Like you, we have long thought of Fox's hit action show 24 as something outside our wheelhouse: Jack Bauer chases terrorists in real time, hour by hour, in the real world. No spaceships, no ghosts, no hobbits, no magic.
After six seasons, though, we are starting to change our minds. After careful consideration, we have come to a stark realization: 24 is SCIENCE FICTION!
We talked with star Kiefer Sutherland and some of the show's creators in Los Angeles earlier this week about our startling revelation. And we have to say they couldn't really dispute THE TRUTH.
With season seven starting this Sunday, Jan 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, it's becoming abundantly clear we can no longer ignore 24. You can decide for yourself, but here's our eight reasons why 24 is sci-fi.
1. It's in the future! If you add up all the years that have passed since season one, which took place in the present, the show's events are now taking place around the year 2017. They've always said that two years or so pass between each season's "day," and there have been several presidential administrations (whomever David Palmer ran against, David Palmer, Logan, Wayne Palmer and now Taylor). Producer Brannon Braga doesn't deny it! "Yes, technically 24 should have flying holographic cars right now," he admits.
2. There's a fountain of youth. See above regarding how much time has actually passed. But everyone still looks about the same as when it all started! At the very least, the characters have miraculously slowed the aging process significantly. "I'm actually probably now finally my [real] age," Sutherland says. "I think I started out a little younger."
3. Teleportation. Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows Jack Bauer breaks several laws of physics to get from point A to point B in the time it takes for a commercial break. They must be using some teleportation device or time-travel wormholes to do it. Gridskipper has helpfully calculated the speeds of some of Bauer's movements across Los Angeles: For example, Jack and Derek go from Wayne Palmer's Westwood condo to Ontario (California) International Airport via stolen car, covering 56 miles over 17 minutes, meaning they traveled at 195 mph. The Jacktracker helps you pinpoint how Bauer beams in and out of locations.
Season seven takes place in Washington, where things are closer together and there is mass transit. That gives Sutherland a whole new sense of power: "One thing that kind of struck me when I was there is you could feel the power emanating from the buildings," Sutherland added about his time on location. "It changes the way you walk, and it changes the way you talk. There is a different sense of urgency in that city, and so for me it was great to be there, to get a sense of that." That and the wormholes.
4. The dead rise In 24, it used to be that once you're killed, you don't come back. But this season will see the return of Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida, who we saw die in Jack's arms from a hyoscine-pentathol injection. And our eagle eye spotted Reiko Aylesworth, who played Tony's deceased wife Michelle Dessler, at the 24 premiere party this week in Hollywood. And we know we saw her blow up!
5. We're in an alternate dimension. 24 is set in a reality similar to our Earth but significantly different in key ways: a world in which there was a black president before Barack Obama, where several presidential administrations had nothing to do with W., and where there is a female president whose first name is not Hillary or Sarah. Also, in this dimension, the federal government and agencies such as CTU are extremely effective and efficient, billionaires still have credibility, and torture actually works. "How wonderful in the light of a television show, if you take a look at all of the interrogation from season one down the line, he always interrogated the right people," Sutherland says of Bauer's taste for unpleasantness.
6. Cyborgs. No one eats, sleeps or pees. The characters must be cybernetic organisms, or humans with cyberpunk-like artificial enhancements implanted in their nerve cores. All they need for fuel is coffee. "I think we get so much grief over staying up for 24 hours, which I've always made fun of," Sutherland says. "There's always at least one day a season where we will stay up 24 hours trying to complete an episode. Generally it's the 23rd or the 24th episode, and we've stayed up for 24 hours. Imagine the adrenaline rush with the stakes that are involved for people that are dealing with counterterrorism." In all seriousness, if you like the continuing rush of Chuck, Sanctuary, Fringe and Lost, you'll also like 24.
7. Advanced technology. Jack Bauer's technological toys would make Captain Kirk weep with envy. Whenever Jack needs something, he just calls Chloe on her headset. She types in a few codes, and he magically has it instantly. "OK, Chloe, send that video imaging and infrared targeting info to my handheld." Five seconds later ... "OK, got it!" No dead spots. No rebooting. No crashed laptops. Cell reception underground. It's a miracle!
8. Because Brannon Braga says so. He should know: He produced Star Trek. Braga knows what's real and what's not. Even he admits that 24 stretches the boundaries of pure action. "24 is an action fantasy," Braga says. "I mean, it is. It's not sci-fi, but it is a fantasy for sure."