Tuesday, December 04, 2007

DVD Review - 24 Season Six

Warning – Spoilers

Whether you loved or hated Season Six, you have to admit there were still plenty of amazing moments: Jack Bauer neatly snipping off the finger of Russian Diplomat Markov with a cigar cutter, Abu Fayed drilling Morris to get him to arm his nuclear devices, Reed Pollock kidnapping Tom Lennox and planning a Presidential assassination in a White House boiler room. Gredenko with his arm. Gredenko without his arm. Kindly James Cromwell (Babe anyone?) suffocating his lovable son Graem in order to keep him mum on family and corporate secrets, and so damn many more. The seven disc set captures those moments with the full 24 episodes, plus special features that include commentaries by the stars, writers, producers and even the Emmy winning composer, Sean Callery.

The basic, if implausible, story takes place about 20 months after Day Five. Jack had successfully brought down the corrupt President Logan, but was then straightaway imprisoned by the Chinese in retaliation for his supposed misdeeds at the Chinese Consulate during Day Four. Now, nearly two years later, the U.S. is deteriorating from terrorist attacks. Finally, one Abu Fayed has alerted the American authorities that he will help them end the attacks by giving them the location of Hamri Al-Assad, the supposed mastermind of the recent terrorism.

The catch is that President Wayne Palmer (deceased ex-President David Palmer’s brother) must give up Jack Bauer to Fayed. After much effort, a visibly tattered and tortured Jack is released from China and brought to Los Angeles, only to be prepped for sacrifice to Fayed. While under custody, Fayed informs Jack that Assad is not the true mastermind, but is trying to stop the terrorism that he, Fayed, is really responsible for.

The ensuing 20-odd episodes follow Jack’s efforts at finding suitcase nukes in L.A., and President Palmer’s failing health at the White House, along with side plots involving Chloe and Morris’s relationship, Vice President Daniel’s unwise dalliance with his aide, and Jack’s father, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew reappearing in his life in an unpleasant way. There is also a brief but strange resurgence of former President Logan and First Lady Martha Logan.

While it’s great to watch the whole season from 6:00 AM on, watching on a DVD format can be overwhelming, as most viewers will watch several episodes at one sitting. Although the continuity is a good thing, the unremitting tension is tough on the nerves. Now’s the time to turn on the special features, because a relentlessly serious show like 24 needs a break, even a little levity. While there is no blooper reel, there are some very funny moments beginning with a never-seen “cameo” that features Ricky Gervais (creator and star of the original BBC’s The Office and star of HBO’s Extras). Gervais plays a Presidential advisor waiting not so patiently on the sidelines during an Oval Office meeting. How Jayne Atkinson, D.B. Woodside and Peter MacNicol kept from busting out into laughter is a credit to their acting skills.

But we do get to hear many of the actors cracking wise while they watch the show. Each disc has at least one or two episodes that have running commentaries by pairs of cast members, producers, or writers. Some of the funniest were the observations of Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe) and Joel Surnow (Co-creator and exec-producer) as they watched 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM. They poked fun at Powers Booth’s character (Vice President Noah Daniels) calling him Barry White, and made kissy noises while Booth was lip-locked with Kari Matchett (Lisa Miller).

Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin were hilarious while they were covering hour 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Of course, this hour included their big scene at the “spa”. Remember? Martha found a place to store her paring knife? In seeing this scene again after so many months, I was struck (no pun intended) with the absurdity of the whole thing. Of course, Martha was supposed to have been somewhat unbalanced, and Logan’s visit would be just the thing to rile her, but still, it was silly. Smart and Itzin seemed to think so too, but they still had fun reliving the scene. And they both agreed that coming back to do the show for a limited run was like just “eating one potato chip.”

All those involved were genuinely appreciative of each other’s talents. They gave especially high marks to Powers Boothe, Peter MacNicol, Kari Matchett and composer Sean Callery. Nearly everyone spoke of what a fantastic job he does of creating the right moods with his scoring. Callery himself was able to add his thoughts to the 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM hour, partnered with Adoni Maropis (Fayed).

Some of the other extras were more basic overviews of how extras (or ‘background talent’) are directed, or how props are categorized and stored. Take it or leave it type stuff. But there is a nice feature demonstrating all the set up for the opening hour’s Metro bus explosion and a “Look Inside the Writer’s Room” (pre-WGA strike, of course). And for more giggles, the DVD-ROM has the hidden feature of 24 Minutes: Jack Bauer on The Simpsons.

For those who typically don’t bother with commentary options on a DVD, give these a chance. It’s a real treat to get to know the person behind the character, music and story.

They were all clearly were having a lot of fun watching the show, and it was more than refreshing listening to them do what I have done every week during while 24 is running. Enjoying the hard work, and getting caught up in the drama and suspense, but giving it the irreverent once-over.

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