24 Season Three

It's another day at the office for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and the team at L.A.'s Counter-Terrorism Unit, and if you thought you'd seen Bauer at his most sweaty and frantic, this time he's working a bio-terrorism case in the midst of heroin withdrawal. Hurray! In the 18 months between the action of seasons two and three, it seems Bauer got hooked while infiltrating a gang that deals in drugs and a pesky weaponised virus. Bauer and a campaign-mode President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) face worthy new opponents, as well as the old villainesses 24 fans love to hate. Likewise, fresh and familiar faces populate CTU, including Bauer's daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), who has mercifully evolved from hindrance to help. As usual, the tension is high, the twists are huge, prominent characters are expendable and the action, delivered via tight, choppy camera work and manic split-screen, is incredibly intense for prime time. Along with the strength of its cast, its writing and its style, this is what makes 24 the only TV drama worth watching these days. My one small frustration with this show (every season) is the recurring pettiness of the CTU staffers, who always manage to make time for personal squabbles while the lives of millions are at stake — 9/11, anyone? Six of this set's seven discs feature deleted scenes and/or alternate takes that can be patched into the shows or played with commentary by producer/director Jon Cassar. The seventh disc collects all these scenes along with extensive documentaries about particularly complex sequences, such as a prison riot and the bombing of a helicopter by F-18 fighter jets, which had to be coordinated by city officials and military personnel fresh from Iraq. If only they could run the war this well. (Fox)