DVD Review: 24

20th Century Fox
Series ••••• Picture ••••• Sound •••• Extras •••••

Could there be a sweeter, more satisfying sound for legions of TV-on-DVD fans than the front-to-rear-channel swoosh that announces the beginning of each episode of 24? Season 5, which garnered the show an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series as well as an Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for Kiefer Sutherland, may very well have been the show's best year yet, and it's absolutely riveting to revisit (or, for some of you, visit for the first time) on DVD. To morph a line from a famous commercial, it's so good that you can never watch just one episode. (Me, I first watched this season in "real time" as it originally aired on Fox in 2006, and then rewatched it twice on this 7-disc set, each time over the course of a marathon weekend session.)

With the possible exception of Lost, no show on television is visually superior to 24. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is sharp and each episode is painstakingly lit for the appropriate hour of the day. Especially impressive throughout Season 5 is the utilization of the reflections from the pool at President Logan's L.A. retreat: At dusk in Episode 12, their lights and shadows cut tellingly across Logan's face, and they shimmer ominously on the wall behind him during key moments in Episodes 16 and 19. (The set's bonus disc contains an enlightening documentary on the set-design choices for this location - the lighting is so good that it's hard to believe it's actually shot on a soundstage.)

Explosions are (naturally) plentiful on 24, and about as massive and impactful as any you'll see in a big-budget feature film. The red/orange blasts are especially color-wheel hot during Episode 10's motorcade and industrial office attacks, and Episode 15's tremendous, natural gas-fueled fireball, which follows an on-the-move Jack Bauer and blows through the police car he dives into, almost had me ducking for cover. (I totally loved seeing wood shards blow through the car's passenger window in the aftermath.)

Details that are in constant motion add to a scene's sense of depth, such as the smoke that wisps out of Wayne Palmer's overturned car and the haze that passes across the attack van's headlights in Episode 14, and the steam that floats all around the brightly lit gas-company control room in Episode 15.

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