothing changes for the character of Nina Meyers and, this season, CTU analyst Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff). ...
18. The bad plots/subplots
They include the aforementioned Kim and the cougar/survivalist (actually, pretty much everything involving Kim), the Dana Walsh subplot (Dana spends half the season trying to elude an ex who threatens to reveal that she's using an alias and has a criminal past, kills the ex -- with fiance Cole's help -- and a parole officer, then turns out to be working for evil Russians), and practically all of Season 6.
For a group of people dedicated to fighting terror, the employees of CTU a) didn't work very well with one another, b) had a tendency to do things behind one another's back and c) must not have had to undergo rigorous background checks, because virtually every season, a mole infiltrated the unit.
CTU-issued cellphones almost always seemed to work, no matter where an agent was calling from. CTU computer equipment and security safeguards -- not so much.
21. Characters' ability to get anywhere in a short amount of time
During its eight seasons, 24 was set, by turns, in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. Despite all of those cities having traffic problems, and Los Angeles and New York being, you know, sprawling, when characters said they were going to show up someplace in 20 minutes, they were always on time, even if in real life it'd take you an hour to get there in good traffic.
22. Audrey Raines
She was Jack's girlfriend (played by Kim Raver) after wife Teri but before the doomed Renee.
23. The people who went on to bigger roles
Cast members from 24's run who went on to other notable shows: Richard Burgi (Desperate Housewives), Misha Collins (Supernatural), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost), Zachary Quinto (Heroes), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights).
24. The bathroom break
Yes, break. We seem to recall Chloe taking one, but it's the only one we can even vaguely remember. Actually, she may have just taken a secretive phone call by a bathroom.