24: Season Four

If any high-concept show was going to run out of steam after a couple of kicks at the "day in the life" can, it should have been 24. Especially after a weak second season, Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer should have sailed into the sunset, never to urgently save the day ever again. But something funny happened on the way to this show's third and fourth seasons: it got better. Having run the first couple of seasons on a "seat of the pants" basis, and finding themselves throwing in absurd plot twists just to keep the tension high (Bauer's daughter, Kim, briefly met a cougar in season two, for example), season four gets it right by plotting out the major action points well in advance, allowing them to be revealed rather than invented as Bauer's day unfolds. With daughter Kim now well out of the way, Bauer finds himself employed by the Secretary of Defence and dating the politico's daughter when he gets sucked into another plot surrounding the Counter Terrorism Unit he used to run, this time involving kidnapping, train derailments and threats to nuclear security. The show has largely abandoned the careful consideration of plausibility, but if the fact that everything in Los Angeles (and outlying areas) seems to be no more than a ten-minute drive is going to ruin your enjoyment, this definitely isn't the show for you. But for those who like a compulsively addictive TV show that won't let you rest until it's done, very few things are as addictive as 24 on DVD. From the signature clock beeping to climactic events every hour on the hour, the show continually drives the momentum forward. What you likely won't bother to stop for much (at least until it's over) is the series of extras. Deleted scenes are awkwardly cut into the show, accessible through a prompt during each episode, and the 24: Conspiracy webisodes (downloadable one-minute eps used to promote the show in the UK) are painfully awful. Key to those who want to catch up to season five, however, is a five-minute "prequel" to the new season that catches up with Bauer for a few minutes months after the action in season four concludes. Select episode commentaries help reveal the challenges of plotting such a complex, specific show and featurettes on the design and look of the new CTU are quite detailed, but these are all digestives after the main meal. For those who haven't seen a minute of it, this is the best lost weekend of the season. Plus: featurettes, music video, more. (Fox)