How many bad days can one guy have? Well if it's CTU agent Jack Bauer, hopefully the answer is many more – because FOX's 24 has made its mark as one of the most exciting and innovative shows of the new decade, and I'm not ready to see it end just yet!
Things looked bleak for the series after the end of Season 3. Not only had virtually the entire cast been given their pink slips, but the show was being moved to a new time slot by FOX and fans were told they would have to wait until January of 2005 for any new episodes, so the network could show the entire season without any repeats or breaks in scheduling. Even die-hard fans like myself were concerned that Season 4 could mark the year when 24 would finally "jump the shark". But what did we get instead? Quite simply the best season of 24 yet!
Beginning with a spectacular train crash and ending with a series of shows where the CTU crew has to stop a nuclear missile after it has already been launched, the fourth season of 24 is a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. Jack opens the season quite happy, with a new job working for the Secretary of Defense (a great guest-starring appearance by William Devane) and in a relationship with the Secretary's daughter (Kim Raver). But it seems like good times and Jack Bauer just don't mix, and soon our hero is thrown back into his old job at CTU when the Secretary is kidnapped and a ruthless Arab terrorist (played by The Mummy's Arnold Vosloo) begins to launch a series of vicious attacks against America...beginning with taking control of nuclear power plants, and then launching a strike against Air Force One itself!
In addition to introducing some great new characters to the series, Season 4 also surprises viewers with a few faces from the past during the course of the 24 episodes...but to tell you who shows up would take the fun out of it for fans who have yet to see these shows.
Of course, plausibility takes a backseat to reality as each episode progresses and the ante is upped again and again. But that's what makes 24 so much fun. You just never know what's going to happen next...and you know that just about anything could happen!
Once again, the episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen, at the 1.78:1 ratio. This is another top-notch transfer by FOX, and this continues to be one of the best-looking television series available on DVD. There are no signs of dirt or pixelation on the print, and only the slightest hint of "grain" is noticeable – mostly during scenes shot outdoors (which is due more to the way the series is intended to look, rather than any problems with the transfer).
Audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby, with 2.0 Spanish and English and Spanish subtitles also available. I enjoyed the mix here – active without being overbearing, and with a proper balance between the sounds of the dialogue and the sounds of the action.
Once again, we get a wealth of bonus goodies on this 24 release. There are 12 Commentary Tracks offered up on various episodes, and while Keifer Sutherland doesn't contribute this time around, we do get an answer to why Shannen Doherty pops up on a commentary track: apparently she's a big fan of the show, was visiting the set and was asked to make a contribution. Each disc also contains Deleted and Extended Scenes, which can be viewed at the place they are supposed to be in each episode via the help of a "24" logo that will appear on your screen. Each of these deleted scenes also can be viewed on Disc 7 of this set.
The rest of the bonus features are contained on Disc 7, and the extra everyone's going to want to jump to first is the 11-minute Season 5 Prequel which is set in Chicago and takes place 12 months after the end of Season 4. Jack (who's in desperate need of a haircut!) meets up with a familiar friend, but soon finds himself on the run again when he's chased by a group of mysterious men. Viewers will also get a look at the featurette Making A Scene from the Fox Movie Channel that details the filming of the Season 5 Prequel scene.
Breaking Ground: Building The New CTU is an 18-minute segment on how the CTU set was totally remodeled and refurbished for Season 4. Blood On The Tracks is a behind the scenes look at the train crash that launches the events of Season 4; while Lock And Load is a look at the filming of the scene where Jack and a team of Marines rescue the Secretary Of Defense from his kidnappers.
Disc 7 also contains all of the 39 Deleted and Extended Scenes that can be found on the episode discs, along with optional commentary by Director/Producer Jon Cassar. There's also a "Director's Cut" of the Season 4 Prequel segment that originally appeared on the Season 3 DVD set that is worth checking out.
24: Conspiracy is a series of 24 one-minute mobile phone episodes that were available to cell phone customers. We also get the 3 ½ minute Music Video "The Longest Day," plus a 2-minute Inside Look at Keifer's upcoming movie The Sentinel in which he plays a Secret Service agent alongside Michael Douglas.
The extras wrap up with a 3-minute look at the long-delayed 24: The Game, which includes the likenesses and voices of most of the cast, and takes place during the period between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3. There's also a Weblink to a non-related online 24 game that you can download and play for free.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What are you waiting for? We're running out of time! So rush out and pick up your copy of 24: Season 4 today! And tell 'em Jack Bauer sent you!