Take the phone off the hook and lock the doors because here at last is the much-anticipated 24: Season Two from Fox DVD, and it's a real winner. We already know that Fox is perhaps the studio leader when it comes to producing great box sets of television programs, but 24: Season Two is going to be the set by which all future sets are judged. It's as top-notch in quality as the 24 series is itself. And it's a must-have for DVD lovers everywhere.
Season Two begins roughly 18-months after Season One ended. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has left the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) in Los Angeles following the tragic death of his wife and has no desire to get back into the game again. That is, until President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) calls him up with an urgent message that the country needs his help. Jack is reluctant, but agrees to go to CTU to find out what the situation is. As it turns out, terrorists have planted a nuclear bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, and it will be detonated sometime in the next 24 hours.
If those sound like major spoilers, don't worry…all that information will be given to you in the very first episode. The real story begins as Jack uses his resources to track down the bomb, go up against an old nemesis, make a new friend, lose an old acquaintance, and eventually get to the bottom of who is really behind this terrorist plot and what they hope to accomplish. Oh, and somewhere in there, Jack's daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) almost gets eaten by a cougar…but the less said about that, the better!
I don't know if Season Two of 24 is better than Season One, but one can certainly make the argument that it is – and that's quite a statement, since the first season of the show was spectacular. Unlike the first season, this day in the life of Jack Bauer ends with a cliffhanger – one that will leave you breathless and in anticipation for Season Three, which I presume, is exactly why Fox released Season Two on DVD a little less than two months before the premiere of the next season. In fact, 24 was on the verge of cancellation in its first year – but thanks to the release of Season One on DVD (where this reviewer first saw it), enough new fans were added for Season Two to make the show a successful hit. Now, no doubt, even more fans will be added to the rolls, and I wouldn't be surprised to see 24 finish its third year as one of the top ten series on TV.
The good thing about watching this set (especially if you are watching it for the first time) is that you don't have to wait seven days to see the next hour in Jack's life. One gets a better look at just how well-planned out the series is by looking at the shows back-to-back. It's a remarkable and innovative program, and it's nice to see Fox give it the justice it deserves in this box set.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is simply stunning. There are no signs of dirt on the print or pixilation, and the flesh tones are nicely balanced. Some may notice that there is a slight "grainy" look to the picture, but that's the intended look of the show, the way it was originally presented, and the way it was intended to be seen. In other words, this is a real top-notch transfer by Fox.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby and sounds fantastic. Dialogue is crisp and properly balanced, and the soundtrack becomes very aggressive during action sequences, but without becoming so loud or overbearing that you find yourself adjusting the volume between the dialogue-heavy scenes and the action-heavy ones. Like the video, this is a top-notch job.
This box set comes with seven discs, with four episodes on each of the first six discs, plus a seventh disc filled with bonus features. Pay attention, all you other studios out there looking to put your television series on DVD – because Fox has just raised the standard on what "must-haves" should accompany such as set.
The best extra on this set is the two-part 24 Exposed featurette, which goes into details about all the aspects of production as the cameras follow the filming of the final two episodes of Season Two. Here we get to see many of the actors, writers and producers of the series behind the scenes, see how script meetings are conducted, how the actors work with the director to make the scene the best it can possibly be, and even get a few bloopers and funny moments from the cast and crew. One of the best behind the scenes featurettes I have ever seen on a DVD of any kind, 24 Exposed is one of those bonuses that justifies the entire price of the set (which isn't that high to begin with!). A word of warning though, major spoilers of Season Two are in these featurettes, so make sure you've seen all the episodes before you watch this portion of the bonus features!
Also on Disc 7 is a featurette entitled On The Button which shows how an explosion that happened at CTU (early in Season Two, so not a big spoiler here) was filmed. Another bonus feature is a Multi-Angle Scene Study, which allows viewers to view a scene from two different cameras. Angle one gives viewers a side by side (actually, it's top and bottom) comparison, while angle two shows one camera only, and angle three shows only the second camera. It's kind of a neat little bonus, but it doesn't have the replayablity of the other extras in this set.
Finally, Disc 7 contains 44 Deleted Scenes from various episodes in Season Two. These can be watched with or without commentary (by Jon Cassar and Rodney Charters for the first 22 scenes, and by Cassar and Howard Gordon for the other 22 scenes). The good news is that Fox has also included these deleted scenes with the actual episodes – giving viewers the option of turning on a "24" icon that, when it appears during the episode, viewers can click on to jump to the deleted scene, so they can watch it exactly where it would have appeared. Selected episodes on the first six DVDs also contain Episode Commentary Tracks from different members of the cast and crew, including Kiefer Sutherland contributing to the commentary track on Disc 5 and Dennis Haysbert contributing to one on Disc 6.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line on this one? Run…don't walk…to your nearest DVD store or online-retailer and pick this one up! The clock is ticking…so don't miss out! This is one of the best DVD releases of 2003!